I was chatting with a client the other day about all the books on her nightstand. She has the best of intentions of getting to those books but never seems to have the time.
When I asked her what stops her from beginning to tackle the stack, she said she feels like she doesn’t have enough time, so she waits to be on holidays. Then she said: “If I could read as fast as you, I would read for pleasure, too.”
This got me thinking about what it takes to increase your reading speed. Wouldn’t you love to dramatically increase the speed at which you read and comprehend?
Imagine how many more books you could get through or how much time you could save!
Speed reading isn’t some magical process. Instead, it’s largely good habits coupled with effort. Nearly everyone can increase their reading speed to over 1,000 words per minute when reading content of average difficulty.
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If you want to learn to read faster, you’re in the right place. But before you get started, you should measure your current reading speed. You can only assess your improvement if you know where you started.
Grab a book that’s of average difficulty for you, set a timer for five minutes and read. When the timer goes off, count the number of words you read and divide by five. That’s how many words per minute you read.
Techniques for speed reading
Cultivate chunking: Chunking is the idea of reading more than one word at a time. Slower readers tend to read one word at a time, while fast readers can read five or more words per glance. So someone reading five-plus words per glance is only looking at two or three spots per line of text. Obviously, this is much faster than reading a single word, moving your eyes, reading another word, moving your eyes and so on.
How do you get better at chunking? Start with two words at once, then move to three words and continue in this manner. This technique is more of a habit than anything else. With a little practice, you’ll be reading several words at a glance.
Avoid sub-vocalization: This occurs when you say to yourself the word that you’re reading. It can be silent (in your head), or you may actually move your lips as if you’re saying the word very quietly. This is very slow and interferes with speed-reading; the average person can process words in their mind much more quickly than they can speak.
Keep an eye on yourself: Slower readers tend to have undisciplined eye movements. They’re all over the page: they backtrack and reread words and tend to lose their spot. This is simply bad habits and poor concentration. Good reading speed requires intent and focus. Force yourself to concentrate and keep moving forward.
Set your intention: One of the best ways to learn to speed read is to simply read faster. Even though at first you’ll be reading slightly beyond your ability to comprehend the material, pushing yourself trains your eyes and brain to work at a higher rate.
If you’re pushing yourself to 1,000 words per minute regularly, when you fall back to 800 words a minute, you’ll feel like reading is a piece of cake! Just keep pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.
Regularly measure yourself: Once a week, measure yourself to see where you stand. Keep in mind that some books are tougher to read than others. Be sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
Speed reading is really just a collection of good reading habits, intention and concentration. Anyone can dramatically improve the rate at which they read. Start practising today, and you’ll read faster in no time.
Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. For interview requests, click here.
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