10 Tips On How to Focus On Boring Reading Materials
Reading should always be an enjoyable experience! It certainly should be, considering most of us do it every day. Students and professionals can end up dedicating 3 to 5 hours each day to the task of reading. In a perfect world, all the material that we read would be compelling and interesting. However in reality, sometimes the material we read is not that interesting but we still do need to read it. Wether it is for school or for our jobs, there are times when we need to spend hours reading boring material that interests us very little or even not at all. This can cause us to loose focus on the task of reading resulting in slow reading speeds, poor comprehension and retention. Luckily there are things we can do to help us stay focused while reading 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 of the things I like to do is check 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 checked out the supplementary material, you will find that reading the boring stuff will be a lot easer.
Tip # 2: Ask Yourself Why Are You Reading This
Are you reading the material for your test? Are you reading it for work? What is the outcome of you reading this material? Do you need to answer specific questions or solve a specific problem? By asking yourself these questions before you read, you prep your brain for a more efficient intake of information. You will unconsciously tune in to the more relevant of the 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. Focus on your objectives only. By bringing awareness on your objectives, you focus on the outcome rather than the daunting task of reading boring material and this can be very motivating!
Tip # 3 Scan Before Reading
Is there any bullet points, headings, lists and other related information within the material you are reading? Information is usually presented in these ways because the author would like you put special attention on it. By doing so, you also calibrate your brain to take in the information easily. Ever notice that it is easier to read information when you read it the second time? One of the reasons why this is the case is because the first time we read it, we calibrate our brain to the information. The information is fresh in our memory banks. By doing this technique we mimic reading it twice, creating less internal resistance in our brain. Less internal resistance allows us to better focus on reading boring material.
Tip # 4 Use A Pen Or Your Hand While Reading
Ever notice that when you are reading information before taking a test, you unconsciously use your finger or pen to guide you through the material? Well I am here to encourage it! Our eyes fixate on moving objects and by using a finger or a pen when we read, we bring focus to the task. This also helps us read faster which is a great benefit. By guiding our eyes with a finger or a pen, we are more likely to stay focused on our boring material with less distraction.
Tip # 5 The Read And Recall Method
Did you know that most readers, regress 33% of the time when reading? When I say regress, I mean going back and reading the same material over again during the reading session because our mind wandered or we did not comprehended it well the first time. This is a huge waste of time and also a sign of lack of focus. One can only imagine how much more we regress for 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. Just take a quick note one sentence long. After you do that, go and read the next paragraph and repeat this for your entire piece of boring material. Not only will this help you stay focuses but it will also help your comprehension and retention.
Tip # 6 Take Occasional Breaks
It is very important that when you read, you keep your natural rhythm of your brain and focus in mind. Most of us can only remain focused on a task for about 50 minutes. For some of us, it is a lot less. Knowing why it happens is half the battle! Staying focused requires our 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 would not lift weights without breaks, you should not try and read nonstop. The ideal focused chuck of reading should be 50 minutes. After 50 minutes we should take a quick 10 minute break or do something else for 10 minutes and then repeat the cycle. Reading boring material not only uses our mental processes for focus , it also needs additional mental processes to keep us motivated. Again, why make it harder on ourselves… 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 flavourless 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 reason why we read, which is to comprehend and retain information, our brain needs “seasoning” to help us comprehend and retain the information. You can spice up your reading by reviewing your material in creative ways. Try reading your notes out loud, drawing images or my favourite, create a mind map! The more we engaged different parts of our brain, the more likely we are able to make boring reading material come alive.
Tip # 8 Create Rewards To Read
Motivation is one of those mystical areas which 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. We are motivated by rewards. Set some rewards before you read your boring material. 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. Be easy on yourself, you deserve it after sitting through that boring material.
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. Someone that 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 to add to the material you are reading which results 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. Maybe we think now that we are all grown up, that games are for kids… Wrong! Games motivate us and engage parts of the brain tied into our need for entertainment and challenge. By creating little games with our boring material, we can trick our brain into thinking we are playing a game instead of reading boring material.
A lot of times we sit through boring material with diligence because it can mean the difference between a passing and a 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. That being said, all we have to do is change our perspective on the material using the tips I talked about above, to mimic the joy of reading something we are actually interested in. In a perfect world, all the material we read would be exciting and fun. By using the tips I shared with you, you could create your own reading utopia where even then, most boring material around is still fun to read!
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Joseph is an Iris instructor based out of Toronto. He loves to share his personal knowledge as an entrepreneur, and credits a lot of his success to speed reading techniques and productivity strategies.