Learning how to speed read can greatly affect your day to day productivity. Whether you’re reading for business (which you can learn more about in this course), pleasure, or research, saving some time can only ever be a good thing!
Remember, speed reading doesn’t mean shirking comprehension for the sake of rushing. Effective speed reading means absorbing all the information you’re reading, but in a shorter amount of time than usual.
Follow this quick guide to learn the how-to of speed reading, and some tips to improve your skills. If you want a lengthier tutorial, check out this two hour business speed reading course.
#1 – Find out how fast you read now
It’s hard to measure how much faster you’re reading if you don’t know how fast you read now. The first step to learning how to speed read is timing yourself. Grab a stop watch, set a timer on your cell phone, or just check the clock and start reading!
There are two ways you can do this. You can set aside a passage from a book that consists of a set number of words, and see how long it takes you to read that particular amount of words, or you can set your stop watch to one minute and see how many words you can get through in that particular amount of time.
Also remember that numerous factors can affect your reading speed at the beginning, even before you’ve started speed reading practice; particularly, distractions and what type of text you’re reading. This is why you’ll want to time yourself with and without distractions, such as music or television in the background, and test yourself with different types of texts.
Reading a passage from a novel will probably take significantly less time to read than a passage from a scientific research report. Time yourself on both, multiple times, and keep an average of each. (You don’t really need to calculate the exact mathematical average, this is just a chance for you to understand where you are before you begin learning to speed read.)
Let’s say you can read 400 words from fiction novels in a minute and 300 words from academic papers in a minute. Write down these results so you can measure your future progress. Not only is this an important way to track your progress, but it can be a great motivator too!
#2 – Understand what you want from the text before reading it
The first step to proper speed reading is determining what you want to gain from the text you’re about to read. That’s the point of reading after all. Nobody reads a research report for the exact same reason they read a novel – both can be fun, and enjoyable, but you’re ultimately absorbing different types of information, and you need to alter your approach for each.
When you pick up your newspaper in the morning, you’re probably not looking to linger on each and every word as if it were poetry. You just want the general gist of each story, the vital information. This is the whole reason why journalists use an “inverted pyramid” structure when writing articles: because it conveys the most important information first, and the least important information as the article progresses, with lots of filler in the middle. That filler is what gives the story context, or supporting evidence. That filler is what you want to skim, if you’re in a hurry.
When approaching a newspaper article, read with a scanning eye. Read the first paragraph thoroughly, and browse the rest, looking for important keywords and lingering on specific sentences when a certain keyword catches your eye. You’ll get better and better at this the more you practice.
#3 – Don’t read to yourself
For some people, it’s hard to understand how one can read without “reading to themselves.” For others, it’s hard to understand how people can’t.
Everyone is different. Some people have internal monologues in their heads as they go about their day, and others don’t. The same goes for reading. Some of us need to pronounce each and every word in our head as we read – sometimes even mumbling the words aloud – while others are able to just glimpse the word and register its meaning, no internal articulation required.
The last one is what you want to learn how to do. Speed readers don’t say the words to themselves as they read, either aloud or in their head. This inevitably slows them down. Instead, they scan the page and register each word just by looking at it. They don’t linger or take the time to confirm words. They just see words and sentences as a whole, and are able to absorb larger amounts of text in shorter amounts of time.
Again, this is something you’ll only learn through practice. In fact, if you want a head start, you can try re-reading this post using this technique. If you’re having trouble comprehending, slow it down a bit and just keep practicing!
Remember, to get started speed reading, you need to:
- Time yourself before you start
- Understand what you want to gain from a text before reading it
- Seek out only the important parts while you read
Most importantly, pace yourself. You might be looking to speed up your reading, but even then, you need to maintain a pace that you can control. Don’t go too slow of course, but definitely don’t rush. You’ll only get better with practice.
For more speed reading help, check out this speed reading training course.