How I Learned To Speed Read (& How You Can Too)
If you’re anything like me you like to buy books. But the issue many people face is we buy too many books to keep up with…
I used to have a pile of books I needed to read, but I’d still be impulsed to buy another.
I mostly read self help and business books, focusing my attention on anything that improves me. I could never really get into Fiction and Non Fiction books, but maybe later on in life I will.
The thing with self help books is they typically have one message they’re trying to get across, but pad out the book with content. I learn from the stories they tell, the personal experiences and the over factors behind the one message but all in all we normally only take away a few key points from the books.
Think about it…
If you ever have a conversation with someone and then you’re asked to recite ‘what you spoke about’ do you remember every single word and topic you covered? You typically tell them a few key points, the key takeaways from the conversation.
It’s the same with books, when you’re asked ‘what the book is about’ you typically only remember the key points.
With my pile ever increasing, I needed to do something about it… I need to increase my reading speed.
How To Speed Read
Speed reading is easier than you think, and I’m going to show you a few strategies you can do to instantly improve your reading speed. It worked for me and it will work for you.
Once you learn to speed read, it’s a skill you’ll get excited over having and you’ll want to dive into more material. That’s how I felt anyway.
The main issue with the way we currently read is we read at the pace we think. We say the words in our head or often aloud and with this being the case we can only go as fast as we can think.
Speed reading is also known as ‘skim reading’ and it’s a skill that’s easy to develop.
Imagine this for a second… Lets say it took you 8 days to read a book, maybe you spent 30 minutes reading every day while you commute to work. If you could double that speed and you stuck with the 30 minutes a day, you’d complete a book in 4 days…
You could read 2 books in the time you read one!
Doubling your reading speed can be achieved, and I’ve also seen people increase their reading speed by more than double…
1. Calculate Your Average WPM.
How many words do you currently read in a minute?
You can track this manually, by working out the average lines per page and the average words per line. Once you have your figure, read for a minute and you’ll be able to calculate roughly how many words you’ve read in a minute.
You can also use online software such as this one. It will give a reading test where it simply calculates your WPM.
Last but not least just go off instinct… you know when you’re reading faster and when you’re not.
Often it isn’t about speed as much, it’s about getting the balance between increasing speed but still digesting the information you’re reading. I could increase my average WPM tenfold but it might not mean my accuracy of digesting the information would increase too…
2. Use A Marker (Your Finger)
The first strategy to improve your reading speed is to simply use a marker, or more commonly your finger. I tend to use my left index finger.
Using your finger to read is what we did as children, but as time goes on we remove the habit. Using your finger will not only improve your concentration to digest the information better but it will also increase your reading speed.
Try it… read again for a minute and compare the results. Are you quicker using your finger than you are reading without?
This technique alone will improve your accuracy to stay concentrated to the words you’re reading. Without using a marker it’s very common to drift off, get distracted and then realise you’ve read 5 pages and can’t remember any of it.
Use your finger or a marker and follow along the words as you read them.
3. Imaginary Margins
For this technique we can tap into our peripheral vision.
Imagine there’s two margins running down either side of the page, removing the first word of each line and the last. This time using your finger I want you to read but miss out anything outside of the margins (the first and last word of each line).
Try that again and see how it improves your WPM and also make sure it doesn’t affect your accuracy to digest the information.
Now once you’ve got used to that, to continue increasing the speed increase the margins. You might want to miss the first and last two words of each line, then move to 3, 4…
Your finger will be moving vigorously down the middle of the page digesting the information you read. Your peripheral vision will allow you to still ‘notice’ and take in the words you’re not actually ‘reading’.
Play around with this, the more you increase the margins the more your accuracy to digest the information may increase. Find a sweet spot and stick with it.
After applying the above it’s all about practice.
Physical books I find easier to speed read with, but you might want to practice on the Kindle if you use it often.
Practice, practice, practice. Concentration is key so try to focus.
5. Other Strategies
I want to end this post with a few more ways I found handy to digest more information quickly.
First is audiobooks which I find much more efficient to reading. I can put on an audiobook whilst I train, commute, do daily tasks and walk. Audible is one I recommend and they have a nice feature of speeding up the audio. A 14 hour audiobook can be sped up to 2x, meaning you’d finish it in 7 hours…
Again with speeding up audio, we still digest a lot of the information even if it’s listened to faster than we think. We don’t need to hear every word pronounced properly.
Depending on who’s reading the book I tend to vary between 1.5x speed and 2x speed.
The other thing that’s helped me is to choose certain chapters of books to read. As mentioned, often books are made up of stories, personal experiences and content to pad out the message they’re trying to portray. If I’ve got 4 books in my pile, I’ll pick them all up and decide what chapters stand out to me. I’ll use the speed reading techniques I’ve shared with you and go through them, often making and applying sticky notes to pages in the process. Then when I’m finished, I’ll pick up the second book and repeat. The books go away until I think there may be a chapter in there I needed to read…
Other methods are to use an App called ‘Spreed’ which will speed read your online content for you.
To Sum Up
Hopefully this helped, if it did let me know below. Also let me know your reading speed if you have it 🙂
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