How to read faster

An average person in a western world reads about four books per year. Counting in bookworms, this increase to about twelve. One book per month. Not that much really, considering how much time we spend watching TV or browsing through our iPhones.

Reading is good for you. A recent article published by the Insider [14 reasons why reading is good for you] showed that reading strengthens your brain, is great development for both children and students, keeps you healthy and that it actually helps you in real life. For example, reading books and articles related to your job can help you improve your performance and gain a competitive edge over your peers.

This is all great said and done but how do you actually get to read more. Reading takes time and unfortunately time is what we all lack the most.

Good news is - with a few simple tips and tricks anyone increase their reading speed. All you need is a book and a dose of patience.

Here are tested and proven techniques that I have successfully adopted in the past months

  1. Stop Subvocalizing
  2. Focus and be Intentional
  3. Fixation - pacer and tracker
  4. Peripherial Vision
  5. Read More

Stop Subvocalizing

I do that. My friends do that. My colleagues do that. We all have our inner voice when reading. Our inner monologue.

This is rooted very deeply in our habits. It goes back to the days of our childhood. Early on when we were learning how to read we went from reading out loud to "reading in our heads". This helped our understanding and became our norm. The problem is - it slows you down. As you are "reading in your head" the speed of reading is limited to your speed of "talking". Once you can break away from that habit  you will notice an immediate improvement.

If you are finding it difficult, try a simple experiment. Next time when you are driving and you come to a STOP sign, do you actually read that text in your head? Most likely not. You notice it and immediately recognise the word STOP. The same logic applies to reading books. Only difference is you do it on a much larger scale.

Try and if you don't manage on the first attempt don't give up. Keep trying until you get better and notice how your reading speed improves.

Focus and be Intentional

This is a very simple solution but it goes a long way. When reading focus on what you are reading and do not think about anything else. Turn off your phone, close the door or put on a noise cancelling headphones.

One of the most common enemies of speed reading is when you have to stop and go back. Re-reading sentences and words that you have just read, slows you down by about 50%. So stop daydreaming and start reading.

Fixation - use pacer and tracker

This is a little childish but has great power. Use your finger or a bookmark to track your reading. This helps focus your eyes and avoids distractions.

Added benefit of a finger is that it will help you control your speed. Move faster if you want to push yourself. Slow down if the text is complex and convoluted. On top of that you always have your fingers around so it is an easy tool to take advantage of.

Peripheral Vision

We all have it but we rarely use it. Take a look at the centre of the screen and see if you can still see things to the right. Of course you can. To the left. Sure. The same goes for reading.

We can try a simple example. First, read the sentence below word by word. Then drop "A wonderful" and start with "fact". Finish on "every" and ignore "other".

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.

You still see the first and the last words. You just don't "read" them. That is the greatness of the peripheral vision. Tim Ferriss recommends that if you are reading printed books, draw two vertical lines to cut off the margins. You begin about two words in from the first word and finish about two words in from the last word of each line. Use a pacer and read a page not concerning yourself with comprehension at first. Find your optimum, balancing speed and understanding. This technique is proven to improve your reading speed almost instantaneously.

Read More

The good, old saying "practice makes perfect" is pretty darn accurate.

When you look at a child who is learning a new technique, what you'll notice is incredible resilience to failure. They rarely get anything perfect the first time. However they keep trying until they succeed and they always do. The same goes for improving your reading speed. Keep trying and you will get there. It is only a matter of attempts.

Until next time

M | K