Photograph of hands holding a miniature book.
Image: `Small Book` by Colin Dunn | CCBY 2.0

Is professional development one of your goals for 2019? Are you struggling to find the time to fit in learning?

Let’s be honest: adults are busy people. With jobs, families, and an avalanche of commitments, it can be hard to fit in learning. And yet, learning can help you to keep your edge at work.

This article is the first in a series about adult learning tips that are designed to help you fit learning into the cracks. Today’s tip? Smart reading. Books aren’t the only way to learn, but they are a reliable and portable learning medium, especially now that you can carry a library of them in your phone and access them in long grocery store lines.


Efficient Learning

Remember the days when you had large swaths of uninterrupted time to read a whole book in a weekend? You were probably 14. If reading an entire book seems daunting to you right now because you’re building a career, raising a family, and training a puppy (all while operating on three hours of sleep), incorporating some efficient learning strategies could make learning possible. Here are our tips for smart reading:

  1. Stop reading a book if it doesn’t resonate with you. It’s perfectly okay to stop reading on page 4 if a book isn’t grabbing you, or it isn’t in line with your learning goals. You are no longer bound by the rules of high school English class. Your time is precious and there are thousands of wonderful books out there. One of them will be right for you. Create a space for that special book by saying no to books that aren’t working for you.
  2. Say no before you start a book. Read reviews, articles and summaries about a book to determine if it’s even worth your time. Sometimes good summaries can capture what’s best about a book, and you can draw your learning from that. James Clear has written tweet-size summaries of books for those of you who can’t imagine even reading an article right now. Or, consider signing up for the service Four-Minute Books or try the Blinkist app.
  3. Skim over the parts that don’t interest you, and only read the parts that capture you. It’s okay! It’s a rare book that will make you want to digest every word.
  4. Read out of order. The nice thing about nonfiction books is that you don’t have to read the pages in order. Refer to the table of contents or the index for topics that align with your learning goals. Don’t spend time on topics that don’t interest you, or that you already know about.
  5. Read strategically. If a book is well-structured, you might get away with reading the introduction and conclusion of each chapter. You can also read the section headings to get a sense of how a chapter builds. That’ll be enough to let you know if you want to delve into the chapter.
  6. Pick short books. Some writers have a gift for saying it in the fewest words possible. A fun example of this? Books that fit into the palm of your hand. Peruse this list of miniature books or type the following dimensions into your favourite online book site for tiny books that you can carry in a handbag or shirt pocket: 10.2 x 1 x 15.2 cm.
  7. Try another learning medium if fitting reading into your life doesn’t seem possible. Listen to podcasts or watch short videos featuring industry experts, or if you prefer more structure to your learning consider taking a mobile-friendly online course.

What tips do you have for reading efficiently? Tell us on Twitter @QueensProS.


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