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I am having very less concentration. Specially when I read a book or an article. I don't read a paragraph of 2 lines even. I start searching 1 or 2 words from a line and leave the rest. Definitely, It doesn't clear the actual meaning of that document.

My mind catches images, formulas, numbers, charts, headings etc (anything other than normal text) first. But I dint feel to read complete article. I start doing some practical even without understanding the concept completely not even 70-80%. Or start exploring related/alternate stuff.

When I need to learn something, I either go for PPTs, Step-by-Step illustrated tutorial or for some video tutorial. However I am aware with the fact that a book gives the basic but important knowledge of any topic.

Because of this habit, I take more than average time to learn things.

This may all because of less patience, but how can I overcome that?

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Try to do just one thing at a time and schedule some time to accomplish it. It sounds like you're trying to do too much at once – Simon Martin Feb 7 '13 at 15:25

14 Answers 14

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I heard that pomodoro technique is very effective for reading. I googled around and found this blog >> Reading and effective note as one of the reference[1].

My friend also tried it and shared that it's very effective for her.

I believe the reason behind the effectiveness is that Hippocampus[2] (the part of the brain that writes what you have read into long-term persistence memory) works when you are not focusing. You need both focusing and relaxing time to read effectively. However, you don't want to risk switching context (being distracted and do something else) because that would flush what you have read away.

You may want to try it. Let us know if it works for you. :)

Good luck!

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+1 for links, seems useful. between the journey. will read in few days. Thanks – Amit Gupta Jan 25 '13 at 5:02
I am accepting before applying. – Amit Gupta Feb 7 '13 at 15:22

I think you need two things: Focus and Motivation. I also suggest to use Pomodoro Technique for help you focus. Think reading like playing a game. Set your goal "I will focus on reading this book for 10mins" then start. When you get the goal, give yourself some rewards. It's OK to take a break for relax, this is a good reward for your brain. Take several short periods of reading, you will find yourself more fun to read. Then try longer period, like play a game in next level. This is some kind of motivation. When you can focus on reading and can boost your motivation to read, you will enjoy reading. Let's try.

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Ya, this is my last action when nothing works. I'll force myself to read some interesting journals with daily routine and will increase the period – Amit Gupta Jan 25 '13 at 5:04

The problem of reading, focus and remembering was already discussed so you may want to take a look.

Anyway if you want to improve your reading you can try to set up some goals which you want to achieve by reading a book. Having clear motivation of reading helps to focus on text and its understanding. If you don't have any particular point, you may try to read to summarise after read. Find a friend who is willing to listen and ask questions. Read material and try to tell your friend what you read. This way you may identify what you missed and how you read the text. You may find that you focus only on particular subjects but can't answer your friend's questions. It can give you a clue about your reading patterns and why you read the way you do so.

By the way, the reading you describe is not necessary wrong. There are many techniques to read, especially technical texts, maybe you need only improve some details in your reading pattern not change it all. It can give you better understanding in shorter time. You don't have to read all text to get the most from it.

Saying all of the above I think that the most important is motivation and good understanding of reason why you want to do so.

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I'm dyslexic, no good at reading either, but I've learned to read very quickly and efficiently. Some people have no legs and yet they've learned to run on crutches. Don't let it hold you back.

It's all just practice and hard work. The human brain can learn plenty of new things, it just needs to be conditioned to do it faster and more accurately. If you were slower than other people, there's nothing keeping you from becoming better than them with more hard work.

I would recommend that you spend around 1-4 hours a day reading something at a little faster than your comfort level. Take one of the many speed reading courses recommended around the site. You should be able to read more comfortably within a few months.

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I am an avid reader but there are times when I cannot focus. It is a problem of either lack of patience to or too many other thoughts & distractions.

During these times, I either start reading out loud (pretending there is an imaginary audience listening) or (if nothing at all works) I literally start to copy the text into a notebook. This usually gives me focus after a few paragraphs I "get into" it and can just read instead of reading/copying.

I know friends who read more than me and they complain about 'quality' of writing or grammar and I think in a way they are actually distracting themselves while reading, but the distraction is related to the text. I believe it helps them keep the focus throughout boring text.

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for an initial practice "reading out loud" may be helpful. But I can't make it regular habit since I can't disturb anyone sleeping or when I am in office – Amit Gupta Jan 23 '13 at 16:14
I typically do not read in the office. It's maybe unprofessional ..(?) depending on office environment. But you can also highlight if it's Internet or book you can ruin. – Dina Jan 24 '13 at 15:31

One method you may try is to change the way you think about reading. Enjoy it. Don't view it as a requirement in order to gain intelligence. Enjoying it will cause you to focus less on picking out stats, numbers, and bold ideas, and instead, focus on the concepts behind articles.

So, next time you are about to read an article, don't think "I want to become smarter, so I'm going to read this." rather, "This looks like an interesting topic, so I will check it out."

I would recommend combining this with one of the other suggestions posted here.

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I would try speed reading. You might not be reading quick enough to stay interested in what you are reading.

As someone with ADD, I know I have to keep my mind stimulated when I read. I took some speed reading course and then I use Quickreader to read fiction. I read on the train because I know I will have to stay seated and the noise around me actually helps me focus. You could also try reading standing up or walking.

If you are reading non-fiction then don't try to understand everything on first pass, just get an overview of the chapter by skimming. Then try to read the chapter again. Stopping to take notes or scribbling things might also help to keep your mind engaged.

Of course, having content to read that you are actually interested in is the most important part.

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One of the best ways you could do to help you stay focus on when reading is to take regular breaks or treat yourself or reward yourself after you’ve finish reading. This could help you motivate yourself to stay focus.

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You can start by reading aloud. That will help you concentrating while reading. I remember having similar problem. I used to go in a room or place where I am alone so no one can hear me and I am comfortable. Then started reading some novels and books aloud. After sometime you will realize that you are actually reading the book and your volume will go low slowly with your concentration on the subject. Now I can even read while traveling in cab/bus with music on.

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I suppose you mean kind of scientific article since you mention numbers, charts, headings, etc. Or at least follow the same structure.

I used to had the same problem when I was reading a significant amount of them for my thesis.

The problem here is (correct me if I'm wrong) [description of my experience]:

  1. Grab the article, you pay attention to the title.
  2. Try to understand what is the main goal of the article for the next 45'
  3. Try to read but it is boring and they go around for some time.
  4. Keep reading in diagonal until founding something interesting, like a chart, then your mind flew away.

What I 'd done:

  1. I know the amount of reading for deep understanding is about 3x times.
  2. Main problem: distraction. Resolution? Work on the top of distraction.
  3. Since distraction happens when lack of focus mainly due to irrelevance work on relevant areas first. So it will look like this:

First attempt, read introduction and goal itself, look over conclusions. Anything relevant? Second attempt, make sense of the formulas, charts, etc in the article and relate with the conclusions and goal. Does they achieve the goal? Anything remarkable? Third attempt, cut the methodology and results, without charts, and paste them into a word file. Print it out and read for errors in methodology, which will make you be more attendant.

Look ugly and exhausting, right?

So, due to the amount of material I synthesized into an easier pattern. Since much articles aren't well designed methodologically I start by reading goal and conclusions (read in diagonal) and face what they found with the used methodology. Is the methodology ok? Keep working on the article ( I've found that 1'5x reading times are enough, and the half means working on single individual parts). Is the methodology wrong? Well, since its basement is wrong, why I would rather keep reading?

P.d. Any time technique like Pomodoro's will work with any task because is a time management technique. But that thing won't solve your problem.

P.d.d. Anything related to your environment like quietness, be conscious, etc. They are actually the prerequisites, nothing else. If they lack, it's highly probably your reading fails.

Good luck!

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Here's a trick I've been using recently: employ the method of loci (also known as a "mind palace") while you're reading.

Think of some room, building or city, you know well, and commit to placing things you encounter in your daily life somewhere in this space. This is a basic memory technique. You can follow the link to learn more.

When you're reading, make a conscious effort to put everything you read somewhere in the mind palace. This doesn't mean (unfortunately) that you'll remember the whole book forever, but it does mean that you actively engage with every fact you read. It makes you take every new piece of information, and find a place for it. Pay particular attention to where you place things in relation to each other. If stuff gets messy, see if you can find a more logical way to re-arrange things.

Reading like this takes more energy, and takes longer, but it keeps your attention on the text. You can't allow yourself to drift off while your eyes keep scanning text, because every new parcel of knowledge need a place in your mind palace.

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When I read a story books, I definitely visualize it in my mind, relate to some real location.. Hence even if I dint remember exact words or dialogue, I remember the whole story in glance. But it's not possible with technical books. Same with method of loci. – Amit Gupta Aug 27 '15 at 5:03

Things that help me focus while I am reading (I don't do all of them every time):

  1. Find a quiet place to read, where there are no distractions.
  2. Chose a subject that genuinely interests you.
  3. Read eBooks or real books rather than articles on the web, as this reduces the temptation to go off topic.
  4. Before you start reading, ask yourself questions about the subject, and then see if the article you read gives you the answers.
  5. Imagine that you'll be teaching someone what you are reading. As you read, think how you'll explain it to them. I
  6. Argue with the author in your head.
  7. Highlight the interesting bits as you go.
  8. At the end, jot down some notes on what you've read.

Finally, don't abandon the methods of learning that already work for you. Sometimes it is best to improve things that alreay work for you than to focus on things that you find really hard.

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If you want to "force yourself to focus," I think the best way to do this would be to create a written bullet summary for what you are reading. Write it with the goal of writing it to make it useful to someone else.

I think that copying the text directly would be less effective than creating a summary. If a person is tired anyway, copying the text directly would easily turn into a mindless (and tiring) rote task.

In my experience, creating a bullet summary is effective because it forces my mind to not only read but to think about the text. You can't write a good summary if you are not actually reading and comprehending the text, and by writing you can literally see if you are paying attention or not.

And if the reading is important to you, having a well-crafted set of notes is invaluable. If the information is condensed correctly, one could effectively re-read the entire text in a fraction of the time.

Another thing that comes to mind is your expectations and framing. Check out the Dunning–Kruger effect it could be that you are doing better than most, and are concerned because you have the analytical ability to see where you could do even better...

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Sometimes you can't concentrate, because you are tired or anxious. So:

1) Make sure you take a good night of sleep. Also make sure it is a good night of sleep. There are many of sleeping trackers to smartphones.

2) Make sure you are not studying too hard. Your mind can get tired if you are studying too much. Therefore, you should make pauses while you are studying.

3) Rationalise your anxieties. Nowadays anxiety it is a big problem. Also sometimes we have problems unsolved, so get problems solved. If you get anxious by a lot things, you need to rationalise why that things make you anxious.

4) Sometimes we just can't concentrate. There are days that we can't just focus. In this case, you have to be patient and persevere in your task, and read a line many times it takes to understand it.

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