Professors – Overcome Reading Overwhelm – 4 Ideas to Reduce the Piles of Reading

Stack of papersA never-ending stream of incoming books, articles, chapters, dissertations, research reports, etc. are flowing toward you each day, right?  It’s not surprising that you feel overwhelmed with the amount you need to read. Here are 4 ideas that you can implement this week to reduce those reading piles.

  1. For heaven’s sake, take a speed reading class! There are many offered throughout the world and most likely, right on your campus or in your community. Look for ones that are offered by specially-trained instructors and check out the options available through online courses – either live or recorded. Even if you’ve taken a ‘speed reading’ class before, take another one. Shop around for such a reading class, as claims of being able to read 20,000 words per minute are silly.  All of us, however, can learn new techniques for maximizing our speed and efficiency while reading. Note: This is something I LOVE to teach to faculty and to students and have done so for years. It makes a difference, there’s no question.

  2. Set aside time each day (or week) to read. Many people carry loads of reading materials home at night to work on–and it’s reading that is related to or is an integral part of their professional responsibilities. It’s as if people feel guilty about reading at work. If you’re reading the latest “bodice ripper” at work, then you probably aren’t doing your job, but if you are reading professional materials, reports, articles, research updates, or whatever else that you are expected to read to be able to do your job, then read it AT WORK whenever possible. It IS your work. Block in an appropriate amount of time each day or week to do this work, just like you block in time to meet, write, observe, etc. You know your rhythms and what your days and weeks are like. Determine the optimum time for you and one that you know you can protect and then use it for reading, just reading. Since many faculty like to work at home because there are often fewer distractions, set aside time at home, in a comfortable environment, and do your work reading. There’s nothing to feel guilty about…it’s your job.

  3. Gently but firmly refuse what others are offering you to read. Our friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are often giving us books, magazines, newsletters, etc. to read–and we take them. Consider telling them the truth(!) that right now, you have so much to read that you can’t take one more word (let alone thousands of them) into your home or office. Let others know that if and when you are ready for new items, you’ll get back to them. This relieves the potential piles of items and relieves the guilt you might feel when you aren’t getting your friend’s items read and returned. It’s a double win!

  4. Read a sample chapter of a professional book either on line, while standing at the bookstore, or at the library. Professional speaker Larry Winget jokes that authors could save themselves a lot of time by writing only first chapters of books because that is essentially all that ever gets read. So, “test” a book for whether it is worth your time and energy to read in its entirety. If it isn’t, then don’t purchase it so that it sits around adding to your feeling of overwhelm about what you need to read.

See, I told you these are ideas you can easily implement. So pick one to try today. And then, to keep accessing more practical strategies you can use as a professor, just join faculty members around the globe who are striving for peaceful, predictable productivity.

Compendium_of_Productivity_Tips_Perspective_v2And if you would like additional tips, tools, and techniques that you can use to support your successes, then you will want to access the The Compendium of Productivity Tips for Professors, a step by step guide that will help you have a successful year and a compelling career as an academic.

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