mnmlist: slow, effective reading

Recently I read a post that teaches you to double your reading speed … and made the following claim:

“Obviously, the faster you can read, the more productive you can be. If you can double your reading speed, you can double your productivity.”

I disagree. I think you should read slower, and focus on doing things slower. It increases your effectiveness, which is a different definition of productivity than “doing things faster”.

The post’s argument was based on the idea that every project involves a lot of reading – background materials, books, blog posts, notes. It didn’t mention emails but that’s another area where reading faster might seem more productive.

And I’ll grant that if you can zip through that kind of reading, you’ll get the project done faster. And then you can zip through the next task and the next and the next, and zoom! You’re productive!

But productivity isn’t about speed, even if we’ve been led to believe it is. It’s about being effective. It’s about accomplishing things — and that’s about doing the most important things, not the most things.

When we speed through tasks and projects, we lose perspective. We forget what’s important and just try to do things as fast as possible.

Instead, pause. Think about what’s most important, what needs to be done the most. Then clear everything else out of the way, and focus. Do that one thing, but do it slowly, and do it very well.

If reading is important, focus on it, and do it slowly. It’ll be that much more enjoyable, and so will the project. And when you absolutely love what you’re doing, then productivity is a natural by-product.

Slow down, don’t speed up. Read slower — you’ll read less, but enjoy it more.

Also read: Slowness isn’t about comprehension – it’s about happiness.