10 Tips on How to Focus on Boring Reading Materials
Reading should always be an enjoyable experience!
We live in a time where it’s becoming increasingly important to be able to get through new information quickly, and remember it. Many students and professionals can end up dedicating 3 to 5 hours each day to the task of reading.
Billionnaire Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors of all time, estimates that he spends 80% of his work day reading and thinking. “I just sit in my office and read all day,” he said. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
In a perfect world, all the material that we read would be compelling and interesting. In reality, however, our required daily reading is not always that interesting. Whether you need to read for school, work or your own personal/professional development, there are times when we need to spend hours reading material that can be of little or no interest to us.
This can cause us to lose our focus and concentration, resulting in slow reading speeds, poor comprehension and minimal retention. Here are 10 strategies you can implement immediately to help you stay focused while reading for long periods of time, even if the material is boring.
Tip #1: Try And Make It Interesting
Sometimes the information we read is not presented in a way that is aligned with our personal interests and learning styles, or perhaps the writer is just plain boring (I am not suggesting that my stuff is any better, haha).
One strategy I like to implement is checking to see if there is anyone else presenting the information on YouTube in a lecture, video or documentary format. Also, doing a quick Google search can get you access to the same information presented by different authors or bloggers.
Once you have inspected supplementary material, you will find that reading the boring stuff will be a lot easier and you should be able to get through the information much more quickly.
Tip #2: Ask Yourself, “Why Am I Reading This?”
Are you preparing for a test? Are you reading it for work? What is your purpose and expected outcome of reading this material? Do you need to answer specific questions or solve a problem?
Questions Focus The Mind!
By asking yourself questions before you start reading, you prep your brain for a more efficient intake of information. You will unconsciously tune in to the more relevant information and skim over the useless stuff.
Not all the information that we read from a book or article will be useful to us, so there is no need to read for the sake of knowing everything. When you get caught up in the details, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.
By focusing on your objectives and being mindful of what they are, you’ll concentrate on the outcome rather than the daunting task of reading boring material… This can be very motivating.
Tip #3 Inspect Your Material Before Reading
Pay attention to the structure of your material. Are there any bullet points, headings, lists and/or other recurring patterns within the material you need to read?
Information is usually presented in these ways because the author wants to place special emphasis on main ideas or important details. By identifying these patterns, you calibrate your brain to encode the information more efficiently.
Ever notice that it is easier to process information when you’re reading it for the second time? One of the reasons why this is true is because the first time we read it, we calibrate our brains to the information and it is fresh in our memory bank. This creates less internal resistance in our brain when scanning through the material a second time, allowing for better focus.
Tip #4 Use A Visual Cue To Guide Your Eyes
Your eyes are naturally attracted to motion. By using your hand, finger or a pen to guide your eyes while reading on the printed page, you force yourself to focus harder on the material.
Using a visual cue to guide your eyes will also help you increase your reading speed, which is a great benefit. Implementing this technique correctly will help you stay focused with less distraction.
Tip #5 The Read & Recall Method
Did you know that most readers regress 33% of the time?
Regression is going back to re-read the same material all over again because our mind wandered off or we did not comprehend it well the first time. This is a huge waste of time and also signals a lack of focus. One can only imagine how much more we regress when reading boring material.
We can combat this problem by performing a little trick. After you read a paragraph of text, stop and take a quick note on what you just read. Simply write down a word, phrase or a quick sentence on anything that caught your attention. Repeat this process after each paragraph or section to help you stay focused with better comprehension and retention.
The idea is that when you know that you have to write something down, you’re more likely to hold yourself accountable to pay attention and maintain focus while reading.
Tip #6 Take Occasional Breaks
It is very important to keep the natural rhythm of your brain in mind while reading. Most of us can only remain focused on a task for about 50 minutes. For some of us, that timeframe is much lower. Knowing why you lose focus is only half the battle!
Staying focused requires your brain to work hard. We use mental processes to help us stay focused. Think of these mental processes like little focus muscles. Just like you wouldn’t exercise at high intensity for long periods of time without taking breaks, you should not try to read for long periods of time without taking short breaks.
The ideal focused chunk of reading should be 50 minutes. After 50 minutes it’s beneficial to take a quick 10 minute break to reflect on the material you just read and then repeat the cycle. You can also use use this timeframe to do something completely different to take your mind off the remaining material you need to read. Frequent breaks improve your mental agility!
Forcing yourself to read boring material can be exhausting to your focus and consume additional mental processes that keep you motivated. Give yourself a well deserved break and your brain will thank you for it.
Tip #7 Review What You Read
Reading boring material is a flavorless experience. It’s like eating food with no seasoning. While we can do it, it does not particularly stimulate us. When it comes to the core purpose of why we read, which is to comprehend and retain information, our brain needs “seasoning” to help us read it well.
You can spice up your reading by reviewing your material in creative ways. Try reading your notes out loud, drawing images or create a mind map! The more we engage different parts of our brain, the more easily we are able to make boring reading material come alive.
Tip #8 Create Rewards To Read
Motivation is one of those mystical areas that nobody has really figured out. We do know one thing, however. Most people are motivated by rewards. Just like a puppy dog who does little tricks for a treat, we are not much different than our furry friends in that we are motivated by rewards.
Set some rewards before you start reading. It does not have to be anything spectacular. Sometimes a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice or 15 minutes in a hot tub can be very motivating. Reward yourself when you achieve your reading milestones and goals… You deserve it!
Tip #9 Find A Study Buddy
Sometimes hearing another perspective from a classmate or friend can make a dull topic come to life. Find someone you can read or study with who is creative and positive.
This should be someone who not only motivates you to get through your reading material, but also holds you accountable. They should also be able to bring about interesting conversations, theories and facts, which will result in a greater level of comprehension and enjoyment.
Tip #10 Turn Reading Into A Game
How fast can you read a page of text while still maintaining a high level of comprehension? Why not time yourself and try to beat your record one page at a time?
Remember what it was like to be a kid? Everything was a game! Remember how long you used to stay focused on playing with a toy or a game that you found interesting? When we grew up, we forgot that we can turn anything into a game.
Games motivate us and engage parts of the brain tied into our need for entertainment and challenge. By creating little games with our reading material, we can trick our brain into thinking we are playing a game instead of engaging in the laborious task of reading.
Often times we read through boring material with diligence because it can mean the difference between a passing and failing grade in school, or not getting our job done at work. All this does is burn us out. At one point in my life, it made me hate reading in general.
All we have to do is change our perspective on the material using the tips I talked about above and mimic the joy of reading something we are actually interested in. This will make reading a lot more fluid and effortless, and you could create your own reading utopia where even the most boring material is still fun to read!
BONUS TIP: Learn Speed Reading & Memory Techniques
Our Speed Reading Mastery Course consists of video tutorials (8+ hours of content) covering advanced strategies that can be implemented immediately in your own reading material.
You can complete the individual lessons at your own pace, and this course goes beyond what we have time to cover during our in-person classes to help you approach many different types of reading material more effectively. You’ll also receive lifetime access so you can always revisit the content if you need a refresher. View all of the course lessons here!
Paul is the founder of Iris Reading, the largest provider of speed-reading courses in North America. His workshops have been taught to thousands of students and professionals throughout the U.S. and Canada.