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Last Updated on February 3, 2021

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

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

You probably don’t remember learning to read as a child, but the way we were taught to start reading when we were in our infant years has little relevance to how we should read as adults.

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 learn how to read faster is scanning. Many adults find scanning difficult because it feels counterintuitive. 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, as chances are you won’t miss much. 

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 speaking the words in our minds.

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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 technique 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 you’re reading. This is a waste of time, especially when the information you’re re-reading isn’t really necessary.

You can cut down on regression by using a pen as a pointer and moving your eyes along with it. 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 at a time.

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You can also engage your peripheral vision to expand your gaze and take in groups of 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.

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. If you think you can multitask, think again.

If you want to read faster, you MUST cut out the distractions and focus solely on the task. Find a quiet space, turn off your notifications, and settle into a comfy chair. 

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.

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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 it is a great way to increase your reading speed.

Final Thoughts

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

More on How to Read Faster

Featured photo credit: Awar Kurdish via unsplash.com

Reference

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Linda Paull

Linda is a passionate writer who shares lifestyle tips at Lifehack.

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Published on March 1, 2021

What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable?

What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable?

As someone on the Millennial/Generation X cusp, one of my first memories of a news story was the devastating crash of the Challenger space shuttle. I couldn’t process the severity or the specifics of the event at the time, but looking back, the Challenger explosion represents a heartbreaking example of what can happen when systems fail.

A part of the shuttle known as the O-ring was faulty. People from NASA knew about it well before the disaster, but NASA employees either ignored the problem—writing it off as not that bad—or were ignored when they tried to alert higher-ups about the issue.[1] This is a tragic example of single-loop learning where organizations focus on what they’re doing without reflecting on how or why they’re doing it, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Single and Double-Loop Learning

Chris Argyris describes the difference between single and double-loop learning with a metaphor. A thermostat that turns on and off when it senses a pre-set temperature is akin to single-loop learning. The thermostat being able to reflect on whether or not it should be set to that temperature in the first place would be more like double-loop learning.[2]

Imagine the difference if NASA would have encouraged and addressed employees’ questions about how they were doing, what they were doing, and whether or not they should be doing it at all—you’ll start to see how an extra layer of questioning and critical thought can help organizations thrive.

Single Loop Learning

Single-loop learning is when planning leads to action, which leads to reflection on those actions and then back to planning, action, and more reflection. Now, you might think that because reflection is involved, single-loop learning would be an effective organizational model. However, because there isn’t room for critical questions that ask why actions are being taken, problems begin to bubble up.

The Double Bind

When organizations are operating in single-loop learning, they get stuck in what Argyris calls the Double Bind. Because there’s no value placed on questioning why the team is doing something, team members are either punished for speaking up or punished for not speaking up if something goes wrong down the line.

Primary Inhibiting Loop

When an organization is stuck in single-loop learning, the double bind leads to what Argyris calls the primary inhibiting loop. Real learning and growth are inhibited because team members withhold information from each other. This withholding leads to distrust and is difficult to remedy because even if employees attempt to become more forthcoming, lack of trust sours interactions.

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Secondary Inhibiting Loop

Because information is being withheld, team members play unconscious games (not the fun kind) to protect each other’s feelings. For example, I might try to distract my colleagues from worrying about a problem in our plan by shifting the focus to another project we’re working on that’s going better.

When you’re stuck in single-loop learning, the organization does whatever it can to continue taking action after action instead of stopping to truly reassess the bigger picture. This leads team members to hide information from each other, which causes distrust and behaviors that try to mask flaws in the organization’s structures and systems.

Double Loop Learning in Organizations

A common misconception is that the opposite of single-loop learning involves focusing primarily on people’s feelings and allowing employees to manage themselves. However, the solution for single-loop learning is not about doing the opposite. It’s about adding an extra later of critical analysis—double-loop learning.

With double-loop learning, questioning why the organization is doing what it’s doing is an organizational value. Instead of moving from planning to action to reflection and back to planning, in double-loop learning, people are encouraged to reflect on why they’re doing what they’re doing. This can help the organization take a step back and reconsider what’s best for all stakeholders instead of being stuck acting and reacting.

Ultimately, double-loop learning gives team members the time, space, and systems to ask tough questions and have them addressed in meaningful ways.

Let’s think back to the Challenger disaster. If NASA had created an organization that uses double-loop learning, employees wouldn’t have felt compelled to stay silent, and the employees who did speak up would have influenced the process enough to reconsider the timeline and develop a solution for the O-ring problem.

Single-loop learning is like a train with no breaks. Double-loop learning provides the extra layer of critical thought that allows the organization to stop and pivot when that’s what’s required.

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Think back to Argyris’ thermostat metaphor. Instead of just reacting—turning on and off when it detects a certain temperature—double-loop learning invites the thermostat to reconsider why it’s doing what it’s doing and how it might do it better.

How to Shift to Double Loop Learning

So, how can organizations shift from single to double-loop learning?

1. Stakeholders Must Level With Each Other

The first step to shifting from single to double-loop learning is for all stakeholders to sit down and talk openly about their expectations, values, and goals. These sessions should be led by organizational experts to ensure that old single-loop learning habits of distrust, withholding, and game-playing don’t keep people stuck in single-loop learning.

One of the keys to team members leveling with each other is listening. Focus on creating an environment where everyone can speak up without fear of judgment or punishment.

2. Create Benchmarks for Lasting Growth and Change

Old habits die hard, and single-loop learning is no different. If systems, check-ins, benchmarks, and periodic times to reflect and reset aren’t put into place, old habits of withholding and mistrust will likely creep back in. You can guard against this by making it a norm to measure, assess, and improve how new double-loop learning systems are being implemented over time.

3. Reward Risk-Taking and Critical Feedback

Double-loop learning requires squeaky wheels. You have to create a culture that rewards criticism, risk-taking, and reflecting on the system as a whole and the reasons the organization does what it does. Think big picture stuff.

This is about walking the walk. It’s one thing to tell employees to speak up and give their feedback, it’s another thing entirely to have systems in place that make employees feel safe enough to do so.

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Kimberly Scott’s Radical Candor comes to mind as one way to start shifting to a more open and critical environment. Radical Candor is a system that incentivizes employees and managers to start speaking up about things they used to sweep under the rug. It’s a roadmap and a way to assess and improve open and reflective feedback between all stakeholders.

Double Loop Learning for Individuals

Double-loop learning isn’t only for organizations. You can also apply Argyris’ ideas to your learning.[3]

Here’s how that might look:

1. Level With Yourself and Seek Accountability

Instead of being stuck in a single-loop learning cycle, break out by adding another layer of critical reflection. Why are you learning what you’re learning? Is it important? Is there another way? Think big picture again.

Become clear on what you want to learn and how you’re currently trying to learn it. Then, open yourself up to others to keep yourself accountable. Leave the door open to completely shift major details about your learning goals.

2. Create Benchmarks and Don’t Put Your Head in the Sand

Just as with organizations, individuals also need to create goals and continuously reflect on whether or not they’re moving toward double-loop learning. Schedule times to meet with the people keeping you accountable for your learning plan. Then, ask yourself whether or not your learning goals still make sense.

Ask big picture questions. Are you in the right environment to learn? Is your learning plan working? Do you need to change course altogether or shift your goals entirely? If it’s double-loop learning, you can’t be afraid to ask questions about why you’re doing what you’re doing and change course when the need arises.

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3. Value Risk-Taking and Accept Criticism

You’re also going to need to shift your mindset from simply learning and reflecting to accepting criticism, being critical of yourself as a learner, and taking risks and experiencing discomfort as you ask big questions and make drastic alterations to your learning plan over time.

Instead of concerning yourself with grades and GPAs, double-loop learning would mean you’re allowing yourself time to step back and analyze why you’re learning what you’re learning, if there’s a better way, and even whether or not you should be on that learning trajectory in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Think back to the thermostat example. Doing homework, handing it in, and then receiving a grade is single-loop learning. Thinking about why you’re doing any of that and making appropriate changes that align with your learning goals shifts you into double-loop learning, and that’s a great way to see the bigger picture and get the best results.

Learning and reflection are two of the most important things when it comes to organizational or personal development. This is why double-loop learning is key if you want yourself or your organization to succeed.

More Tips on Effective Learning

Featured photo credit: Cherrydeck via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NPR: Challenger: What Went Wrong
[2] Harvard Business Review: Double Loop Learning in Organizations
[3] Journal of Advanced Learning: The role of reflection in single and double-loop learning

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