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Last Updated on June 8, 2018

How to Read Faster: 8 Simple Tricks to Triple Your Reading Speed

How to Read Faster: 8 Simple Tricks to Triple Your Reading Speed

You probably don’t remember learning to read as a child. But the way we were taught to read when we were in our infant years has little relevance to how we should read as an adult.

Whereas the slow methodical method may work for youngsters who are grappling with the basics of words and sentence structure, adults who often need to process a lot of information in a short time need a completely different method of reading.

Learning to read faster is one of the best skills to develop as an adult, saving you time as you study, research and sort through your inbox. Read on for some great tips on how to read faster.

1. Learn how to scan

The most important skill you need to develop if you want to read faster is scanning. Many adults find scanning difficult because it feels counter-intuitive. After all, when we were taught to read, we were taught to pay attention to every word in a sentence. However, much of this is unnecessary, because research shows that our adult minds have an amazing ability to fill in information gaps.[1]

For example, look at the following piece of text and focus on only the highlighted words:

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After this experience she decided that she would never again date men from Mediterranean backgrounds, no matter how great they looked or their accents sounded. It simply wasn’t worth the pain.’

When you focus on only the highlighted words, you can save yourself the effort of processing every word, allowing your brain to fill in the missing information.

2. Only read the first and last sentence of each paragraph

According to Abby Marks Beale, America’s #1 Speed Reading Expert, people who write to convey information generally follow a fairly tried-and-true formula. That is, to start each paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the paragraph and gives an idea of where that paragraph is headed.

As paragraphs in publications like science and academic journals can contain a lot of information, you’re wasting your time reading all of it if you are already familiar with the topic.

Next time you’re faced with a daunting text, try reading the first and last sentence in each paragraph. Chances are you won’t miss much.

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3. Turn off the voice in your head

Another habit we picked up when learning to read in grade school is to sound out words, often from reading aloud. Even as adults, most of us retain this habit to some extent, as over the years, we have become so used to “hearing” the word in our minds.

The problem with this is that it takes up unnecessary time because we can understand a word more quickly than we can say it.

One way to eliminate the voice is to read blocks of words (as mentioned in point 1) as it’s much harder to vocalize sets of words than single words.

Simply eliminating this voice can drastically increase your ability to read faster. However, this techniques does tend to reduce your enjoyment of a well-written text, so you can turn it back on for your favorite crime novelist or poet.

4. Use a pointer

Often when we read, we tend to ‘regress’ or go over and read the same material again. This is usually due to poor concentration and results in losing the flow of what your are reading. This is a waste of time, especially when the information you’re re-reading isn’t really necessary.

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But you can cut down on regression by using a pen as a pointer. Train your eyes to follow the pointer and this will help you to avoid skipping back.

5. Use ‘soft eyes’

According to experts at Mind Tools, inefficient readers tend to focus on each word, working across each line.[2] This is inefficient because your eye can actually take in about 1.5 inches at a glance, which includes five words.

You can also engage your peripheral vision to expand your gaze and take in even more words. You can achieve this by relaxing your facial muscles when reading and allowing your eyes to soften.

6. Ask yourself questions about the text before you read

This technique is used by teachers to improve reading comprehension. But it’s also a good way to help you read faster.

If you have some idea about what useful information can be taken from the text, make yourself a set of questions and then read quickly to find the answers. This will definitely save you time spent on looking through useless information.

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7. Don’t multitask while reading

One of the worst reading habits is reading while watching TV, listening to the radio or even allowing mental interference to distract you from what you are reading. Think you can multitask? Think again.

If you want to read faster, you MUST cut out the distractions and focus solely on the task.

8. Try speed reading apps

Many speed-reading techniques can be done manually. However, there is always the temptation to fall back into old habits.

If you are serious about learning to read faster, you may want to check out apps like Outread which guides your eyes through a reading list with the help of a highlighting marker.

You can also try software like Spreeder, a free speed reading training course designed to improve reading speed and comprehension. It uses methods like ‘pointing’ but does it electronically, and is a great way to increase your reading speed.

Living in the information age, we are often bombarded with information we simply don’t have time to process; but if you take these suggestions on board and practice them regularly, you’ll learn to read faster and cut down on the amount of time you waste on information overload in no time.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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