“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”Joseph Addison
Reading is one of the most important and rewarding activities we can engage in. It can broaden our horizons, stimulate our minds, and provide us with insights and knowledge that we might not otherwise gain. However, in today’s fast-paced world, it can be challenging to concentrate and truly engage with the material we are reading. In this article, we will explore some practical tips for how to concentrate while reading.
Find somewhere comfortable and quiet to read
One of the best things you can do to help yourself concentrate while reading is to find a comfortable and quiet place to do it. This means finding a space where you feel relaxed and at ease, whether that is your favorite room in the house, a quiet park, or a cozy coffee shop. Additionally, try associating reading with things you already love, such as your favorite cup of tea or coffee. Creating an enjoyable reading experience makes you more likely to stay focused and engaged.
Distractions are the bane of any reader’s existence. They can pull us out of the world of the book and make it difficult to concentrate. To help minimize distractions, put your phone in another room or, at the very least, out of sight. Research shows that even having your phone nearby can be distracting. By eliminating distractions, you will be better able to focus on the task at hand.
Preview the material
Before you start reading, take a few minutes to preview the material. Look at the names of chapters, subheadings, pictures, and other visual elements. This will give you an overall view of what you are about to read and help increase your concentration. Additionally, if you are reading a textbook or other non-fiction book, try to identify each chapter’s main points or themes. This will help you better understand and retain the information as you read.
Take notes and highlight/underline key takeaways
One of the best ways to help yourself concentrate while reading is to take notes and highlight or underline key takeaways. This can be especially helpful for non-fiction books, where you want to retain information for later use. However, even in fiction, taking notes and highlighting can help you stay engaged with the story and remember important details. Personally, I prefer to do this after reading a section, unless it is something I absolutely cannot resist highlighting in the moment. This helps me avoid highlighting too much of a section, which ends up making highlighting meaningless.
Take time to pause and reflect on what you have read. Ask yourself questions.
Reading is not a passive activity. To truly engage with the material, you must be an active reader. This means taking the time to pause and reflect on what you have read. Ask yourself questions like, “What was the author trying to say?” or “How does this connect to what I already know?” Doing this will help you to better engage with the material, increasing your focus. You need to see why what you are learning is important to be interested in it. Bring the material to life. Think deeply about it. Try connecting what you are reading to other ideas and look for ways to apply what you learn.
Stop reading bad books
Life is too short to spend time reading bad books. Please get rid of this idea that once you start a book, you HAVE to finish it. A rule of thumb is to take 100 and subtract your age… that’s how many pages you give a book before you decide if it’s worth your time. The idea is that the older you are, the less time you spend on books that don’t interest you. This is true even if you’ve spent money on a book. There’s nothing wrong with having books you haven’t read in their entirety. A personal library provides resources you may return to later or that a friend may be interested in. If you’re struggling to get through a book or find it uninteresting or dull, it’s time to put it down and move on to something else. It doesn’t mean you can’t return to it in the future.
By reading books that engage and excite you, you’ll be more likely to concentrate and retain what you read. You’ll also be more motivated to continue reading and expanding your knowledge and understanding of the world around you.
So don’t feel guilty about putting down a book that isn’t working for you. There’s no shame in admitting that something isn’t for you, and you’ll be much happier and more productive by moving on to a book that is. Remember, reading is meant to be enjoyable, so find what interests you and start exploring.
Don’t speed read
It’s no secret that we’re all trying to maximize our time, and speed reading is often seen as a solution to this problem. However, speed reading can actually be detrimental to your reading comprehension and focus.
Sure, there are ways to read quicker, such as getting rid of subvocalization (the voice in your head that reads every. single. word). But there’s no shortcut when it comes to reading a lot. You must spend time reading and engaging with the material to fully understand it.
Reading should be an enjoyable experience, not something you feel like you need to rush through to get to the next thing on your to-do list. If you find yourself pushing to speed read through books that don’t interest you, it may be time to revisit the point above and reevaluate the books you’re choosing to read.
By taking your time and truly engaging with the material, you’ll not only improve your comprehension and concentration, but you’ll also get more enjoyment out of the reading experience. So, slow down, savor the words, and immerse yourself in the story or information you’re reading. Your brain will thank you.
Try switching up the format
In the end, remember that the key to concentration while reading is to find joy in the process. If you’re struggling to concentrate, it may be because you need to read something you’re genuinely interested in. Don’t be afraid to put down a book that doesn’t capture your attention and move on to something that does. And if you’re still struggling, try experimenting with different reading locations, times of day, or even reading formats (like audiobooks or e-books).
Reading should be a pleasurable and enriching experience, not a chore or a source of frustration. By following the tips in this article and finding the right books to read, you can unlock the power of reading and cultivate your concentration and focus. So, take a deep breath, pick up a book that excites you, and start reading. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy it. And if you are looking for book recommendations, check out The Best Books I Read in 2022.