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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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    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!”

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Improve Concentration and Sharpen Your Attention at Work

    How to Improve Concentration and Sharpen Your Attention at Work

    Keeping focused and paying attention are core competencies needed to excel and stay productive at work. But we all have those moments when our mind starts to wander and all of a sudden we find ourselves scrolling endlessly through Twitter instead of working on the tasks that are due at the end of the working day.

    According to a Microsoft study, humans now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish.[1] Where a goldfish can hold their attention spans for 9 seconds, ours starts to decline after 8 seconds. This comes as no surprise considering the climate of information overload that we currently live in.

    With notifications buzzing left, right, and center, our focus on a task is so easily pulled away by the lure of a bit of new information. So much so that a study from UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, found that people, on average, checked their smartphones every 12 minutes while awake![2]

    And not only do we have phones, but when we’re at work—for those of us who work in an office that is—we also have access to computers and tablets as well. So, it’s not hard to understand why it can be difficult to keep our attention sharpened and focused.

    In this article, you will learn how to improve concentration and sharpen your attention; so you will stay focused and get stuck into the task at hand instead of being distracted.

    1. Do One Thing at a Time

    With so many duties to take care of and deadlines to meet, it’s easy to think that multitasking would be the best solution to get things done. While it may appear that we’d be more effective and efficient tackling more than one task at a time, it actually makes things worse.

    Trying to do more than one task simultaneously is not an ideal option for staying concentrated. In fact, research suggests that our brain can’t actually do multiple things at once, instead it just switches tasks quickly.[3] This means that every time we switch tasks, the process stops and restarts in our brains.

    So, to stay focused, it’s best to stick to completing one thing at a time.

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    2. Switch off Notifications

    Notifications are a great way to keep informed of the world going on around you. Many of us are signed up to countless apps and are involved in numerous group chats just so we’re not left in the dark when it comes to new information; whether it’s a breaking global news or something that happened to one of our friends.

    But the constant buzz of accumulating notifications can be distracting. Your best bet on how to improve concentration and sharpen your attention at work is to turn off all your notifications. This includes your smartphone, tablet, and even on your work desktop.

    If you’re worried about friends and family not being able to get a hold of you in case of an emergency, make sure they have your work number.

    3. Increase Your Concentration Step by Step

    The Pomodoro technique is a time management philosophy created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. The technique aims to stop you from falling prey to procrastination and equip you with optimal focus through a method of incremental task management.

    The idea is that you work on your tasks for 25 minutes then take a five minute breaks. This is considered one pomodoro.

    You repeat this process 4 times (100 minutes of work and 15 minutes of breaks) and then increase your break time to 15 to 20 minutes. Taking regular breaks can keep your mind refreshed and your attention sharpened.

    It’s advisable to keep track of your progress by marking an “X” for every pomodoro you complete, as well as recording the number of times you were inclined to procrastinate. That way you can compare your development.

    4. Keep a Distraction List

    With the internet and search engines available at our fingertips, it’s easy to succumb to the questions that run through your heads while you work. Keeping a distraction list can help keep any impulses at bay.

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    A distraction list is a list where you write down unrelated questions, thoughts, and ideas that run through your head while you work. Once you finish your task or have the opportunity for a break, then you can look up the answers to those questions or research the thoughts and ideas you had.

    This list acts as a barrier against distraction. Instead of looking up the answers to the things that fill your head while you work and interrupting your workflow, by writing them down, your thoughts won’t be forgotten and you know at the back of your mind that you can action them later.

    5. Exercise

    We already know that exercise is important for keeping our bodies healthy, but did you know that it can also have a significant effect on your mental health? A study by Dr Stewart Trost of Oregon State University discovered a link between exercise and improving concentration, behavior, and memory.[4]

    If you find it difficult to focus on everyday tasks at work, try engaging in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Whether it’s participating in a team sport, doing a training program at the gym, or simply walking around the block; as long as you keep your body moving, it can help to enhance your mental health and well being.

    6. Meditate

    When most of us think of meditation, we probably think of it as something exclusive to gurus and yogis on retreats somewhere out in the middle of the forest. But in fact, it’s something that everyone can engage in regularly, even in the comfort of your own home!

    Meditation is known to be great for freeing your mind from clutter which is why it’s a great option if you’re asking yourself how to improve concentration and sharpen your attention at work. It recharges your brain and can leave you in a restful and restoring state.

    Along with clearing your head, other benefits of meditation include recovering from distractions, handling stress better, and helping to overcoming Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD).

    7. Listen to Music

    Working in an office can get noisy. From the phone ringing, to people chatting, to the sound of the coffee machine or kettle going off every minute, it can get distracting.

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    Listening to music can help drown out the noises from your surroundings and keep you concentrated on your tasks.

    According to Dr Masha Godkin from Northcentral University, listening to music can activate both the left and right brain simultaneously, and the activation of both hemispheres can optimize learning and improve memory.[5]

    Genres such as classical, ambient, and new age electronic music are recommended as they don’t usually contain lyrics that can distract you. The tempo and volume are also aspects to keep in mind. You want something that’s 60-70 beats per minute and not loud enough so as to overpower your thoughts.

    Here’re some music recommendations to help you stay productive: Enhance Focus with Productivity Music (Recommended Playlists)

    8. Handwrite

    Nowadays, when it comes to written communication, going down the digital route has eclipsed writing things down with a pen. But even something as simple as writing out the letters of the alphabet can help sharpen your attention.

    Handwriting has been known to enhance memory and learning skills.[6] Think about it, when you are writing something down, it requires you to focus on the task at hand. You have to concentrate on forming the letters as they turn into words which eventually turn into sentences.

    So the next time you have to remember something important, opt for writing it down on a sticky note instead of typing it out on an online document or your digital planner.

    9. Stay Hydrated

    One of the many benefits of drinking water is that it can improve your cognitive abilities and energy levels, which is why staying well hydrated is important. In contrast, dehydration can deplete short term memory skills.

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    The ideal daily intake of water is dependant on the individual. Factors such as age, sex, weight, and health conditions can influence the amount, however, the average adult should aim for something between 1.5 to 2.5 litres a day.

    If you find that you keep forgetting to drink enough water, a good tip is to keep a bottle on your desk. Not only will water be easily accessible when you feel thirsty, but having it in front of you can act as a reminder to drink it!

    Another tip, for those who find the taste of water a little bland, is to spruce it up with fruits such as lemon and cucumber for added flavor.

    The Bottom Line

    The ability to focus on a task and attentively observe are important elements for staying productive at work but, living in this world of information overload can make it difficult.

    There are so many things that can prove to be distracting, from the noises in the office, to the incessant buzz of notifications. Yet here’s hoping that the aforementioned tips can help with keeping them in check.

    While you shouldn’t deny yourself the luxury and convenience of smartphones and the internet, it’s probably best to keep it aside while you’re in the office so as to improve concentration and sharpen your attention at work.

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    Featured photo credit: Studio Republic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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