I don’t think I get bored too easily. And I can sucked in by a book and fail to notice that great amounts of time have gone by while I’m reading. But sometimes I find my mind wandering when I’m reading. I read a sentence and a word triggers a memory and pouf! I’m off on a ramble down a rabbit trail in my head instead of reading the book in my hand. Now, of course, this isn’t always a bad thing. A little trip down memory lane, or a side trip along related-thought trail, can be therapeutic. Or insightful. Or all of the above. But sometimes it is just distracting from the matter at hand.
I find I drift off a little more often if a book I’m reading is difficult or if I’m a bit bored by the material. If the book is dense with ideas, and I need a mental break, my mind drifts off. Sometimes it is difficult to come back from these mental breaks, however needed they might be, so I’ve been trying out some techniques so that I’m more focused while reading. Taking notes helps, particularly when reading for research purposes. I read with a small notebook and pencil to hand. I do make notes in books (only in pencil) but the notebook gives me space for related jottings, summaries, or ways things relate to one another. When reading particularly difficult material, stopping and summarizing every chapter (or smaller unit if that is helpful) is a very useful exercise. It is time-consuming, but can be quite valuable when writing up research.
Then there’s the multi-tasking reader method. I picked this idea up from a novel I once read. I think it was a book by Margaret Drabble, and the two books I’ve read of hers are The Radiant Way and A Natural Curiosity. There’s a character that occurs in both these books who is an academic who characteristically reads two books at once as she is easily bored. Huh, I thought. Two books at once. There’s an idea. And I shelved it in the space in my brain reserved for quirky things characters do in books that I find interesting. A few years ago I was trying to wade through a particularly dreadful book that I thought I SHOULD read because people were talking about it. I remembered the two-book academic. I decided to try a version of the two-book thing. I’d read one chapter of the dreadful book, then one chapter of something else, and alternate. Maybe, I thought, I can then make it through the dreadful book without self-injury. It worked. And I got through the dreadful book quite quickly. I filed this under Useful Information in my brain. A couple of weeks ago I hauled out the two-book technique. I wasn’t reading a dreadful book this time, but one with a lot of information. Once more, the alternating thing worked quite well. I’ve decided that this is a way I can read more non-work non-fiction – I’ll alternate non-fiction chapters with my current fiction read. We’ll see how this goes. Updates to come.