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     The Top 10 Ways to Conquer Reading Overload

Do you feel that you have more to READ than you will ever have time for? Well here are a couple of techniques for paring down the pile, making time to read, and using your reading time more effectively.

In this day and age, nearly all magazines, newspapers, journals, newsletters, association publications, etc. are available ONLINE. Should you ever need to read about a particular topic or find a specific article -- or if you just want to peruse the latest issue, you would be able to search the Internet and find what you are looking for. So start to reduce your paper reading "pile" by ELIMINATING at least one publication to which you currently subscribe.

Go through your mail while standing next to the wastebasket and/or recycling bin. There should be a TRASH can and recycling bin right by the your mailbox -- or wherever you bring the mail back into your home or office -- so that you can immediately go through your mail and drop unnecessary items (duplicate catalogs as well as catalogs for items you are not interested in, junk mail, flyers about events that arenít pertinent, etc.) into the wastebasket or paper recycling receptacle. Generally, only 20% of what you receive in your mailbox at work is WORTH opening (and some of that is still not worth reading once you open it).

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, read a sample chapter of a book either on line or while standing at the bookstore. This is a good way to TEST a book for whether it is worth your time and energy to read in its entirety. If it isnít, then donít purchase it so that it sits around adding to your feeling of overwhelm about what you need to read.

Letís be truthful. A lot of the reading overwhelm at work comes from what shows up ELECTRONICALLY -- in our email inbox. If you do not know how to use the "sort" feature in your email, get someone to teach you or figure it out yourself. You can train your email program to sort certain emails by CATEGORY -- sending them immediately into the "Delete" folder, into a "Listservs" folder, or any other folders that you designate. This will leave fewer emails that are more relevant in your inbox, and you can read through the others later, if at all.

Many people carry loads of reading materials home at night to work on -ó and itís reading that is related to or is an integral part of their PROFESSIONAL responsibilities. Itís as if people feel guilty about reading at work. If youíre reading the latest "bodice ripper" at work, then you probably arenít doing your job -- but if you are reading professional materials, reports, articles, memos, or whatever else that you are expected to read to be able to do your job, then read it at WORK. 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, account, etc.

Purchase SOFTWARE that will support your reading needs. Two excellent examples are Acereader Pro and TextAloud from Nextup. These programs use voice synthesis to convert text into SPOKEN audio. Listen on your computer or create files for use on portable devices like iPods, PocketPCs, and compact disc players. Now you can create a book on tape out of any book!

For heavenís sake, take a speed reading CLASS! There are many offered throughout the world! Some are offered by specially trained instructors and others are offered through schools, community colleges, universities, or in public seminars. Even if youíve taken one before, take another one. All of us can learn new techniques for MAXIMIZING our speed and efficiency while reading.

Start a "Read" FOLDER and only allow it to become a certain size. Get a 3.5" or 5" expandable file folder that you put in a drawer near where you sort your mail and do your work. Whenever you come to something that you want to read but itís not urgent and important that you read it now, put it in the folder. If (and when!) the folder is FULL, then youíve reached your limit. Remove some of the items from the front (if youíve been dropping new items into the back) and just immediately deposit them in the recycle bin. Having a folder of a designated size keeps you from have mountains of "to read" piles all over your office.

Get in the habit of grabbing either the whole folder or a few items out of the folder any time you are heading out the door to a meeting, an appointment, or on a trip. Use the minutes (or hours) WAITING for clients, standing in line, or sitting on an airplane to read through what youíve collected in your folder -- this is making use of time that would have been WASTED otherwise to actually help you stay on top of an important to-do. Youíll travel back to your office much lighter than when you left! And itís not just a physical lightness!


Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., is a speaker and coach, formerly a university professor and now "The Productivity Professor"(tm), working with people who are looking for peaceful productivity. She can be reached at , or visited on the web at www.meggin.com.

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