snail speedI was never a big fan of reading… I blame it on the education system, of course. (Well, it can’t be my fault, can it?) You see, it’s difficult to enjoy reading when every book your teacher throws at you is of no interest to you whatsoever. So I hated it. It was a chore, not a pleasure.

Then I finished school and went my own path. And soon I discovered that a different breed of books exists too – books that are extremely interesting. In fact, there’s so many of them that I don’t have enough time to enjoy them all.

It is obvious that there are only so many hours in a day, so if I want to be able to read more I have to learn to read faster. That’s where speed reading comes into picture. I’ve done some research and come up with a list of 7 critical elements of speed reading. Thanks to these tricks I’m able to read one book every week just by spending a couple of hours on Sunday.

1. Don’t repeat

This is the thing that really slows us down. Whenever you find yourself repeating the words in your mind or out loud you are significantly decreasing the speed of your reading. The goal is to read with your eyes, not with your mouth. The easiest trick around this is to repeat something else instead. Something like: “1 2 3 4 5” or “a e i o u”. This will occupy your mind with a simple activity so there’s no other way for you to read than to use only your eyes – which is the true secret of speed reading.

2. Read with your finger

The idea is simple. Just use your finger to trace under each line as you read along. The finger will determine your speed making it easy to speed up or slow down when necessary. Just remember, the finger determines the speed of your reading, not the other way around. Once you set specific speed, stick to it.

3. Focus

This may sound obvious but it’s worth mentioning here. When I was reading something in the past, even if it was interesting, I found myself wandering off and thinking about other things, so I had to re-read the same sentence a couple of times. It was, let’s say, “doable” to read an article or a chapter of a book despite not being present with your mind. However, when you’re speed reading it’s totally impossible to do it and be thinking about something else at the same time, so focus!

4. The third word rule

Here’s what you do: start reading each line on the third word, and end each line on the third word from the end. Don’t worry, you won’t lose any information. Your eyes will catch those first and last words too, by using something called the peripheral vision.

As an example consider such a line of text:

“Marry had a little lamb but she ate it for supper.”

The words in bold indicate the focus points.

5. Don’t read every word separately

The easiest way of doing this is to read from a bigger distance (like 2ft). The goal here is to not focus on single words individually, but to read two or three of them in just one snapshot. So the idea is, you look at a fragment of text and read a couple of words all at once, then you take another snapshot of the words next to them, and so on.

6. Don’t skip back

This is a very common problem. It happens without us even knowing it (at first). The fact that skipping back to re-read a single word (or even a whole sentence) slows you down is obvious. If you want to improve the speed of your reading you have to fight this habit. But first you have to acknowledge that it exists, realize that you are indeed doing it. Then simply try to stop. Reading with your finger helps a lot here, just remember to follow the finger at all times.

7. Start too fast

Start reading too fast to be able to comprehend everything comfortably. Then after a page or two slow down to the speed that’s comfortable for you. Just like driving on a highway, if you’re doing 90 and slow down to 70 it feels slow, but if you’re doing 50 and speed up to 70 it feels fast even though it’s the same speed.

That’s it for this list. I hope it helps. Tell me, what is the number one trick in your own arsenal of speed reading techniques?

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