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Stop Reading and Start Learning: How to Absorb Information Better

Business is full of dry, boring material that needs your attention. Here, Inc. columnists share ways to get through the drudgery.

There is no shortage of material that needs to be read in business, including marketing copy, business plans, contracts, legal documents, and, of course, business books. I love to read, but not all business reading is particularly entertaining or well written. And some of the most important stuff is dense, dry, and dreadful, no matter how much achieving success requires you read it.

So when my inbox is full of necessary reading that I know will put me to sleep, I have to make a special effort to power through it. First, I set aside time with no distractions. No phone, email, or TV to draw my focus. Then, I find a place with lots of natural light. Lastly, I turn on mellow music that I know well so I can get into its rhythmic groove. Before you know it, the stack is gone, and I feel better for having been productive.

Here are more ways to tackle that tough material, from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Skim it first.

There's nothing worse than having to slog through writing that is dry, boring, or overly dense. When I encounter such articles, books, or other information, it takes all the willpower I can muster to read it and not push it aside and do something else instead. The one thing that helps me get through such material and actually learn something in the process is to skim it instead of trying to read it in detail. As I skim, I write down the major points in a notebook. After I'm done, I can then review the major points I've collected and have a pretty good idea of what I need to know. Peter Economy--The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? Click here.

2. Mix it up a bit.

People absorb information largely on the basis of their learning style; my style changes with different tasks. If I have to assemble something, I'm kinesthetic; I just have to get my hands on it and do it. In many ways, I am visual, but in reading technical or boring jargon I'm mostly auditory. If I cannot access an audio version of the material, then I actually read the tough parts out loud. But there's an added twist: As I read it, I have to put a visual to it as well. I process the information in two ways, so I guess I am a multitasking reader! How about you? Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist

Want to read more from Marla? Click here.

3. Understand your learning style.

I discovered early in life that I am an auditory learner, which means I comprehend best when I hear content and new information. My job requires me to review thick business plans and corporate strategy documents. That's where my smartphone and tablet come in. Both have built-in functionality that supports my learning style. I can use the built-in text-to-speech technology to read the content to me. As I listen to each section, I purposefully summarize in my head what I just learned so that I am sure that I fully comprehended the information conveyed. This functionality is also a great way to take advantage of the times it wouldn't be as easy to read--walking through an airport or commuting in my car, for example. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

Want to read more from Eric? Click here.

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Last updated: Aug 21, 2014

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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