How To Focus On Reading – 5 Genius Ways To Outsmart Boring Books

No two people are the same, so no two readers are the same, either. With that said, people who ask the question “How to focus on reading” usually fall into one of two categories:

Either you love it, or you hate it.

Even if you love reading most of the time, some kinds of materials are easier to take in than other kinds. You feel like, I want to read but i can't focus. Learning how to read better can sometimes be a challenge for anyone, especially when you need to read boring text books .

Reading Focus on a Sliding Scale

It is usually easy to focus on reading something you enjoy. If you love romances, rip-snorting westerns, or far-out science fiction, then it is likely to be easy for you to focus on your reading.

You could be seated in the middle of a noisy stadium with some famous football hero about to make a touchdown and keep your eyes and your mind on the story.

You could even be in a bunker with bombs whistling by overhead … ok, maybe not quite that focused.

But you’ve probably seen the parent or older sibling who remains glued to a page-turner while the younger members of the family tumble and play noisily.

On the other end of that scale is something that you don’t want to read, but you must because it is required for a class, your work, or something that you want to do.

You find that willpower does not work. Maybe you need to focus on reading for college: Technical manuals, dry-as-dust historical accounts, novels of by-gone eras with unfamiliar vocabulary, or a fictional genre that just isn’t your cup of tea, all can make some pretty tough reading. 

How To Focus On Reading

If you are slogging your way through something you don’t want to read, you are likely to find yourself very distractible.

Why Is It So Hard To Focus On Reading?

Reading distractions come in three major categories: Real-world external, internet addiction and personal internal. Each category requires a different brand of coping skills.

Real-World External Reading Distractions

Even though you might try to schedule your reading time for after your chores are finished or for times when you anticipate the least amount of distraction, real-world events happen. These come in so wide a variety it is hard to create a spectrum.

A cat walking on your page, dogs barking, a doorbell or telephone ringing can all constitute unscheduled intrusions.

When it comes to real-world distractions, location is everything. When it comes to reading, “far from the madding crowd” is exactly where you want to be.

For example, a very busy single mom paid her sitter for an extra thirty minutes each day just so she would have time to read her textbooks in blessed peace. Where did she do it? In her car, at a local roadside park.

Physical isolation isn’t always possible. Sometimes, you are forced to read or study in an area that is always distractingly noisy, such as your family’s living room.

Noise-canceling headphones can help, especially if you can pipe in some soothing music or white noise to help further block the distracting sounds. Headphones and white noise or music can also help with rooms that are too quiet, but that have annoying sounds such as clocks ticking or radiators that thump and clank.

Location Is Everything When Reading Boring Books

Dealing With Internet Addiction

If you are a student, business person or teacher, a lot of what you read these days is going to be online. In order to read some things, such as textbooks, learning assignments, instructions or even recipes, a connection to the Internet is a must.

But, oh, my! Does it ever come with distractions!

May you prefer focus on reading reddit threads or browse your favorite social media pages to those crazy “Seven Distracting Things You MUST see RIGHT NOW!” the Internet is uniquely set up to be hugely addictive.

But you don’t want to shut down everything. If you have an online business, the email you have blocked for an hour could contain vital information with a time element.

If you use an instant messenger or similar service to keep in touch with your family, you might wish to keep that going. A program that allows you to block or filter some of that ocean of distraction can be of enormous assistance in holding back the tide of incessant entertainment, advertisement, and information.

Social media can be one of the biggest distractions, and it can be aggressive in its intrusion into your life both on and off screen. You might be doing your face-to-face social connections a favor, as well as your reading focus, by taking a vacation from your digital connection.

You can still catch up with the latest gossip and family events by scheduling a few minutes at the end of your day to view your notices and news feed. Just post a notice on your home page of your social media “office hours” and either ignore your social media or block it using a focus software program.

Block Distracting Websites

You can also select the more annoying websites, such as those “Have you seen what this actor looks like now” articles, or the “Seven funny things” websites. Since those are rarely important information, blocking them is a complete “no brainer” when it comes to deciding to keep them out of your life.

Internal and Personal Distraction

When it comes to reading something that has about as much appeal to you as dirty diapers or day-old unwashed dishes, your internal self is one of the biggest distractions around.

Your personal self-talk usually turns into something like this: “This is stupid. I’m never going to use this information. I’m never going to (fill in the blank) anyway, so why do I have to read it?”

From there your mind moves right along to all the things you would rather be doing. You might be sitting up with your eyes on the page, but you are not reading. Not only that but there are those texts and even fictional accounts that are so long-winded and dull you can almost guarantee getting a good nap out of trying to read them.

Real personal tragedies are almost always a guaranteed blocker when it comes to reading focus. Grief, worry, emotional upset all get in the way. Reading is, after all, as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one.

Let’s think about the physical for a moment. An upset stomach, raging headache or fever are pretty much-guaranteed distractions, even if what you are reading is the directions for medicine that might alleviate the condition.

5 Genius Ways To Focus On Reading A Boring Book

There are a variety of tips on how to focus on reading while dealing with internal or personal distractions. They all have varying amounts of success in helping readers to focus on reading comprehension, but each have their particular merits. Often, you can use a combination of reading techniques to keep you on track, when you wonder why can't i focus on reading something boring. 

  • The Pomodoro Method - This one has been around for a while. Pomodoro means tomato and refers to those cute little kitchen timers that are shaped like a tomato. This method divides your study or reading time into segments. The standard Pomodoro is twenty-five minutes, but you can set your timer for any comfortable amount of time. If you can only handle reading for three minutes at a time, set your timer to read for three minutes, then to do jumping jacks or sweep the floor or twiddle your thumbs for three minutes. Moving between Pomodoro’s often helps your focus.
  • Read the Words Out Loud - Sound out the ones that are unfamiliar. Underline them or highlight them, but don’t interrupt yourself to look them up. By reading aloud, you are incorporating physical movement of your mouth and tongue to form the words and you are hearing the words spoken aloud, adding another sense to your means of learning. At the end of your reading time, look up the unfamiliar words.
  • Trade Reading Pages with a Friend, Parent or Teacher - You read one page, the helper reads the next page. If the other reader knows more about the material than you, so much the better for your learning process. If you are on the same level, you can still give each other moral support and assistance with looking up the unfamiliar stuff.
  • Purchase an Audiobook That Goes with the Printed Book. If the material is exceptionally dense, listening to it while following the printed words can really help. Some materials are set up so that the words being read are highlighted as you go along. That really helps keep you on track.
  • SQ3R - This mnemonic stands for “Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review.” This is a study method that has boosted many a high school or college student through difficult material. Survey the book. That  means look at the pictures, check out the graphs, and read the bold headings. Question yourself about what those pictures, graphs and headlines might mean. Read the text. Recite the material by turning the book face down and saying what you can remember out loud. Tell someone else if you can. Finally, go back and Review the material. How much did you remember correctly? Plan your SQ3R to take up one Pomodoro of time – however long your Pomodoro might be.

When you have completed your reading stint, don’t forget to reward yourself.

Your rewards to you could include a smile at your mirror or laptop camera and a quietly mouthed or whispered, “Good job. Well done.”

Or it could be a chance to get out in the open air to run, shoot some hoops or turn cartwheels. It could even be a chance to read something that you like to read instead of the boring book that you must read.

Which books do you find hard to read? Will you use one of the 5 reading techniques? 

Please let me know in the comments. 

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Martin Boeddeker
 

Martin Boeddeker is the founder of FindFocus.net, the One-Page Productivity Planner and the mind behind the FindFocus Distraction Blocker for Mac. He studied industrial engineering and management in Germany and worked for some of the biggest companies in the world. With FindFocus he wants to help people to get rid of what he calls DigitalADD so they focus on the things that truly matter in life.

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