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5 Useful Tools to Get You Speed-Reading Like a Pro

5 Useful Tools to Get You Speed-Reading Like a Pro
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There are speed-reading believers and speed-reading doubters; methods from skimming, to chunking, to eliminating subvocalization; and, undoubtedly, a lot of curious readers. Whether you’re an annoyingly distractible reader or looking to push a decent reading speed into warp drive, the myriad of articles written on the subject suggest there’s plenty of interest in this technique.

Have you been interested in speed-reading and have yet to try it out? Here are five speed-reading apps and websites to get you started.

1. Squirt

Squirt is a web app for speed-reading that you install (by install, I mean drag a link) to your bookmarks bar. It’s also been recently updated to work with Gmail and HTTPS sites like Medium.com. Once you’re on the page you want to speed-read, just click the Squirt bookmarklet and it immediately launches, giving you a few second countdown before the software begins. Adjust the speed to suite your level, and voilà!

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2. Spritz

Spritz another web app that focuses your eyes on a single letter in each word as the app speeds them through the screen, keeping your eye movements to a minimum which is supposedly what allows you to read quickly as a result. Spritz’s website also states the tech can “be integrated into photos, maps, videos, and websites for more effective communication”, and speed can be adjusted to suit your level.

[Note: Squirt apparently has a bone to pick with Spritz (or maybe it’s the other way around) — check out the bottom of Squirt’s website]

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3. Spreeder

Spreeder is a free web application from eReflect, which, incidentally, sells full-fledged speed-reading education software to the tune of about $80. Skip the pricy bundle and use this tool to quickly read online content. You can copy and paste your text on the Spreeder site, or simply save the Spreeder bookmarklet and when you have something you want to speed-read, highlight the text, and click the “Spreed!” link on your browser, which opens Spreeder in a new tab/window with your text.

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4. Outread

This iOS app is a cool $2.99 (this stuff can cost up to $80 for no apparent reason) and is a great way to turn your iPhone or iPad into a speed-reading device. Speed-read not only webpages but documents, ebooks, and reading apps like Pocket or Instapaper on your Apple device. It’s highly customizable with multiple font sizes, highlighting sizes, and reading speed. Other super convenient features like offline mode, item filtering, and interface streamlining make this a whole lot of app for three bucks!

5. Eyercize

Eyercize is a free bookmark bar tool which, though realised in beta, never made it to a full paid product which was supposed to have other features in addition to the speed-reading tool. However, the speed-reading app itself still works perfectly well and is available for download.

This “reading pacer” bookmarklet works by bolding groups of three or four words at a time, which focuses your eyes so that you following the pace the software sets. A nice touch is the ability to control the speed of the pacer, and some of the other features, so you can start out slower or with fewer/more bolded words and work your way up as you get better at reading things quickly.

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Featured photo credit: Flippin’ through/Rahul Chhiber via flic.kr

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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