It's Sunday morning in California and company executive
Gerald Hoskins would rather be having a leisurely breakfast
on his front patio and reading the newspaper. Instead, he is
stuck at his desk, with a pile of corporate reports to read.
Gerald eyes the pile of reports with distain. He knows he
must finish reading the reports but he doesn't want to!
Reports are boring. Reports are frustrating. Gerald often
spends hours over hundreds of pages of reports, only to
find that, hours later, these reports do not contain the
information he needs.
As an executive in the corporate world or even a student in a
competitive academic world, you may often find
yourself in a similar situation as Gerald. You may constantly
find yourself flooded with cumbersome reports. Corporate
reports are rich with relevant and powerful information but
also contain a lot of irrelevant data. Sifting through
page after page of irrelevant information can be a frustrating
and time consuming process.
'Corporate reports are rich with relevant and powerful information but
also contain a lot of irrelevant data.'
Luckily for you, you can learn how to be a smarter, faster
and more accurate report reader. This newsletter will give
you valuable tips on how to navigate through irrelevant
information to extract the information you need. You will
learn to read reports like a CEO . successful people who
have a no-nonsense attitude towards time management.
Share this information, feel free to forward this email
containing these secrets to your friends and coworkers!
Report Reading Secret #1
STOP! What is the best source of information?
Ask yourself the following questions first:
- What sort of information do I want to obtain?
- What is the best way to obtain this information?
- What is the best way to obtain this information?
There may be faster and more effective ways to source the
information that you require. Don't rely solely on reports or
you may end up spending many frustrating hours looking
for information which can be found much more quickly. Can
you ask someone for the information? Often this is the
quickest way to find out information. For example, if you are
looking for reports on cell phone usage, it may be
worthwhile consulting the marketing manager, who has
been observing consumers in the industry for the last five
years. She can assist you to locate the relevant reports
quickly, eliminating the need to find and sift through
countless reports. Use the expertise of people in your
organization as a source of information.
Often you will need to consult more than one source of
information. Talk to colleagues who can tell you where to
start. If you have the time and resources, consider
undertaking your own research. Use the services of others
such as librarians when undertaking research to locate
information quickly. Consult books, industry magazines, the
internet and newspapers. Other sources of information may
better suit your information needs. Use these in combination
with reports to support and enhance your business
decisions. Many CEOs use search engines such as Google,
MSN and Yahoo! to find alternative sources of information.
Other online references such as the free online encyclopaedia
wikipedia.org is another great source of alternative
Report Reading Secret #2
Don't read everything at first! Scan the main parts.
Smart report readers know they do not have time to read
everything which lands on their desk. This would be
impossible. Instead, keep your purpose in mind and scan the
main elements of the report. The idea is to gain an overview
of the document and determine its relevance. Use the table
of contents to skip to parts which appear relevant. Don.t
waste time blindly reading the report in a linear fashion .
the table of contents is there for a reason.
'Smart report readers know they do not have time to read
While reports contain a wealth of useful information, there
Scan the abstract, introduction and conclusion. Summaries
give a good overview of the report. Peruse headings,
subheadings and highlighted words and sections to find
relevant passages. Consider the first and last paragraphs of
each section. Look at the non-verbal elements of the report
such as photographs, figures and graphs. These elements
give important clues as to whether the document suits your
information needs. If the report appears to suit your needs,
you can then proceed to read the relevant sections in detail.
'Scan the abstract, introduction and conclusion.'
Every so often a thick report lands on your desk that does
not have a table of contents. It doesn't have any bullet
points or headings either. It just contains page after page of
text. This is referred to as a 'user hostile'. or pathological
report. Many people get trapped reading pathological
reports only to find out that it wasn't relevant or that they
could have just read one or two small sections. Next time
you see one of these reports start by reading the first and last
paragraphs of the report.
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|Are you suffering from information overload? Read on!
If it seems relevant, then read the
first sentence of each paragraph and highlight the sections
that may be relevant with a colored marker. Again, if
relevant, proceed and read each highlighted section in detail.
If the report is still highly pertinent, then read the rest of the
report in detail. And when you have finished, don't forget
to write a polite email to the author of the report suggesting
that they include headings in their next report they write!
Also, forward this email about CEO report reading secrets so
they can appreciate the value of writing structured reports.
Report Reading Secret #3
Is the report credible?
The credibility of a report is important. Business decisions
should be based on reliable and useful information . there is
no point wasting time in implementing decisions based on
inaccurate or biased information.
Who are the authors of the report? Are they well
known/recognised? What are their academic qualification
and/or industry experience? What is their public stance on
the issue which you are researching?
'The credibility of a report is important. Business decisions should be based on reliable and useful information.'
Consider following any links to websites listed in the report
for further information. If the report does not contain a web
address, do a Google search on the authors and/or the
organization. Gathering more information on the authors
and the organization they represent will give you an idea of
whether the report has been written with a preconceived
view or bias.
The credibility of a report can be assessed by looking at its
layout. Does it look professional? Are there many noticeable
spelling or factual errors? A less polished piece may indicate
poor editing and research.
The credibility of a report can also be checked by looking at
the evidence used to support its arguments. Does the report
give details of studies and statistics? Is a reference list
provided, and if so, what sorts of references are used?
By consulting credible reports, you can make sure you are
not wasting valuable time.
Credible information will ensure you make sound, smart
decisions and do not waste time fluffing around with dead-end
Report Reading Secret #4
Delegate when possible!
If the report is relevant and credible, decide whether you
need to read the report in its entirety or whether you can
delegate the task to someone else. Successful readers know
when to delegate tasks to others to leave time for key
priorities. Ask whether you need to read this information
yourself or whether someone else can read the information
and make the decision for you or summarize it
for you. You are flooded by a never-ending array of
important documents which need to be addressed everyday.
Learning to delegate can be a great time saver and also
allows people to specialize in certain types of information.
Report Reading Secret #5
Action it right now!
Now that you have determined what needs to be read and
by whom, it is time to take ACTION. Successful report
readers immediately begin to build action items as they read.
Highlight relevant sections, jot down notes and immediately
start to compile a list of action items that need to be
completed. When compiling the list, determine priorities
and set deadlines/timeframes for completion of the action
items. Set a meeting, write an action email, arrange for more
research to be undertaken, make a calendar entry.
whatever! Just make sure you convert your reading into
action items to avoid wasting time reading the document
If you follow these five secrets to reading reports, you
are well on your way to becoming a faster, more accurate
and smarter reader. You will be able to make use of the
valuable information contained in the reports on your desk,
minus the frustration and tediousness of sifting through
irrelevant material for hours on end.
We may not all aspire to be a CEO but like Gerald we would
all like to cut through our report reading time. Read reports
the smart way and you will be rewarded. This means
MORE valuable information and MORE useful action points
and LESS time wasted on reports!
- Decide on the best source of information.
- Scan the main elements of the report to determine
- Check the report's credibility.
- Delegate when possible.
- Build action items straight away.
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