Hand pacing = using your index finger to pace yourself while reading
I started using speed reading techniques by learning and applying the hand pacing method, hence, using a pointer to move along the lines to control my focus. This technique is easy to learn and a real motivation booster to keep you going. There are only a few things to consider and you are ready to speed up instantly. All points are outlined after the break.
What Is Hand Pacing?
In his book “How to be a super reader” Ron Cole explains hand pacing as using your index finger or a pen to pace yourself as you read. You can apply this technique by moving your pointer tool under the words you’re reading.
Cole states that his students considered hand pacing as one of the top 3 techniques to boost pace. I agree with this statement and can confirm its value and effectiveness. Based on my own experience and from what people have reported, hand pacing will:
- increase reading speed, comprehension and flow
- avoid the mind wandering off
- save time as focus and concentration have increased
- avoid skipping back in text or reading a sentence again and again.
And, by the way, didn’t we all unconsciously use our fingers when we learned reading at school. We just have forgotten about it or were told not to use fingers for reading.
Why hand pacing works
The simplest answer would be: Detecting motion. Your eyes automatically target moving objects. It works, and you certainly may recall a bunch of experiences.
An example would be sitting at the beach and watching the surfers riding waves. Suddenly, at the far left a bird crosses your vision. You will notice the bird even if your focus is on the surfers. It’s a natural behavior, important to survival, and, yes applicable to fast reading.
This is why a moving pointer will force your eyes to follow and process the words appearing in the focus area. To improve eye tracking at all here’s also a handy exercise.
How to Master Hand Pacing
The ideal state of hand pacing isn’t simply moving a tool underneath a line. Hand pacing is one of the most valuable techniques and will fully evolve once combined with techniques such as word group reading or previewing.
You may rather use various moves and styles to move across the page than underneath a line. Vertical, serpentine or zigzag style. However, this will be a subject for advanced reading patterns. For now, we start implementing hand pacing as a daily reading habit.
Hand Pacing Instructions
- Sit comfortable. Turn the chair 45 degrees. Place your elbow on the table.
- Use your free hand to hold the book or magazine.
- Use either your left or right index finger.
- Place pointer underneath the first word of each line and move along the line.
- Keep moving while reading. Jump back to the next line once its finished.
- Start again, keep moving. Your index finger determines speed and focus area.
- Have a smooth and fluid motion.
- Speed up or slow down to maintain comprehension steady.
- If you miss words or information please keep going. Other techniques will take care of this issue.
Additional Hand Pacing Tips
- Slow down to handle more complex reading levels and material.
- Go as fast when ever you can. Speeding up will also lessen sub-vocalization.
- Let your brain know it has to process the words. Encourage it to work faster.
- If you realize you aren’t using hand pacing, simply start with it. Make it a habit.
- Avoid distractions. This might be reading in bed or in noisy environments
Assignment to practice hand pacing
- Choose any book or magazine article you like.
- Practice hand pacing for the first few pages or the whole article.
- Control speed to keep comprehension. It’s not a speed competition.
- Apply hand pacing for at least one week to get to know its value.
- Try using a computer mouse as pointer tool for online reading.
- Stick a few notes around your home to get a reminder.
- Modification: Try going as fast as you can regardless of comprehension.
Tip. You may apply all these techniques in public. What can you do when you feel watched by other people and you don’t like it? Don’t pressure yourself. Simply hold the book up and hide your finger, move to a less frequented place, or stop for now because the next day you will probably don’t mind anymore.
Further resources: What is the Most Popular Speed Reading Course?