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Speed Reading Successfully: A Starting Point

Speed Reading Successfully: A Starting Point

reading

    There are more books and other written works today than there have ever been before. Tomorrow will be a record-setting day, just as will be each day afterward. It’s impossible to read everything ever written, but the number of words we’re expected to take in keep going up just the same. That means that speed reading is a pretty good tool to have in your personal arsenal.

    Speed reading isn’t just a matter of cranking up the speed at which your eyes cross a page, though: there are multiple methods for increasing your reading speed. It’s also worth considering that different approaches to reading have both benefits and drawbacks. In general, the methods that allow a person to read faster don’t always provide for the same level of comprehension that slower reading allows.

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    Barriers to Speed Reading

    There are speed reading systems out there that claim they can get you up to reading 20,000 words per minute (about 300 words per minute is typical of a college reader without any speed reading training). At best, that 20,000 words per minute claim allows only for skimming. It’s likely to provide minimal comprehension — rarely useful. More realistic speeds range from 600 to 2,000 words per minute: at those rates a reader can usually comprehend the words on the page.

    No matter what approach a particular speed reading system takes, most start with eliminating bad reading practices and then accelerating reading speed through a series of exercises. Bad reading habits can include:

    • Sounding out word out loud as one reads — or subvocalizing
    • Re-scanning over passages already read
    • Moving one’s eyes across the page as one reads
    • Using one reading speed for all reading material

    Subvocalization is often considered the biggest barrier to speed reading. Because of the way that reading is taught in most schools — students learn to sound out letters rather than recognize whole words — most readers automatically sound out words, especially those that aren’t in their normal reading vocabulary. Subvocalization, no matter its value for initially learning to read, slows down most readers. That’s because saying a word, whether aloud or subvocally, takes more time than recognizing a word.

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    Learning to Speed Read

    There are thousands of speed reading books, systems and software packages. For the most part, those systems are equally effective. It’s also possible to train yourself in speed reading using resources that you can find online. No matter how you approach learning to speed read, you’ll find that you need to complete (and often repeat) a series of exercises. Most systems rely on a simple set of exercises, repeated at increasing speeds to train your eyes and mind to take in and interpret information faster.

    A few free speed reading resources include:

    There are also thousands of books available on the topic of speed reading. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going out and purchasing any speed reading book that’s on the shelf at your local bookstore. Most libraries carry at least one or two different speed reading books, giving you a chance to take a look at individual approaches and try out exercises before committing yourself.

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    Speed Reading Software

    There are numerous commercial speed reading programs that promise to get your abilities up to a faster level. Prices for such software can vary dramatically: You might find a software package that could do the trick for under $20, but there are just as many packages priced over $200.

    There are several common approaches used in commercial software packages. The pioneer of speeding reading software, Vortex Speed Reading, placed words in front of a reader one at a time — the method forces readers to focus on just one spot on a page, rather than moving their eyes to read. Some of the speed reading packages currently available follow Vortex’ model.

    Others present words in a serial stream. Still other software options guide readers through lines of text at certain speeds, often highlighting certain words in order to train readers to direct their attention to the center of the page.

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    These software options can provide you a starting point for study, if you’re interested in taking that route:

    Speed Reading on the Computer

    In many cases, the speed at which you read the page of a book will be identical to that at which you read words on a computer screen. However, some readers report being unable to increase their on-screen reading speed beyond 1,000 words — no matter how fast they read pages. The problem seems to be connected to the refresh rates of CRT screens: as a speed reader progresses through the page, ghost images can appear as a result of screen refreshes. It’s a sort of disconnect between the eye and the brain that causes quickly refreshed images to superimpose ghosts. Readers using LCD screens don’t have the problem.

    Some readers also find that larger computer monitors impede their speed reading; most speed reading systems recommend that readers rely on peripheral vision to read, rather than running their eyes across a page. With large computer monitors, taking in text at the edges of the screen can prove difficult. A simple fix is reducing the size of the window in which you are reading.

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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