Low hanging fruit when … reading?

There is a productivity concept of going after the “low hanging fruit” first. This adds assets and confidence for harder tasks and allows to increase the complexity level slowly. Not always this approach is easy to use. For example: what is the low hanging fruit when reading?

Layers of complexity

  • There are easy and complex subjects and publications.
  • Within each subject, some texts are easier than others.
  • Texts of similar complexity can have different density of information.
  • And then our goals for the information may change.
  • Even when all other things are similar, we can start the task prepared or unprepared.

I think the level of our preparation is the dominant factor for success.

How do we peel this particular onion?

Get the context first

Usually, the lowest hanging fruit is the context. Learning the main themes, the words commonly used, and the main players is not reading, it is prereading.

Not every text is suitable for prereading. When I was younger and overconfident I tried to preread the “game of thrones”. Do not remember which of the books. I remember that I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the storyline and decided to pass the book and go for the TV series.

Quite often we get the context from a different media, like a review or a summary. Especially for the heavy reading, like german philosophers. Trying to read one of them without preparation is a sort of punishment.


Somehow before reading an important and innovative article, I find it better to read a book covering the subject. And before I read that book, I usually read several easier and more popular articles addressing the subject from different perspectives. Possibly before that, I will read a comparative study of popular approaches. Yet before that, I might read an introductory article explaining why this whole subject is interesting.

We kind of climb a ladder. Jumping over too many steps will get disorienting. The prerequisites are not really required. They are merely helpful. We kind of expect 100% success (comprehension and retention) rate with the final product and can drop the rate and improve the speed with the prerequisites.

This approach works well when we have the required tools. But what if our tools are imperfect?

Slow down when important

We kind of separate retention reading from speed reading. When we focus on retention we read slower and focus on memorization techniques. For example, wikipedia tends to be very dense so we focus on retention and not on speed.

If the subject is important and comprehension is hard we read slower still and maybe drop creative visualization to focus entirely on the text. Some math requires this sort of focus, especially if we need to visualize graphs and tables.

If you want to speed up your reading, you will need to read fast 60 min per day. So you can train your speed with blogs, biographies, history books, and other stuff you fancy. Maybe this means that you need to read for several hours every day using different reading styles. So what? Reading does not hurt.


An article can be a prerequisite for itself. There is nothing wrong with reading an article several times modifying the reading style each time.

We can read the first time for context, the second time for retention. And then we may need to reread selected paragraphs hard for comprehension. Possibly between those reading attempts, we can read some additional articles with extra information and additional tools.

So what is the lowest hanging fruit when reading?

  1. A simple answer to a simple question. This a jackpot situation. Quite rare actually.
  2. A discussion you can speedread. Usually, several complementary or conflicting answers coexist. Sometimes they are easy to scroll through. For example, if the answer is on Quora.
  3. Informative and complete answer. Now you will need some prior knowledge and retention skills. If the answer is on wikipedia and you need further links and references to understand you will be exposed to a lot of new information.
  4. A deep dive. You might find an article addressing your subject in great detail. For example, it may overview some useful approaches and statistics. It can be 50 pages long. Not a big deal. You may need to reread it a couple of times.

If one of those fruits is not available, prepare for an adventure. You will be on a quest and you will need to use multiple information sources. Creatively (!!).

What if I just want to have fun?

If you do not need specific information or wisdom, you are welcome to read popular materials. These can be quite deep, like industry blogs or books written by leading scientists. The focus will be not on specific data, but on metaphors, approaches, and reading speed or fun instead.

Do not try to speedread poetry. This is not a low hanging fruit. If you speedread classical literature you may lose some linguistic play and some fun. You may actually want to slow down for that stuff.

And if I want to write?

Combining speedreading with speedwriting is a viable option, especially for a journalist. It is easy to start with the general knowledge or reading diary and generate the bulk of the text. Then fill in the details, reading specific resources if you have further questions.

A biblical issue

In the bible, there are two powerful fruit-bearing trees: the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. When we read to learn new things it is one tree. When we read to get motivated it is the other tree. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, started to ask hard questions, got confused, and were thrown out of heaven. If they could taste the motivational fruits of the tree of life, they might find a new meaning in their knowledge and live in the heavens forever.

I honestly just thought of this metaphor.

The books that make you worry and the books that inspire you are different books. Try to have a balanced reading “diet”. You want to stay in your relatively blissful state…

Reading once at top speed is often enough, but as we read faster we may need more flexible strategies. You can learn these strategies at our speedreading masterclass course. So avail this course with amazing discounts. You’re not obligated to pay the full price. Feel free to reach out to [email protected]  and request a significant discount. Your satisfaction is assured.

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