Does Reading Make You More Productive?

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We all lead such busy lives nowadays, that few of us take time out of our days to sit down and read. What if you knew forming a daily reading habit can make you more productive and help you get more done? You need not read for a long time; you must only devote a few minutes of each day to the activity to derive far more benefits from it than mere enjoyment.

Reading does make you more productive because it helps improve cognitive function, decreases stress, and helps improve the quality of your sleep if you make it a continuous habit you often engage in. Some research even suggests that building a daily reading habit helps slow cognitive decline.

In the rest of this post, we’ll explore this topic in more detail and investigate the efficacy of speed reading to discover whether it is worth learning the skill. Later, we’ll define what speed reading is and discuss it in more detail, highlighting the pros and cons. First, though, let’s find out more about how reading can boost your productivity and whether it matters what sort of things you read.

Does what you read make a difference to your productivity?

One way reading helps improve productivity is through the reduction of stress. If all you do is read the headlines every day, you might wind yourself up and end up more stressed than when you started. It may be better to plump for books that entertain and educate you to help you relax. If you want to read up specifically on productivity, check out this earlier post for 10 fantastic recommendations.

How reading can make you more productive

Imagine you’ve found a book you enjoy. Here’s how reading a little of it each day can help you accomplish more.

Alleviates stress

You can shut out the world for a while when you lose yourself in a good story. A 2009 study by researchers at the University of Sussex found that up to 30 minutes of reading a day can reduce stress by as much as 68%. You can get benefits from as little as 6 minutes of reading a day. This makes reading as effective at relieving stress as yoga.

If you are less stressed, you can stay focused for longer which can help improve your productivity. It can also boost your memory. It is vital you take the time to read for pleasure and not just the most recent memo from your boss.

You get better quality sleep

It’s a well-known fact that if you don’t sleep well, you can’t be as productive. Reading before bed helps clear your mind and relax. This means you will fall into a deep sleep more quickly so that you are well-rested for the next day. Try to stick to physical books for the best results because the blue light emitted from screens can keep you awake.

Slows cognitive decline

You must keep your mind active to keep it healthy. Reading is a stimulating activity that might reduce your chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s as you grow older. Reading will keep your mind sharp so that you can remain productive over time.

Strengthens your brain

A 2013 study used MRIs to measure the effects reading a novel has on the brain. Participants read a novel over 9 days. As they got into the story, more and more areas of the brain became active. Brain connectivity increased and the connections made were more complex. Also, the somatosensory area of the brain — the part associated with reacting to physical sensations — was particularly active. In addition, reading improves your vocabulary and broadens your knowledge.

It’s time to look more closely at the phenomenon of speed reading.

What is speed reading?

There are various definitions of speed reading, but they all refer to someone recognising sentences and phrases on the page so they can take in more information within a short time. Most speed-reading techniques include tips on how to read faster and only pay attention to important sections of text.

Being able to take in information quickly and call it to mind when needed can be a useful skill and may give you an edge in the workplace, increase your productivity and help you make more informed decisions. A good speed reader can read between 400-600 words a minute, whilst a master of the skill may be able to read as many as 1000 words a minute. Anyone attempting to read faster than that will likely not remember much of the text.

Next, let’s discover the advantages of speed reading.

From Shutterstock. Brought by the author, with a filter applied.

The benefits of speed reading

Speed reading has many advantages. Here’s a quick rundown of some notable ones.

  • It can improve your memory, by developing a greater capacity for logical thinking, increasing cognitive function, and improving your focus.
  • Can increase your knowledge of many different fields.
  • May force you to unlearn some bad reading habits you may have picked up.
  • Improves discipline and your ability to concentrate.
  • You will be able to decide more quickly if something is worth reading.
  • Can help advance your career.
  • Improve your time management.
  • You can learn new skills fast.

Disadvantages of speed reading

As useful as learning to speed read can be, there are some downsides you should be aware of.

  • You may sacrifice accuracy and a certain degree of comprehension, particularly if you’re reading something complex. Perhaps it is best to only speed read when you need to get a general grasp of what a specific text is about.
  • Speed reading may not be as enjoyable as reading at your own pace. So, if you enjoy reading a book for the beauty of the writing as well as the story, speed reading will not be suitable for you. You can always use speed reading when you need to get the gist of a book fast and relax into reading a good novel at a normal pace when the mood takes you.
  • It can be exhausting to do because you must continuously train yourself to speed read which takes a lot of effort.

Ways to read faster

There are things you can do to increase your reading speed to improve your productivity. Here are some techniques you can use.

  • Try not to say every word in your head.
  • Skim pages and chapters for key ideas.
  • Read content in phrases to speed up without sacrificing your understanding.
  • Try not to reread.
  • Work on improving your vocabulary so that there is less chance that you’ll encounter unfamiliar words that will slow you down.
  • Set yourself goals to meet as you read.

You must continue to read a lot if you want to hone this skill.

Now we’ve investigated speed reading, you can decide for yourself whether you deem it worth taking the time and putting in the effort to develop this skill. Before wrapping up, let’s outline the case for taking time to read at your own speed, without worrying too much.

The case for slow reading

In a world that seemingly values speed and productivity above all else, speed reading appears to be the ideal solution to many problems.

But are the claims and promises made by those who advocate speed reading valid?

There is a trade-off between speed and accuracy, according to research conducted by the Universities of California, Washington, and MIT. Our eyes only allow us to see a small section of our visual field with the precision needed to read 12-point font, everything outside of that small window is blurry, so the idea that you can use your peripheral vision to improve your reading speed is flawed, to say the least.

We sometimes spend longer concentrating on a section of text. You spend more time looking at words you are struggling to understand, to give your brain more time to process information, which is a good thing. However, speed readers consider this a bad habit that must be eradicated.

Another habit speed readers look down on is going back to read parts of a text we’ve read before. But when we do this, we are encouraging our brains to link content together. So, if you speed read using apps that show you just one word at a time it can have a devastating effect on your understanding of the content, and you might not remember anything despite having read all the words.

So, speed reading may only be useful when you want to skim read. It may be more useful to find what style of reading suits you to help you read a little faster, combined with more practice.

But if we don’t learn to speed read, what should we do?

We should read for enjoyment and comprehension because people who enjoy themselves may spend more time reading than the average speed reader. Slow reading helps you learn, and, as we’ve seen, reduces stress. So, set aside a chunk of time every day and strive to read better, rather than faster.

Wrapping up

So, now you know the miraculous power reading has to help you de-stress and become more productive. We’ve also covered the ins and outs of speed reading so you can decide for yourself whether you want to try speed reading and have given the case for slow reading too.

Now go and enjoy forming your own daily reading habit and have fun discovering whether doing so makes you more productive.

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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