On reading well

For a lot of us, reading takes up a huge part of the day. I’m on a remote team, so when someone at work wants to tell me something, I usually read it. Reading is constant. It’s how words on the screen get inside my head. It’s easy. Second-nature.

Here’s the problem: I don’t think I do it well enough.

Reading is a whole lot like listening.

We can’t make great stuff if we don’t listen. We have to listen to our users, our coworkers, our clients, and our leaders. Listening well creates an exceptional experience. Listening poorly can make people despise, or, even worse, ignore you.

If listening and reading are so similar, why do we approach them so differently?

When we read, we’re typically in a hurry. We skim through emails and scroll through conversations looking for what’s important. How would you feel if someone you were talking to acted completely uninterested until they felt like you were saying something interesting? Because we have the advantage of not being seen by the author when we’re reading something, our behavior is different.

What if you were fully invested in everything you read? What if you maintained eye contact with your email?

While it may sound time-consuming, I’m willing to bet it would save you time every day. If you committed to reading with focus, you’d click fewer links on Twitter, your email replies would be more helpful and you’d have more accurate information. You’d also be less likely to overload yourself with distractions.

It’s always more effective to do something purposefully. Even something as common as reading.