Kim Peek was a savant who could read two pages simultaneously, one with each eye. His information retention rate was an astounding 98%. Scientists are still baffled as to how he could reach this mind-blowing achievement.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you might practice your speed reading, you won’t be able to do what the unique Mr. Peek did. However, you will be able to read faster, read a lot more, and understand even more.
Fast reading techniques involve different principles and methods that help people become speed readers. Many people successfully use speed reading software such as 7 Speed Reading™ (visit website), a software system that promises to help you read at a faster pace and without compromised comprehension.
You can also work on your own to practice speed reading, and the mini guide below is designed to help you get speed reading into context and start practicing right away.
Know what speed reading is. There are varied definitions of speed reading. Some people define speed reading as “skim and scanning through context.” Others mean using a meta-guide to encourage a faster reading pace, and there are still other definitions that include both of these and even more aspects of speed reading.
The underlying truth is that speed reading is an acquired skill that people use to read through written content fast and retain a substantial amount of information once they’re done.
Read at hours that promote speed reading. Speed reading requires more cognitive effort than conventional reading when you first start practicing it. An ideal setting can go a long way in getting you there faster and with less effort. Your environment needs to be reading-friendly: quiet, well-lit, relaxed, and with a comfortable sitting space and no stressful time limits.
Identify and be aware of your speed reading sabotaging habits. Unless you know what reading habits are interfering with your speed reading, you cannot possible know what needs fixing. The most common speed reading sabotaging habits are reading word by word, reading out loud, reading with your mouth, or hearing the words in your head. These are often the reasons why you aren’t reading as fast as you could be.
Focus on your most blatant speed reading weaknesses and work your way up to eliminating the least harmful reading habits. There’s really no right or wrong way of starting to speed read. The main principle is that you practice a lot. Ideally you need to start with the habit that most gets in the way of your speed reading. If your issue is subvocalisation (voicing the words read in your head or mouth) you need to work on that first.
Concentrate on and accelerate your reading pace. If you catch yourself subvocalising you can do two things:
a. Distract yourself by whispering a number sequence (2, 4, 6, 8) or hum a melody while continuing reading.
b. Force your brain to visualize the next word rather than spell it out. You can achieve this just by looking at the next block of words. Look at it, don’t read it. Just let your eyes fall on the words and move on. Your brain will still take in the information and process it, even if you didn’t take the time to consciously read it and wait for your brain to comprehend it as well.
Developing strategies that work for you. There are a lot of guides and even free ebooks on how to speed read. Do explore the different strategies each one offers, but remember that the key is to employ those most suited to your learning style.
Each speed reader is unique, so don’t try to adopt specific methodologies, rather adjust each of them to your learning demands. Often the tricks we come up with ourselves enhance our learning progress more than any scientific method could ever do.
The key to success is following a foolproof set of tips and setting a speed reading goal that’s achievable.
9 Tips to Practice
Then it’s time to practice. A lot. Here are a few more tips to get you on track:
1. Read a lot, especially non-fiction books. With novels, you’ll often want to slow down and immerse yourself in the author’s world, and that’s okay. But when you’re practicing speed reading techniques, virtually anything that’s not literature is a good choice.
2. E-readers are great digital tools to get free ebooks to practice with. Wikipedia and other content rich channels work as well. The most important thing is to read content that pleases you.
3. Always preview your material, because this will give you an idea of what you sections of the text can entirely skip, and help you identify where the important information is. There’s no use in reading everything cover to cover. Read what needs to be read, nothing more.
4. Practice with already read texts, and that will give you an idea of what it feels like to speed read.
5. Minimize the number and frequency of eye fixations per line. Ideally you ought to read with your eyes focused at the middle of the line and still be able to grasp and comprehend the whole sentence. You see, we read in saccades – the goal is to not read word by word but to “jump” between whole blocks of words. By reading groups of words you slash your reading time substantially because you use your peripheral vision to absorb the information around the block of words you’re already reading.
6. Eliminate all bad reading habits like subvocalisation, regression, and restricted eye-fixation.
7. Track and pace your reading. Use your index finger or a pen to encourage a faster reading pace. Tracking and pacing has proven to be the simplest yet most effective way to force yourself to read faster. Just remember that speed doesn’t mean compromised comprehension. When you force your brain to read faster you also push it to expand its cognitive capacities and absorb the information faster.
8. Skim and scanning should be always an option, especially for content that is not full of important details.
9. You don’t always have to speed read. Speed reading requires a lot of cognitive focus and effort. Besides, you might wish to slow down and take in ideas and concepts in a more gradually satisfying manner. It’s okay to read at different speeds depending on the material. In fact, slowing down and relaxing can be good for you, as it will give you time to recuperate and start speed reading once you feel ready again.
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