Being able to read faster gives you two benefits. You can get more reading done in the same amount of time. Or, you could read the same amount, but quicker, allowing yourself more time to do other things.
Speed reading is a skill that anyone can learn. There is a set of techniques that you must master if you want to be able to read at a lightening fast pace. I will show you some in a moment. First you must appreciate this.
With speed reading there is a trade-off.
Speed Vs. Comprehension
The faster you read, the lower your levels of comprehension. A big part of the skill of speed reading is identifying the parts of a text that can be skimmed, and the parts that should be read more carefully. This comes with experience and practice.
Here are some general rules of thumb as to what parts of a text you should focus on most:
- First paragraph
Read the first paragraph carefully as it sets you up for what it’s about. The introductory paragraph should give you clues about the content of the whole text. This can help you decide what to read more carefully, and what to skim. It also gives you a good understanding of what you are reading about.
- First sentence of each paragraph
Read the first sentence of each paragraph more carefully. This is likely to explain what the paragraph is about. This can help you decide what focus you need to give to the rest of the paragraph. Sometimes you don’t even need to read the rest of the paragraph if the first sentence explains it all.
- Last paragraph
The last paragraph or conclusion is always worth focussing on. It often rounds up the whole article so a lot can be gained from it. If you don’t understand the final paragraph, then you probably haven’t understood the article.
Knowing where to focus will help you read in a much more efficient and quicker way. Now here’s the speed part. Here are some tips to help you read faster…
1. Don’t Read to Yourself
Most people vocalise in their heads what they read. This slows you down. Be conscious of this, and stop yourself whenever you notice yourself doing it. Eventually you will break this habit and you reading pace will rocket.
2. Read Blocks of Words
To speed read, you must learn to read blocks of words, rather than individual words. Practice reading 3 or 4 words at a time, and gradually increase this. Hold the page further away than normal so you can see more in one go.
3. Don’t Re-Read
Most people are in the habit of re reading bits of text to make sure they understood it. Often they did understand it, but habitually do this any way. This is a waste of time. Be mindful of not re-reading and you will begin to drop this bad habit.
4. Guide Your Eyes
Many speed readers use their hand or a card to scroll down the page. This helps guide your eyes and keep you focussed.
You can also use a cover to push yourself. Move the cover down the page a little quicker each time. This forces you to increase the rate you’re capable of reading at.
5. Create the Right Environment
The room should be well lit so that you can see well. Natural light is better for most people than artificial lighting.
A quiet and relaxing place is also best for helping you concentrate. You have to be laser focused when speed reading.
6. Take Regular Breaks
Speed reading requires high levels of concentration. You cannot keep this up for longer than 20-30 minutes. Take plenty of breaks to refresh your mind so that you can concentrate enough to read at a lightening pace.
Practice daily and push yourself. Getting stronger in a gym means attempting to lift weights you can’t quite lift. The same is true with speed reading. Try and read slightly faster than your current comfort levels and your mind will adapt to handle this.
A great tactic when practising is to read text that you have read before. This makes it easier to read quickly whilst still being able to understand it.
Like any skill, speed reading requires practice and persistence. How fast you become is down to how far you want to take it. If you’re happy to double or triple your current reading speed, then you should be able to achieve this quickly. If you wish to read at a turbo-pace, then you will have to practice hard for a lot longer.
How fast do you want to be able to read?
Featured photo credit: Reading by Rik Lomas via flickr.com