The internet is full of articles about hacks; life hacks, time-saving hacks and more. However, if you are in business, these 2 tips could transform your working day, reduce stress and increase your productivity dramatically.
When Bill Gates was asked by a student at Nebraska State what superpower he would want to have, Gates famously replied, “Being able to read super-fast”. If you are reading the right books, then reading is gathering information. If you are thinking of starting a business, investing or studying for a professional qualification then reading super-fast will save you huge amounts of time and make you more knowledgeable about a given topic.
Speed-reading can completely change the way you work and study. Being able to recognize phrases and skim through text while absorbing as much information as ‘normal reading’ is an extremely useful skill in many areas of life.
There are several ways to speed-read but some of the general principles remain the same. For example, you should avoid ‘subvocalizing’ – the silent speech that typically happens in a person’s mind when they are reading.
Although this can help to understand certain concepts and comprehend more complex information, it is also a major hindrance when it comes to reading at speed. By reducing subvocalization to just a few words per line, most people will still be able to extract the full meaning of what they are reading, at a much greater speed.
The subvocalizing habit is very hard to break however. To stop subvocalization, some suggest chewing gum or even humming to prevent you from mouthing the words as you read them. Listening to instrumental rock music can also help to block out your inner-narrator. You can also use this type of music to obtain an optimal level of focus, known as ‘flow state’.
In addition to subvocalizing, the vast majority of people do not actually read in straight lines. Their eyes jump in ‘saccadic movements’ to different parts of a line or a page, with temporary fixations on specific parts of the text. You can take advantage of habit (and ability to take in information) by subvocalizing just 1 or 2 words at the start, middle and end of a line. This should be enough to extract the full information from that line. As you practice, try reducing it to just 1 or 2 words per line.
If you are reading something on your computer, phone or online, you can use an RSVP app or website. RSVP websites allow you to copy and paste text into the interface, it then presents the reader with one word at a time at a very high speed. This is tricky to explain but quick and easy to do yourself – try copying some of the text from this article and head over to Accelareader.com to see for yourself.
Keep in mind that speed-reading may not always be the best way to read certain articles and documents. Incorporating active reading by highlighting and taking notes can help to take in more technical information.
Tips for speed-reading include:
- Avoid ‘subvocalizing’ the words that you read
- Focus quickly at the start, middle and end of a line
- Point with your finger (or mouse) and drag it along as you read
- Alternatively use a speed-reading RSVP app or website
Tim Ferris wrote a best-selling book called “The 4-Hour Workweek“. In this book, written in 2007, he presents a range of pioneering ideas at the time:
- Learn to be effective, not efficient
- Make a to-do list for tomorrow before you end today
- Check email only twice a day
- Develop a business that can generate passive income or at least run on autopilot
- Use virtual assistants
Tim recommends using virtual assistants for mundane admin tasks. If you are able to eliminate less technical, time-consuming tasks such as proofreading, email management/filtering and calendar management you can often free up half of your working day. Websites such as odesk.com have thousands of listings for virtual assistants, capable of doing anything from online research, data entry to video transcription.
The only potential downside with hiring a virtual assistant is that it can take a while, and a lot of trial and error to find a good one – especially if you are looking for an affordable assistant whose first language may not be English. Clear communication can also be tricky; see Tim Ferris’ blog for more information on effective communication with virtual assistants.
From personal experience, using virtual receptionists can also make a huge difference to your working day and can have a huge impact on your business’s bottom line. As a self-employed builder, I used to work to 10-12 hour days, in potentially dangerous situations. Being interrupted by calls was not only annoying, it could also be life-threatening (not usually, but sometimes!).
As a business owner, calls are a very necessary evil – they interrupt my working day and flow but represent the most lucrative of all sales leads. The intent behind picking up the phone and making a call is very different to sending an email or having a live chat on my website.
Hiring a virtual receptionist, from Moneypenny in my instance, reduced interruptions significantly. I had no need to take my cell phone with me onto a building site or to a client’s home, so I was not interrupted by any calls or notifications from friends, sales calls or genuine business leads.
Another great benefit was that at the end of the working day I could switch my phone off, knowing that my calls were still taken care of. This gave me more time to get any home or family related tasks done in the evenings.
Outsourcing your receptionist and time-consuming tasks, can not only reduce interruptions and free up time, it can reduce stress significantly.
Work smarter, not harder.
In fairness, if you are self-employed you will probably have to work both hard and smart, but you can’t just work hard and expect success; you need a plan and an intelligent approach to what you do.
Speed-reading can set you apart as a real thought leader in your industry. If you work in a technical field or have a job that involves a lot of client research, this can skim hours off your working day and you can spend less time researching and more time creating. Outsourcing not only saves you time, it can also help you to build an impressive brand and reputation, making you more efficient, organized and professional. Having a professional, US-based receptionist answer your calls can set you apart from the competition.