In This Edition:
1. Keeping Pace with the Race
2. Skimming, Scanning, and Speed Reading
3. Parting Thought
Keeping Pace with the Race
With each passing year, the information bombardment accelerates without missing a beat. Regardless of your profession, it seems nearly impossible to keep up a reading schedule that covers all work-related requirements. By speaking to supervisors and business professionals throughout the country, I have learned that reading is almost universally regarded as an important component of the job and career. Yet there is seemingly no time, or precious little, allotted for this task.
In addition, the number of quality business, career, and management zines has more than tripled in the decade, an increase that reflects the growth of market-specific information. Add in a daily avalanche of reading materials, Internet news and updates, listservs, subscriptions, e-mail, and junk mail and you’ve got quite a burden building up. Is staying abreast hopeless, or is there a way out of this information overload morass?
The first step to managing your reading is to pare down the list of required texts. Redefine, or, perhaps more accurately, define the type of information to which you need to be exposed, and what type of information can be readily discarded or ignored. You can almost certainly ignore much direct mail material, as well as merely interesting web sites, e-mail, advertisements, and other time-consuming enticers. Key publications and sources of information that specifically supply what you need to know are to be preferred over passive sources, such as the daily paper and general interest periodicals.
If you’re skeptical about how much time can be saved and re-allocated for active reading by picking and choosing your information sources, test yourself over the next 30 days. Listen only to relevant and intelligent podcasts, radio, and TV reports instead of catching the latest updates on the hottest story of the moment. Set limits on how much time you spend cruising the Internet. Everyone needs some pleasure reading, but the question is, how much? And when? Think carefully about what items are worth perusing. You’ll appreciate the extra time, and your career will improve.
Skimming, Scanning, and Speed Reading
If you didn’t master “skimming and scanning” in high school or college, it’s not too late to learn.
Skimming involves perusing the first one or two sentences of a paragraph within an article to see if the paragraph is relevant to your immediate quest. The basic payoff is that skimming enables you to quickly determine whether or not to invest more time in the article or the publication.
Scanning is a technique used with large volume materials. Scanning involves reviewing the table of contents, index or site map, list of charts and exhibits, and occasional paragraph leads to determine what, if any, material is of interest. The availability of high-speed photocopiers and printers greatly facilitates the scanning process, since you can immediately make a hard copy, or an actual electronic scan, of the specific information that you choose to retain.
Speed-reading can enhance both of these techniques. By moving a pen under the text as quickly as your eyes can follow, you can almost double your skimming and scanning rates. You can learn to read even faster if you enroll in a speed-reading course.
Another year, another year older for each of us. Betty Freidan, in The Fountain of Age, concludes her book with these words:
“I realize that all the experiences I have had, as a daughter, student, radical, reporter, battler for women’s rights, wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, leader, friend, and lover, confronting real and phantom enemies and dangers, the terrors of divorce and my own denial of age, and even a kind of ostracism from some of the organizations I helped start, all of it: mistakes, triumphs, battles lost and won, and moments of despair and moments of exultation is part of me now.”
“I am myself at this age. It took me these years to put the missing pieces together, to confront my own age in terms of integrity, and generativity, moving into the unknown future with a comfort now, instead of being stuck in the past. I have never felt so free.”