Business leaders know: There's a lot to read. Heck, there's more reading than I had to do in grad school (and that's saying something). The trouble is, with all that's on our plates these days, how do we make time to read everything on our desks AND really understand it?

Here's a simple trick that's worked well for me: Stay engaged by quizzing yourself.

  • First, break your reading material into sections. In some cases, that will be clear -- just go by subheaders or item titles in a list. In cases where there isn't a clear content hierarchy, you can go paragraph by paragraph.
  • Read each segment, then ask yourself three questions: Who? What? Why? Each should be answered in, max, one sentence, and ideally in just a couple of words.
  • When you're done, skim the entire piece of writing and stack your answers so you get a clear picture of the important takeaways.

This has benefits right away, of course, and has long helped improve my comprehension and information retention, but it's also a boon for the long term. Why? You'll find yourself zeroing in on keywords that align with the three questions I noted above: Who? What? Why? These will often fall in similar places in content, so your eyes will go there first (what at the top, often followed by who, then why).

Here are a couple of bonus benefits, too:

  • You'll begin to appreciate well-organized writing and encourage content hierarchy in your own company's articles.
  • You'll start writing more clearly and logically yourself, giving readers the tools they need to comprehend your work quickly and cleanly.

This tactic can easily be used with other reading techniques, like guiding your reading with your finger so you don't get lost, word chunking (reading whole concepts or ideas instead of individual words), and timing yourself to improve speed.

As with any new technique, the more you practice (i.e., read), the better you will become -- so start now and stick with it.