PRODUCTHEAD: How to read more effectively (communication toolkit #2)

PRODUCTHEAD: How to read more effectively (communication toolkit #2)

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

in products


Read a format that suits you best, whether physical or digital

As you read, ask yourself questions of the content to keep yourself engaged with it

Analytical reading allows you to understand, then accept or reject the key idea being presented

F-shaped reading occurs on web content because people are short on time or engagement

a favour: please share this with other product people

every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


Last week, I shared with you some tips and articles on active listening. The next important communication skill for product people is to read.

Yes, yes, yes — I fully appreciate that you can already read, but can you read critically and effectively?

As an aside, I know there are many successful product people out there with dyslexia. One has explained to me in detail about how he uses audiobooks and text-to-speech technology to work around the challenges of reading text.

PRODUCTHEAD this week is really about extracting meaning from the written word, and that applies equally if you’re using someone or something to read it aloud.

Are we out of the habit? #

We probably read more than we realise each day.

I’m going to make a wild assumption that we spend most of our working days (and probably a good proportion of our leisure time also) reading emails, Slack messages, tweets, WhatsApp messages. Maybe we also read some longer-form content on web pages or in some kind of report. Perhaps the least frequent type of reading is when we sit down with a good book.

My feeling is that we have inadvertently trained ourselves to prefer reading short-form, fragmented snippets of text. Perhaps we’ve shortened our attention span because we need the micro-rewards of dopamine to punctuate our reading in order to maintain our concentration.

Do you find longer-form content, such as a long web article or a book, a bit daunting? Maybe we’ve just fallen out of the habit of reading. Or maybe we’ve already read too much that day.

The right time and place to read #

I find it difficult to settle down and read a book unless I’m in the right frame of mind, and in the right situation. To read a book, I need to be reasonably well rested and alert so I can concentrate. My reading needs to be free from distractions and interruptions.

I also need to give myself permission to read, which I know sounds weird. I regard reading as utterly self-indulgent “me time”. If I have the sense that I should really be doing something more important or urgent, such as cashing in a winning lottery ticket, or extinguishing an incipient house fire, I know that I’m not going to give my full attention to the book.

For these reasons, I tend to read most when I’m waiting for something to happen, or while I’m travelling. (Aeroplane or train only, of course. The steering wheel gets in the way of my book when I’m driving.)

For you this week #

Whatever type of reading we do, whether reading for work or pleasure, we still need to be efficient at extracting the meaning from the content, and at retaining the salient details. This week, I’ve gathered some articles and a book (How to Read a Book, a gloriously paradoxical title) to help you read more effectively.

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

How to read more effectively

Whether you’re dissecting Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations or relaxing poolside with 50 Shades of Grey, reading is, for many of us, a regular source of joy, perspective, and ideas, which enable us to grow personally and professionally. But here’s the catch: We live in a world of never ending content and constant competition for our attention.

Technology is both obstacle and ally

[Khe Hy / Quartz at Work]

How to read books effectively and digest information

Here’s the good thing and bad thing about reading: everyone learns how to do it early in life. You start off with the alphabet, move on to words, and – before you know it! – you’re reading entire sentences and paragraphs. Reading is a skill that almost everyone in the world has. This is why almost no one stops to think about how to read better and how to read books more effectively.

Or to be put it differently, technically we know how to read, but we don’t question our methods and we don’t think about reading and digesting information philosophically.

Right book and right mindset

[Growth Reading]

How to Read a Book

Originally published in 1940, this book is a rare phenomenon, a living classic that introduces and elucidates the various levels of reading and how to achieve them — from elementary reading, through systematic skimming and inspectional reading, to speed reading. Readers will learn when and how to “judge a book by its cover,” and also how to X-ray it, read critically, and extract the author’s message from the text.

The definitive guide to reading

[Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren]

F-Shaped pattern of reading on the web: misunderstood, but still relevant (even on mobile)

Eyetracking research shows that people scan webpages and phone screens in various patterns, one of them being the shape of the letter F. Eleven years after discovering this pattern, we revisit what it means today.

How people read on the web

[Kara Pernice / Nielsen Norman Group]

recent posts

What’s the difference between ‘measures of success’ and ‘definition of done’?

Here’s a question I was asked recently:

Hi Jock,

How would you describe ‘measures of success’ versus the ‘definition of done’? I’m trying to explain the difference simply to my team.



Build the right thing AND the thing right

[I Manage Products]

The agency trap

How can product management fit into an agency business model when requirements or specifications are often contractually set in stone by the client up-front? Spoiler alert: not easily

Product company or agency?

[I Manage Products]

Whatever this is, this web3 product manager role is not a product manager

Jason Shah wrote a guest post recently for Lenny Rachitsky’s newsletter, “A Product Manager’s Guide to web3”, which describes how product management differs in web3 companies. He notes that joining a web3 company can be “an opaque process and a risky decision”. I’d add “ethically challenging and morally grey” to that description.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

[I Manage Products]

can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

Product People Limited logo

Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from piles of books waiting to be read.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a freelance head of product, product management coach and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *