During an email seminar I was presenting, one of the participants posted this comment in the chat box:
“I should learn speed reading so I can get through these emails faster.”
Speed reading incorrectly can be costly
That comment reminded me of what I discovered when I was researching a discount airline. One particular airline had the worst reviews and was ranked at the bottom of the airline industry in customer service. But as I started to scroll through the comments, I realized that the vast majority of people were complaining about being “ripped off” by “surprise fees.” They most likely were speed reading through the ticket-purchasing process and did not bother to read the list of fees, as well as the cautionary message from the airline itself that fees charged at the airport would be even higher than the fees charged if you added on services after checking out. Therefore, it’s most cost-effective to complete your add-ons during the ticket purchasing process.
But people don’t like to read. There are too many letters. The letters swirl around in front of them, like the written version of Charlie Brown’s teacher muttering, “Whah whuh whah…” They don’t really need to know all of that information, do they? Surely if they skim the text and look for keywords, they’ll glean everything they need to be aware of, right?
Disadvantages of speed reading
Hint: it’s related to productivity!
Here’s the thing about speed reading: it’s a skill that must be taught because it’s about more than just reading fast. You must also be able to comprehend the entire text you’ve just read.
Unfortunately, many people practice their own personal version of speed reading, which often entails quickly scanning their eyes over an email or document in order to get the gist of what is being assigned or asked of them.
The problem is that in their haste to motor through that communication and get yet another response out of the way and off their to-do list, they miss out on important pieces of information. This leads to productivity-killing ramifications like:
*misunderstanding the request or question, thereby answering in a way that makes no sense, which causes a lengthier exchange in order to get the correct information
*not fully completing the request or response because details were missed, which causes a lengthier exchange in order to get the needed information
*completing requests incorrectly because the questions or instructions were misunderstood, which causes a lengthier exchange in order to un-do the wrong moves, manage damage control, and re-do the tasks correctly.
You get the picture.
Practicing this personal version of speed reading causes lost time when communicating through:
*any other forms of written communication
Slow Reading: a novel concept
My father-in-law has been repeating this saying for more than two decades:
“The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.”
That certainly applies in this situation.
When you rush through reading (especially if you have not been properly trained in the skill of speed reading), you create a time leak for yourself and those who will bear the brunt of your rushing.
It actually takes less time to read a document word-for-word than it does to backtrack on mistakes or finish answering at a later time what was left out of the original response.
The next time you feel like blowing through a document, pause and take a deep breath. Open up your own blank document to use as a draft. As you read through, capture the thoughts, questions, answers and any other pertinent information that is expected in your response. Once you’re done reading the document, you can then concentrate on editing and formatting your well thought-out response.