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How to develop my reading ability
How I did it: Because of how much I've written here, it might seem peculiar that I struggle with reading. In March, the thought crossed my mind that I’d like to read 12 books in 2011. It seemed incredibly ambitious and I didn't think I'd be able to do it. It is now just less than a year later, and I am on my 13th book.
What truly helped me was to break this goal down and lower my expectations. I aimed to read five books instead of 12, and then when I had (incredibly!) done that I decided to start and finish five half-finished books (books that I had started but abandoned). I focused on completing chapters (or parts of chapters) rather than whole volumes, and imagined myself struggling and not finding it easy. That was key. I was prepared for it being hard, and to stick it through anyway. In the end, that’s what worked.
Lessons & tips:
"Night after night, he sat and bleared his eyes with books." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Banish distractions. According to the chaps at HowToGetFocused.com, "You can't start concentrating until you stop getting distracted. The phrase is self-explanatory. Yet, it’s amazing how most people look for some crazy, obtuse solution for the reason why they can’t concentrate... In the late 80′s, two researchers asked themselves a chicken-egg question. They asked themselves, “What came first, distraction or boredom?” What they found is rather subtle, yet it’s profoundly significant. They found that distraction leads to boredom (not the other way around). This displays that we must cut out distraction in order to get focused; or else, we’ll get bored."
Be loyal your book. At first I was always thinking, "Do I want to read this? Is there a better book? Is there something better to do?" This is a distraction. Unless the book is bad, don't dwell on it.
Work with difficulties, not against them. Prominent difficulties were lack of sleep, visual problems, cognitive dysfunction and other symptoms. Sound presents a huge obstacle! The murmur of someone speaking downstairs, uninvited music, the racket of cutlery being cleaned in the kitchen - they give me reader's block. It is better to put the book down. You want to improve, not punish yourself.
Find the right environment. Quiet is crucial, and good light is more important than I imagined. I find it hard to focus on black words on a white background, and on bad days sometimes all I see is the white around the words. Bright, natural light makes this problem much worse, and dramatically worsens "static interference" too
Visual snow (also known as visual static) is when a person sees television-like static across their entire visual field. The static is always there, even when your eyes are closed. As far as I know it's nothing to do with your eyes, but your bran imposes it on what you see (including fuzzing up the words on a page, and creating ghostly white auras around objects and text). It kinda looks like this:
Train your eyes. If you have problems reading you might have a visual tracking problem, such as difficulty following a line of words across a page. I had to consciously build up tolerance for this, or else my eyes would drop down or flit across to random areas on the page. Taking in individual words wasn't the point: just practice following sentences.
Improving involves failing. There are many days when I can't read a paragraph. So long as you are generally moving in the
right direction, it doesn't matter if you have a spectacularly bad
session. This applies to everything in life: If your expectations are
too high, you will be discouraged. Difficulty itself is not failure. You just have to keep at it.
Make time to read. Even for five minutes.
Don't be put off by your limitations. Depending on why you have the difficulties you do, reading can be a complex task for your brain, and a lot of energy. Don't over tax it or your willpower.
Focus on getting through the middle, rather than getting to the end. People tend to lose motivation around the middle of anything. Beginnings and ends inspire us. Its the middles when you have to draw on your resources.
Slotting bookmarks to mark each chapter helped me focus. They are like pegs that help me climb through a book. My pages are crammed full with them.
down. Relax into the book.
Relish accomplishments. This has been one of the best things I've done all year.
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