Sunday, November 20, 2005

Maintaining Pace

Every next day comes with an always already "full plate" of things to do - especially when ... , and here I replace the ellipsis with "[when] you're completing coursework in graduate school," but which of us doesn't have her own way of finding the plate full, huh? I regularly get help in managing my relationship with perpetual demand from friends blogging at Lifehacker, 43 Folders, and now Open Loops.

A recent post at Open Loops spoke into my world when suggesting strategies for "quick and dirty reading" or what I have before heard referenced as "surgical reading." I'd known and used some of the suggestions given below, but Bert Webb here composes a strategic approach to reading efficiency anchored in an 80/20 rule of thumb: "For our purposes, in any given book, 80% of the value of the book comes from 20% of the words within it. So our first job in reading is simply to find and read the 20% of the words that contain the value we need. Read those and no others - unless the particular value we require lies with that other 80%. When that happens, we turn to deeper reading."

Strategies that recognize and help manage an often unavoidable shortage of time are good for me, but I especially appreciate the acknowledgement that an 80/20 rule will yield (about 20% of the time) to the demand for a closer and more thorough read in order to realize 80% of the value given. Read thoroughly when you can; when you must read "surgically," this approach may help:

1. Read the title of the material.
2. Read the introduction.
3. Read the Table of Contents.
4. Flip through the material, scanning the chapter titles and sub-headings. Note the words that stand out as bold, different colors, underlined, or italicized.
5. Look at the illustrations and captions, charts and diagrams, pull-quotes and sidebars.
6. Scan through the index look for particular buzz words.
7. Now read the first chapter (or paragraph if the work is short).
8. Flip through the book and read the first sentence of each paragraph.
9. Read the last chapter (or paragraph) and executive summary, if there is one.
10. Read any information provided on the cover or dust jacket.

Thanks, Bert!

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1 comment:

Brenda said...

That's a riot! But, yes, it is the way to "speed read" - the trick being when we write to make sure that the main points we are making in a piece of extended writing can be gleaned the same way... -:)