Set a Purpose by Asking “Why?” and “What?”
In 10 Days to Faster Reading, Abby Marks-Beale (of the Princeton Language Institute) recommends asking two simple questions before picking up any piece of reading material:
WHY am I reading this?
WHAT might I need this information for?
These questions are immensely important for two reasons:
First, asking why you’re choosing to read a particular piece of material helps determine your purpose: what you ultimately want to accomplish by spending your time reading. Setting your purpose is the best way to factor in the opportunity cost of your time and attention… if you don’t believe what you’re about to read will be useful, you can choose to do something different.
Second, asking why you might need this information primes your brain to make connections between what you’re reading and what you want to achieve. Our minds work primarily via pattern recognition – by reminding yourself of your areas of responsibility before you read, you’ll make many more connections than you would otherwise. (Be sure to keep a notebook and pen close at hand to capture your thoughts and ideas without breaking the flow of your reading.)