Advertising
Advertising

10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed

10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed

Do you have a lot of paperwork to get through with a deadline that continues to stalk you around every corner? Do you have a lot of reading to do before class tomorrow? Do you simply just want to read at a faster rate, whether it be for your own personal reasons, or for work? Here are ten proven ways to help increase your reading speed.

1. Stop the Inner Monologue

One’s inner monologue, also known as subvocalization, is an extremely common trait among readers. It is the process of speaking the words in your head as you read, and it is the biggest obstacle that gets in the way of you being able to increase your reading speed.

If you’re hearing voices in your head when you’re reading, don’t fret. As long as it is your own voice, reading along with you, you’re fine. In fact, this is how teachers teach kids to read – say the words silently in your head as you read. Do you recall the instructions, “Read in your head, as I read the passage aloud”, that were said fairly often in the classrooms? That is one of the ways in which this habit of having an inner monologue was ingrained into you as a young reader.

When you were initially taught to read, you were taught to sound out everything and read aloud. Once you were proficient enough at that, your teacher had you start saying the words in your head. This is how the habit originated, and most people continue reading this way. It does not adversely affect them in any way, until they start wanting to read at a faster pace. If you are seeking to increase your reading speed, this is the first thing you must learn to overcome.

Why does this slow you down? The average reading speed is pretty much the same as the average talking speed. According to Forbes, the average adult reading speed is 300 words per minute. The average talking speed is the same. Since most people are in the habit of saying the words aloud in their head as they read, they tend to read around the same pace as they talk. This means, your reading speed will only increase so much if you continue to keep up that inner monologue. If you want to continue to increase your reading speed, you need to eliminate it.

Advertising

To do this, you need to understand one thing: It’s unnecessary. You do not need to say every word in your head in order to understand the material you are reading. It was when you are younger, but now you are able to input the meaning from just seeing the words. Your brain still processes the information. For example, when you see a “YIELD” sign, do you actually stop to speak the word in your head? Of course not. You just look at it and process it automatically. This is what you need to be doing when you read your print material, such as books or paperwork.

If you have a hard time attempting this, try reading with instrumental music playing in headphones or chew on some gum. A distraction will keep your brain less focused on subvocalization, though you will still look at the words and process them.

2. Word–Chunking

Word-chunking closely parallels with the idea of eliminating the inner monologue. This is the act of reading multiple words at once, and is the key to reading faster. All of these reading tips tie together, yet word-chunking is probably the most active tool to use when you work to increase your reading speed.

A person can take in several words at a time, even though we are trained – as mentioned with the inner monologue – to read each word at a time and not miss a single article. Using your peripheral vision is one way to make this step easier, but we will get to that in the next section. For now, focus on trying to read three words with one glance. Continue on down the page like that, taking note of how much faster you complete the entire page of text. You are still able to process and comprehend what you read, but spend far less time doing it.

Now, take that concept one step further. Take a pencil and lightly draw two vertical, parallel lines down your page, separating the text into three sections. Start at the top left of the page as usual, and cover up everything below that line with your hand or a piece of paper. Focus on reading the text in each section as one thing. Chunk the words together, and read them at a glance as you would a road sign. Keep doing this down the page, moving the paper accordingly. You will notice that your speed was faster than before.

Advertising

Continue with this method until you feel comfortable enough to challenge yourself a bit more.

3. Do Not Reread the Words on the Page

Before we move on to the peripheral vision part – that’s the real kicker – you’re going to want to make sure you break the habit of rereading the words on the page. If you watch the average person’s eyes as they read, you will notice they jump and flit about. They do not just flow evenly back and forth, as they should. This is because the average person – you do this, too – tends to backtrack over words they have already read. This is one thing that prevents you from being able to increase your reading speed.

You most likely do this without even realizing that you are doing it, which makes it a bit of a tricky habit to break out of. The easiest way, even though you may feel a bit childish, is to use your finger or bookmark to guide you along. Keep your finger running back and forth across the page, without stopping or going back. Keep tracking the words as your finger continues to make its way down the text. When you get to the end, think about what you read. You did not go back over a single word (I hope!), and yet you still recall what you have read.

4. Use Peripheral Vision

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the key step that really ties everything together. While this may not be the final step, it’s certainly a critical one. Use the techniques from everything above to view and comprehend several words at one time. Instead of chunking in smaller groups of words, try reading one line at a time. This involves looking at the center of the line, and using your peripheral vision to read the rest of it. Scan the page in this manner and, when you reach the bottom, you will find that you still understood what you read, but you did it in record time.

5. Use a Timer

Speaking of ‘record time’, now is your chance to test yourself and work on how to increase your reading speed each time you read. Set a timer for one minute, reading normally as the time dwindles down. When the timer goes off, note how many pages you have read. The website, WordstoPages, will help you to figure out how many words you have read. Now, combine everything you have learned and repeat the test. Jot down that number, too.

Advertising

Words to Pages Screen Shot

    Keep doing this, continuing to beat your previous count each time. Set a daily or weekly goal, and treat yourself when you reach it. Continue with this little game, and you’ll be able to increase your reading speed in no time!

    6. Set a Goal

    Holding yourself accountable will better ensure you stick with your reading and your timer tests. Give yourself a goal of a certain number of pages to read each day/week/etc., and stick to it. When you reach it, treat yourself. Incentive never hurt anyone!

    7. Read MORE

    The old adage, “Practice makes perfect,” is actually pretty darn accurate. Any professional, artist, musician, etc. practices their work regularly. A reader should be doing the same thing. The more you read, the more you will be better at it. The better you are at reading, the more you will increase your reading speed.  Theodore Roosevelt read one book before breakfast, and then three or four more in the evening. He also read papers and other such pamphlet-style reading material. I’m not sure how long these books were, but I am going to assume they were of average length. Use his obsession as fuel for your own goal.

    8. Use a Marker

    Do you find your vision slipping and sliding through the page as you read? Not a problem. Simply place an index card below each line, and slip it down as you read. This will ensure you stay at reading one line at a time, rather than flitting your eyes about and taking nothing in.

    Advertising

    9. Work on Improving Your Vocabulary

    Think about it: You’re reading along, and then you run into a word you don’t know. Do you skip it? Do you try to figure it out by context? Do you stop to look it up? Whichever course of action you take, you are slowing your time significantly, if not stopping it all together to go and look up the retarding word. If you work on improving your vocabulary, you will know more words. The more words you add to your repertoire, the faster you read. The faster you read, the more you can read. It may be self-evident, but it’s important.

    10. Skim the Main Points FIRST

    Finally, when you’re in a real time-crunch and need to get something read by yesterday, take a deep breath and calm down. Open the book, and take some time reading over all the main points. Read the table of contents. Read the subtitles. Read the captions under the diagrams. Get an overall feel for the chapter/section/etc..

    Next, read the first paragraph of each main section. Read the last. Read the middle. Think this over in your head, and piece it together. Then, start reading everything else while employing the techniques we have just discussed. You’ll retain your information better, as well as your get your reading done faster.

    In summation, the next time you need to read something quickly, simply tell yourself to “Shut up and look at the page!”

    More by this author

    woman-blonde-styled-hair-hailing-cab Stylish But Professional: Styling Your Hair For The Workplace get-children-to-read How (and Why) You Should Get Your Children to Love Reading small business logo Picking a Small Business Logo That Stands Out A List Of Non-Sense You Say That Make You Instantly Unprofessional women living alone are more successful Women Who Live Alone Are More Likely To Succeed At Work, Study Finds

    Trending in Productivity

    1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 3 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 4 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 5 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

    Advertising

    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

    Advertising

    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

    Advertising

    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

    Advertising

    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next