Read Faster by Reading Less

—Andy Hunt

Published in Andy's Blog

Here's a variation on the SQ3R reading method I mention in Pragmatic Thinking and Learning.  It's called 5S (in German, the steps all start with 'S').  To recap,  the original SQ3R steps are:
  • Survey
  • Question
  • Read
  • Recite
  • Review
  • And the 5S version changes that to:

    • Survey
    • Question
    • Search
    • Write
    • Memorize

    The Write and Memorize facets I've talked about before, both in the book and here on the blog (i.e., memory retention is strengthened by recall, not by re-read).

    But notice the difference at 'Search'.  Instead of reading the entire text, you can cheat.  Look for the answers to your questions by scanning through the text for just that particular answer.  The theory is that you can read fastest what you don't read at all.  (Sort of like writing less code–the code you don't write is guaranteed not to have any bugs.  Ergo, write less code.)

    Here, the focus is on getting your specific question(s) answered.  It's just like using Google :-) That's not always an appropriate way to tackle a book, of course.  If it's a new area and you aren't even sure of the right questions to ask, you'd be better served reading most of the text.

    But if you're looking for "just the facts," then it can pay to be pragmatic about it.

    Thanks to Erik Tittel for describing the 5S method.

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