How to read a book: minimum time, maximum efficiency

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You only have a  few hours to read, understand and memorize ?

Before getting to the heart of the matter, I would like to point out that this article is very long and very dense. That’s why I’ve prepared a cheat sheet for you to download that summarizes all the concepts on a page and a half. You can download it at the end of the article, and keep it precisely at hand.

You are a student, and you have to read a mass of books, courses, technical documents? Are you a dynamic executive, you are asked to extract the content of a book on a technical subject and then make a presentation?

In this kind of case, you must be able to read quickly, understand quickly, and get to the point.

More generally, how can you get the most out of reading a book – or any written material – when you are reading for information, rather than pleasure?

When you read a novel for pleasure, your only goal is to follow the writer, and allow him to introduce you to the story little by little. In this kind of case, you simply read the book from beginning to end, without any particular stress.

But many of the books, articles, and other materials you read in your college years or in your professional life won’t be novels. Instead, they will be non-fiction: textbooks, professional manuals, newspaper articles, history books, university courses, and so on.

The purpose of this kind of reading is to acquire and retain information. Here, finding out what’s going on – as quickly and easily as possible – is your main goal. So unless you’re stuck in jail with nothing else to do, NEVER read a non-fiction book cover to cover.

Instead, when reading informational text, you should ALWAYS leap forward, spin around, and use all available strategies to discover, then understand, and finally remember what the writer meant. This is how you will get the most out of a book in the least amount of time.

Using the methods outlined in this guide, you should be able to read a  300-page book in six to eight hours . Of course, the more time you spend there, the more you will learn and the better you will understand the book. But your time is limited, and you have to apply speed reading techniques and strategies.

Most of them can be applied not only to books, but also to any other non-fiction text, from articles to websites.

When reading to learn, your goal should always be to eventually pass the exam (if applicable). It is much more important to have an overall understanding of the arguments or hypotheses, evidence, and conclusions than to understand all the details.

In fact, no matter how carefully you read, you won’t remember most of the details anyway.

However, you must be able to remember the main points. And if you remember them, then you know enough to find the details in the book later if necessary.

If you know in advance that you won’t be able to devote more than 5 or 6 hours to the book in question, it will help you to determine your reading pace. Remember what we just said above: you will read the whole book (or course).

Setting time constraints for yourself and being able to stick to them while accomplishing your goal is one of the most important and valuable skills you can learn in your lifetime.

Have a goal and a strategy

Before you begin, decide  why  you want to read this book, and  how  you are going to read it. If you don’t have a goal and a strategy (not just the ones the teacher gives you), you won’t learn as well.

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