Posted on

Knowledge without application is like a book never read.

If you multiplied the number of books that I have purchased in the past six months (both electronic and printed) by the number of hours that it would take to read them, it would probably amount to over 400 hours.  How could anyone free up 400 hours or more from a busy schedule to do the necessary reading? It would take more than a year. And by then I would have already purchased twice as many more books than I had just read.

It would be an impossible task.

In the past 5 years, I have probably read less than five or six non-fiction books from cover to cover. These are the books that I have not only read and highlighted, but also have made notes in the margins. These books would be what I would suggest are classics in the field of time management, such as “Do it tomorrow” by Mark Forster, “The art of time” by Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber or “How to get control of your time and your life” by Alan Lakein.

Probably 5% of the books in my current library have yet to be opened. (I say “current” since my library changes over the years as newer topics start to influence my approach to time management or peak my interest. And I tend to get rid of the ones of limited value to avoid being overwhelmed.) About 20% of my books have been skimmed only, with fewer highlights in most of the chapters and fewer marginal notes. About 30% have had less than half the chapters skimmed and highlighted, and the balance only a chapter or two visited – those that seemed of interest when I first viewed the book.

In all of my books, with only a few exceptions, you can find highlighted portions and notes of my own – cryptic comments, question marks, and ideas that grabbed me as I read.

I have always considered it profitable if I could get an average of one new idea from every book I purchased. Ideas are invaluable. And this doesn’t take into consideration the spin-off value of those ideas. An idea, phrase or even a single word from a book could jump-start a completely different idea – that in turn could end up being the title of a book or the topic of a new article or a tweet.

The age of the book doesn’t matter. Some of my best ideas were generated by books from the 1980s, 1950s and even earlier. Books do not have “best before” dates.

The key, in my opinion at least, is to get the idea out of the book and onto a “launching pad” of some sort – a Journal, To Do list, Priority Pad or whatever. Never leave an idea or your written notation buried in the pages of a book. If you do, most it will be lost forever – negating any value you received by buying and skimming or reading the book in the first place.

And knowledge without application is like a book that was never read.

Books are expensive. But you have to read a lot if you want to write a lot. And there are ways you can reduce costs. eBooks are less expensive to start with and you can cut costs further by signing up with Bookbub.com. They send daily emails listing two or three books that are on special at Amazon.com – complete with links so you can check them out. You can also indicate your area(s) on interest. The specials are usually 99 cents or $1.99, and others either free or $2.99. They are for the most part, not inferior books, with many best-sellers that have had their day on the bookshelves.

Hardcopy print books are expensive; but sometimes the paperback version is printed and available at the same time. Or you can wait. Bookstores frequently have new releases with a “25% OFF” sticker. I’m fortunate because my sons usually give me Amazon gift cards for Christmas and birthdays as well.

And don’t forget that non-fiction books bought for business purposes are tax deductible. I charge them to “Research.” And even at full price, I can say that books are an essential expense, on a par with educational courses, seminars and conferences.

Posted on

What’s in your life’s suitcase?

You have probably heard or read the admonition by Benjamin Franklin, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time for that is the stuff that life is made of.” Time may not actually make up life as we experience it, but certainly it is the stuff that we trade for the activities that do make up our lives.

I visualize life as a suitcase initially filled with time – a commodity that we trade for the things that we need or desire (mostly in the form of activities) during our life’s journey. Although we may have no control over the amount of time we originally have in our suitcase, the same amount of time is released for our use each day until it has been exhausted.

And use it we must. If we fail to use the full 24 hours allocated each day, it disappears regardless.

24 hours a day is more than enough for a successful journey. But we must use it wisely. Trading most of it for activities and stuff related to work, for instance, could cause our suitcase to bulge at the seams and cost us dearly. Not in terms of dollars, as it might when travelling with a real suitcase; but in terms of our health and well-being.

Our journey through life could also be cut short by the unwise use of time. Inadequate amounts of time traded for such things as sleep, exercise, renewal and relationships could actually shorten our lifespans.

The key to a long, successful and happy life is in how you use the time given to you. As you approach your destination, you don’t want to wish you had chosen differently when preparing for the journey. Some people may regret the lack of time devoted to planning for their senior years – or even their choice of travelling companions. In their haste to get on with life, they may not have used adequate time to prepare.

You wouldn’t attempt to fly any great distance without first obtaining your pilot’s license or taking extensive courses and learning the ins and outs of flying. Nor should you fly solo through life without first getting sufficient grounding in the basics of living a purposeful, fulfilling life.

Even a meaningful trip to a foreign country requires some knowledge of the people, the terrain, and the best places to visit. Most people realize that to pack for a long journey requires at least a basic knowledge of packing so that you can easily fit into your suitcase everything you acquire enroute. Therefore a knowledge of organizing is important, as is time management, since you want to trade your time for the right activities and be able to fit those things into your suitcase of life without causing stress and hardship.

Although you can’t get more time, you can get more out of the time you have by investing it in time-saving activities such as training, delegation and planning, and in time-lengthening activities such as healthy living.

If you manage your time well, you will soon have a suitcase filled with meaningful and life-enhancing activities, which eventually will be transformed into the memories of a life well-lived, and a legacy of examples that can help your offspring and others you have mentored prepare for their journey through life.

Posted on

Tools and techniques that help speed up my writing.

My goal has been to write four e-Books  year, one newsletter a quarter, five tweets a week, one blog article a week, and as many “Special Reports” as possible in the time available. So far, I’m more or less on course – at least for the last few years.

I couldn’t do it without the help of a few tools and techniques such as the following.

Dragon Naturally Speaking. It’s not the only voice-activated software available; but it was the one I was weaned on and have seen it improve with each update. It more than compensates for my lack of typing skills and it keeps pace with my rapid speech.

Bibme.org. A website that allows me to compile a bibliography for my books and reports in minutes rather than hours. As long as I can recall the author’s name or the book title – or even a portion of it, it gives me a list of books from which to select the right one, and subsequently formats the complete bibliography for me.

Grammarly. An app that highlights poor grammar as well as typos and spelling mistakes, and reminds me that I am taking liberties by omitting pronouns, using slang words and awkward phrases. Of course I sometimes ignore it.

Pocket Dockets. Mini-notepads that I stash in a pocket of my coats, my computer bag, car glove box, and elsewhere so I am never without someplace to jot down ideas when I’m on the go. Sometimes they go missing for a few weeks, but I have yet to fail to retrieve them along with the ideas.

Leak-proof pens. Not only a time saver but an annoyance saver as well if you’re a frequent flyer. Wish I could have avoided all those blobs of ink on my books, clothes and traveling companions before fly-proof pens were invented.

Topical file folders. This is more a technique than a product – marking the chapter titles of my future books on hard copy and electronic folders – to house the articles torn from magazines and those cut and pasted from the Internet (for reference when writing the books and articles)

Morning walks. Another technique of generating ideas and actually composing articles, which are later combined to form books; walking in the fresh air and exercising both body and mind. I get my best ideas and clarity of thinking as I walk – determining how to express the idea in words. But it must be immediately followed by an opportunity to write it all down before it disappears.

The coffee shop effect. I agree with the results of the research that indicates the background noises of a coffee shop are ideal for both creativity and productivity. A one-hour or 90-minute stop at a coffee shop before returning home from my walk allows me to quickly put my thoughts in writing. Most of my articles and large portions of me books took form at a Tim Horton’s.

Most people have their own favorite techniques and habits that help them with their writing. Some might seem to waste time rather than save time; but for that person, it is effective. For instance, I do most of my writing longhand and then dictate what I have written, editing as I go. I also find a book to daunting a task to tackle so I simply write articles for each chapter, which I post on my blog website – and then expand each article into a chapter.  I also may have two or more books on the go at the same time, and perhaps only two of them may see the light of day and the other one becomes a series of articles only.

I also spend as much time extracting ideas and quotes from someone else’s book as I do actually reading the book. I feel I have wasted time reading a book if I don’t get something out of it that I can use later.

The important thing is to try different things and see what works best. Then you can develop your own routines and habits. Certainly not having to decide what to do next saves time.

Posted on

The pros and cons of e-Books and Print books.

I summarized below some of the advantages of both eBooks and Print books. And there could be many others.

For example, printed books may offer a feeling of pride or prestige when you have an impressive library in your office or studio. In the same way, being an earlier adopter of the latest e-Reader, and showing off your latest technological acquisitions may boost your self-image and impress your friends and associates. Or curling up with a good book in front of the fireplace might bring comfort and relieve stress. Or maybe you prefer the smell, feel, and texture of a hardcover book.

But what about the disadvantages of each? Well, in most cases you could just say the advantage of one would be a disadvantage of the other. But what about the impact on your health and well-being?

Eyestrain is already mentioned below; but eBooks add more screen time to your life. In an average week in 2011, for instance, we spent about 28.5 hours watching TV and 2.8 hours watching Internet TV. Add the reading of digital books to that, in addition to weekly computer work, social media, electronic games and surfing websites, and there has to be more than just eyestrain occurring.

In fact, excessive screen time has been associated with sleep problems, headaches, lack of focus and reduced social skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no media use for children younger than 18 to 24 months old. Even six-year olds and older are urged to be limited to two hours a day.

It has also been suggested that comprehension and recall increase when reading Print books as opposed to e-Books.

In one survey on why people read Print books rather than e-Books, some did it to get a break from all the screen time they experienced during the day. They found it more relaxing.

One team at the Boston Consulting Group took a full day a week free of any connectivity at all, and found more enjoyment in their work, better communication among themselves, more learning, and a better product delivered to the client.

Whether you choose to read Print books or e-Books is a matter of personal preference; but when it comes to total screen time, moderation is the best policy.

Personally I read both; but prefer Print books. Since I read so many non-fiction books, and rarely read an entire book, I find it easier to skip, skim and search out specific information from a Print book than an e-Book. I usually buy any Amazon $1.99 Kindle specials that are relevant to my areas of interest for my iPad and iPhone and laptop. Combined with the habit of downloading many of the same e-Books that I have in print, I have a portable library no matter where I travel.

Advantages of e-books

Less expensive to purchase.

Interactive, and can link to dictionary, different translations, websites, and so on.

May have advantages for those with reading disabilities or sight problems since font size, brightness, and words per line can be adjusted.

Lighter and more portable. Can carry over 1000 books in the palm of your hand.

Easier to store, locate, organize the various books.

No shipping cost involved when ordering online.

Easier to travel with books. Require less space.

Advantages of print books.

More comfortable to read, easier on the eyes.

Easier to share, trade or loan.

More visually aesthetic, great for decorating, more attractive and tactile.

Easier on the eyes, less eye strain.

Able to write notes on pages in addition to highlighting.

Make more meaningful gifts.

Greater variety of topics and genres available.

Last longer, vintage books, historical, collectibles.

Easier to flip through the pages searching for information.

Facilitate visual sticky notes to bookmark pages.

In the next blog article I will discuss the future of Print books and E-books. Are we heading for a digital world when it comes to reading or will Print books be making a comeback?

Posted on

Work on the critical, the crucial, and the quick.

Always focus on the critical, the crucial and the quick tasks in order to maximize your use of time. Everyone tells us to prioritize or work on important things first or avoid the tyranny of the urgent or to draw a priority grid consisting of four possible combinations of important and urgent items.

But if we see prioritizing as being too complicated or have problems determining which items are the most important, we simply fail to prioritize at all. After all, it’s a lot easier to simply cross items off a “To Do” list – starting with whatever seems most urgent at the time. As a result we tend to get a lot done of questionable value.

It might simplify the process if you think of all tasks and projects worthy of attention as being critical, crucial or quick.

Critical tasks are ones that are both important and urgent, meaning they will have a direct impact on achieving your goals, and simply too valuable to pass up. Work on these right away – in the morning or whenever your energy level is highest.

Crucial tasks are those that will impact your goals and fulfill your commitments and may even be just as important, but are frequently not urgent, and can be scheduled into your planner as commitments on future days.

Quick tasks are those that will take no longer than five minutes, add value to your day, and give you an immediate sense of accomplishment. They are motivational, and the brain thrives on short tasks. These can be worked on during idle time, while waiting or whenever you finish a task earlier than expected. These are the ones that are added to your daily or weekly “To Do” list rather than being scheduled for a specific time.

If you’re always working on tasks or activities that are critical, crucial or quick, the least important, non-urgent, tasks will fall by the wayside. They are the ones that you can leave on a master “To Do” list to die a natural death. They didn’t make the cut.

And who knows, someday you may have extra time on your hands and you can quickly review them to see whether their importance has changed in the interim.

But don’t be concerned with the growing length of this list. It only represents time you have saved by not being involved in trivial things. You have been working on the critical, the crucial, and the quick.

 

 

 

Posted on

Making time to sell

In no profession is time management more important than in sales. For a salesperson, the greatest resource is the time available for customer contact.

All the selling skills in the world are to no avail if there is not enough time to put those skills into practice. Today’s salespeople are spending the majority of their time on activities other than sales, according to a recent article in Forbes magazine. According to the January, 2018 article by Ken Krogue, nearly 2/3 of a rep’s time, on average, is spent in non-revenue-generating activities, leaving only 35.2% for functions related to selling.

Time management for salespersons should not involve rushing the sale, but reducing the amount of time spent on the other activities, thereby leaving more time for face-to-face selling. Time tips that work for manufacturing or finance people will also work for salespeople.

Everyone’s time is valuable, but the value of the salesperson’s time notably so because it translates directly into increased income for the company and for the salesperson.

James F. Bender, in How to Sell Well, reports that the seven most oft-mentioned weaknesses of salespersons as identified by a life insurance company are as follows:

  1. Failure to utilize time at work.
  2. Failure to organize work.
  3. Failure to plan work.
  4. Failure to use enough selling time.
  5. Failure to use enough product information.
  6. Failure to use enough effort.
  7. Failure to prospect for new business.

Many of these weaknesses would disappear if salespeople would organize themselves and better utilize the time at their disposal. Some sales managers note that out-of-town sales trips result in more calls per day and more sales than an equivalent amount of time spent in the home town.

Could it be that time is managed more carefully out of town? There’s no doubt that everyone is aware of the cost of travel, the limited amount of time available in this distant city, and the deadline imposed by the return airline ticket. There are also fewer distractions – little opportunity for friendly chit-chat over coffee, elongated lunches, trivial errands, or unnecessary phone calls.

Out-of-town trips seem to have a sense of urgency attached to them, and an incentive to give it your best shot. After all, it’s not easy to make a repeat call the next day and carry on where you left off.

But the increased effectiveness out of town is probably due more to the planning. Calls and routes are planned well in advance; appointments are made and confirmed; time allotted to the calls is kept to a minimum to accommodate more calls; additional prospects are listed in the event of a last-minute cancellation or an abbreviated meeting; only prime, “A” class prospects are included on the call list; the full day’s “selling time” is utilized; and preparation has been done the day or night before.

In other words, time is managed the way it should be managed. There is a tendency to lose respect for time when you’re “at home.” And if you don’t respect your time, your customer or prospect certainly won’t respect your time.

Next week, pretend you’re not at home. Manage your time and territory as though you have only this one opportunity to reap the sales. Then compare the results.

If you feel that you need help to utilize your time more effectively whether at home or out of town, read my e-book, Time to be productive, published by Bookboon.com, review the ideas, and apply those that will help free up time. You will find that time will be your ally, not your enemy.

Technology has opened new opportunities to increase personal productivity and free up more time for selling. Although it takes an initial investment of time to learn how to set up contact management software and databases and fully take advantage of high tech devices, the return is great.

Do not resist technology, embrace it. Never stop searching for new ways to save time. It’s not enough to be able to sell: you must have time to sell.

 

Posted on

Plan for a purposeful retirement.

The trouble with steady, full-time jobs for over 40 years or more is that we become associated with our job. We know as much about our fellow workers’ families as we do about our own. We make friends at work, learn skills at work, receive enjoyment and self-esteem at work – and for many of us, work consumes the greater portion of us – our time, our energy, our thoughts and our physical presence.

When we retire, we have a problem because all of that is suddenly taken away from us.

During your working days people ask “What do you do? After retirement, they ask “What did you do?”

Retirement is not as much an end as it is a beginning to a new stage in life where your increased freedom allows you to more fully examine your life purpose and to explore new fields of involvement.

People who retire, die sooner. It’s a fact. Researchers looked at employees of a global oil company who retired early at 55 and those who retired at the traditional 65. The early retirees were 89% more likely to die within the 10 years after retirement than those who retired at 65.

I would wager that most of those who survive longer are those who plan ahead, and have something to retire to – whether it is part-time consulting, a new business, an extensive travel itinerary or a volunteer position with a non-profit organization.

When you retire from a job; you should never retire from making contributions, whether through volunteering, mentoring or helping others in some other way.

The first two thirds of our lives, for the most part, have been a time and getting. Getting a job, getting possessions, getting a house, getting a family, getting new friends and new adventures. The final third of our lives needs to be primarily a time for giving. Giving our time, energy, financial resources, skills and talents.

Do something that will give you a reason to get out of the bed in the morning – something that will give purpose to your retirement. As Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. “It’s important to be actively serving others for your own mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.

It has been proven that when people feel they are making a difference, they are happier. Through MRI technology, researchers have discovered that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. Helping others can make us healthier, happier, and more productive, more fulfilled and even increase our longevity.

A study published by BMC Public health concluded that taking time to volunteer could reduce early mortality rates by 22% compared to those who do not volunteer.

Retirement gives you the opportunity to focus on things that are really important.

If you have already retired, it’s still not too late to plan your future. But you must stay alive by participating in life. You are never old until you start spending more time on past memories than on future goals.

The trouble with having nothing to do is that you never know when you’re done. And if your job is doing nothing, how can you ever take a day off? Activity is one of the keys to longevity.

Finally, don’t become obsessed with the idea of being remembered. Some people seem to seek immortality by having something named after them, whether it is a building, scholarship, park bench or whatever. The people who really matter to you will never forget you. The people who do forget you are not the people who matter to you.

Posted on

Time is the currency of life.

Don’t make your job your whole life. If you become too focused on picking the fruit you may miss the flowers that are there as well. Always keeping busy at your work not only keeps you from working smart, it keeps you from fully enjoying life.  Participating in other things and enjoy what life itself has to offer. There is an old anonymous saying, “The work will wait while you show a child the rainbow; but the rainbow won’t wait until you do the work.”

You are not what you do. If you believe you are what you do, when you don’t, you aren’t. Someday you will no longer be able to do what you do now – either due to retirement, infirmity or whatever. Everyone should love their job; but not to the extent that they are unable to find happiness doing anything else.

Life doesn’t really begin at 40 any more than it ends at 65. I think as an octogenarian I am qualified to say this – at least as a personal observation. One thing I have observed is that some retirees adjust poorly to their new environment and lifestyle. And I believe that the reason that many of them do poorly when facing major changes such as retirement, moving to the country or taking up residence in a senior’s home is that they are unable or reluctant to change the way they use their time. They are too firmly entrenched in the work – sleep – work cycle. And when the work is gone, what is left to replace it?

For example, when I moved from a condo in the city of Toronto to an apartment in the small town of Sussex, New Brunswick, I didn’t expect I would be enjoying stage plays or attending the same church or taking the subway to an underground shopping mall or golfing with my best friend or taking in the odd afternoon movie. If I did, I would be miserable; because none of those things are readily available to me – not the same neighbours or same friends or the familiar coffee shop where I spent a lot of time or one of my sons who had lived just a few miles away.

But within a year, I had made new friends, participated regularly in new activities, joined a new church, volunteered in different organizations, and have a different favorite coffee shop where I do the biggest chunk of my writing.

You must be willing to change the way you use your time – not on worse things, just on different things. True happiness does not come from the things you do or the people you meet or where you live. True happiness comes from within, not from specific things that you may have spent your life doing.

It’s easier to get involved in other things after retirement if you’ve being more flexible with your use of time during your working years. I started my career as a workaholic – dedicated fully to my job to the detriment of my family life and social life. Books I read, workshops I attended, trips I took – all revolved around the career I was committed to at the time.

Perhaps it was the broken marriage, the bleeding ulcers and the failing part-time business that first got my attention – and prompted some major changes in my mindset.

That resulted in my lifetime purpose – my calling – to help others manage their time and their lives. But more important, it introduced me to the real source of joy – the happiness within – the one who does the calling – God Himself.

It didn’t take me a year to feel comfortable in my new surroundings. My faith is the source of my strength, my lifestyle and my attitude as well as my purpose in life. I believe we are all created for a purpose and it’s up to us to discover it. The bible tells us that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” It’s difficult to discover our purpose by keeping our nose to the grindstone, working from dawn to dusk. That would only give us a flat nose.

We must explore life on a daily basis, open our minds and hearts to relationships, nature, hobbies and other outside interests as well as our spirituality.

Don’t spend all your time on one activity until the day you retire. Time is the currency of life. Spend it wisely.

 

Posted on

Customer service in the age of speed

In one the first books I wrote over thirty-five years ago titled “Making time to sell,” I told the story of how a successful advertising salesperson explained his secret of selling advertising space by saying that he was a “six-minute salesman.” In those days, at least, a major hurdle was just getting to see the prospect. He would do so by promising the prospect that he would only take six minutes of his or her time. “Seven,” he would add, “if you ask questions”. The prospect was usually impressed. He didn’t really want to see the salesman, but this he had to see!

When the appointed time came, the salesman would walk into the prospect’s office, place his wristwatch on the desk and start his presentation.

The salesman claims the time urgency put him in control of the meeting. It also forced him to pare down his presentation and make every word count. The prospect was indeed impressed, appreciated the respect being shown for his time, and generally took more than the six minutes just asking questions. In fact, the prospect would usually detain the salesman well beyond twenty minutes – yet would not have agreed to see the salesman at all if he had actually asked for twenty minutes or more of his time.

Selling skills have increased dramatically during the last thirty-five years, while time management skills have remained the same. There are certain principles in conserving time just as there are basic principles in selling. They may not be applicable to all selling situations, but it may pay you to review them. There are hundreds of books on effective time management, including a few of my own.

A poorly organized, unplanned, rambling presentation eliminates some of the inroads made by the company through advertising and promotion, thus wasting the company’s time and money.  And the prospects themselves may be missing a great opportunity to increase profits, cut costs or improve service.

If you are a professional or operate a business where the customer comes to you, don’t keep them waiting. A certain amount of waiting can’t be avoided – especially in the case of doctors, lawyers, accountants and so on. But research shows that customers perceive waiting time to be less if there are signs to read in your waiting room – or anything else that will keep them occupied. Always have something to read such as current magazines and signs as well as Wi-Fi. If appropriate, TV and a play area with toys for kids would also be a plus.

Waiting time also seems shorter if customers have someone to talk to. Paco Underhill, in his book “Why we buy,” recommends taking care of the customer within two minutes. This is not always possible; but any waiting without contact over a minute and a half creates time distortion in the minds of the customers.

Time waiting after initial contact seems to go faster than the same amount of time spent waiting before the interaction. So acknowledging that the customer is waiting tends to relieve time anxiety. It is a good idea to acknowledge the customer when they first arrive and at least every five minutes thereafter.

Even giving the customer an estimate of the waiting time is better than nothing. Underhill claims that being told the wait would be about two minutes makes an actual four or five-minute wait go faster.

In a supermarket or in some retail store situations, a single line leading to the cashiers ensures that people are served in turn. And impulse items placed where the line forms, not only distracts from the wait, but is also smart merchandising.

Customers hate waiting in line, and stores with long line-ups at the check-outs frequently encounter abandoned carts containing merchandise.

This “want it now” syndrome was evident in the studies described in Martin Lindstrom’s Buyology book. Students were offered either a $15 Amazon gift certificate right away or a $20 gift certificate in two weeks. They chose the $15 certificate. The students’ brains were scanned as they were made the offers, and the “$15 right now” offer caused an unusual flurry of stimulation in those areas of the brain responsible for our emotional life.

This could explain the popularity of such services as overnight delivery, instant Kindle book downloads, and express checkouts. So keep in mind that it might pay you to use priority mail for shipping, for example, where the packaging is provided. Or courier – even though it’s more expensive to do so. You could also build the shipping cost into the price of the product.

Time does make a difference to the customer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on

Does deep reading differ in digital?

Deep reading involves slowing down, concentrating on the meaning of what you are reading, highlighting key sentences, and sometimes flipping back to previous pages as necessary so you are sure to understand the information being communicated.

Reading is an active process in which you are searching out information with a highlighter or pen in hand while focusing fully on the task. I have recommended in the past, for instance, that to actively read an article, you might change the title into a question and search for the answer or answers as you read.

In order to focus effectively you must have adequate time to do so, and strong attention skills, one of the brain based “executive skills” that improves with age and practice.

The results of deep reading include enhanced comprehension and enjoyment of the text, improved memory and recall, and an increase in both your knowledge and your ability to think, analyse, and express yourself. It also exercises your brain.

This is not to say that you cannot participate in deep reading on screens when reading electronic books or web articles; but it is more difficult. The nature of the medium leaves you more vulnerable to interruptions – everything from advertising pop-ups to the notification of an email or incoming text message or a Twitter retweet. Also, people use the technology to save time, speed up work and get more done in an equivalent amount of time. The tendency is to grab snippets of information that appear relevant and ignore the rest. It is difficult to resist the urge to skim, skip ahead, and take quick side trips to check email or respond to a text message.

Most people find it difficult to slow down and focus on their reading when doing so on a computer or iPhone. Canadian author John Meidema refers to the web as a “distraction machine”, and indicates in his book, Slow Reading, that deep reading requires time, care and effort.

Nicholas Carr, in his book, The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains, claims that studies by psychologists, neurologists and educators find that when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Links are particularly distracting, and studies show that jumping between digital documents impedes understanding. Comprehension declines whether or not people actually click on them.

According to Carr’s book, the depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory (short-term memory) to long-term memory. But a bottleneck is created since working memory can only hold a relatively small amount at a time. When we are swamped with information, links, images, and advertising, the information spills over, so to speak, and doesn’t make it into our long-term storage. It’s like watering a house plant by continuing to pour on more water without giving it a chance to soak in. But when we read paper books for instance, we transfer information a little at a time into long-term memory and form associations essential to the creation of knowledge and wisdom.

That being said, we have to face the fact that the digital age is here to stay. Every year more bookstores go out of business, and only the megastores survive. E-books are easy to buy, readily available and less expensive.

I still buy hardcopy books; because I find them easier to highlight, make notes in the margins, and to reference long after I’ve gone on to other books and topics. I tend to remember more of the information – even its location in the chapter – and I find this essential when using information in my books and articles. The flipping of pages with a highlighter in hand seems to keep me focused. And I’ve yet to experience eyestrain or headaches when reading a hardcopy book.

I do buy Kindle books as well, and currently have over 150 of them on my iPhone; but many of them are duplicates of the hardcopy versions in my library. This allows me to refer to them while travelling, and in waiting rooms – anywhere away from the office for that matter. The bulk of them are the free or 99 cents or $1.99 specials announced daily by BookBub.com. I use many of these for reference only.

If you have chosen the e-book route exclusively, remember the importance of concentration. According to an article by Naomi Baron in the Washington Post, over 92% of those surveyed said they concentrate best when reading hardcopy. Reading is not a passive exercise like watching TV.

And don’t forget the human aspect of reading. How many family members gather around the fireplace with their e-readers in hand or take their iPhones to the monthly book club meetings?

Well, maybe that’s changing as well.