How do you become an expert in your field? You get knowledge. And one of the best ways to acquire knowledge is through reading.
I believe no other skill increases your earning power, skill acquisition, and fascination with life than reading. There is just so much cool stuff to learn! If I heard myself say that 10 years ago, I’d shoot myself.
You need to get through words fast yet understand them at the same time. There’s little point in reading fast if you cannot recall the key points of what you read. I’m no speed reader, but have discovered several tips to speed-read and boost comprehension.
If you’re an average reader, you read at 250 words per minute (wpm) and loathe reading. Unfortunately, you probably have not learned how to read since leaving school. We are brought up to believe that once we can read a book, our reading is good enough.
By practicing these 11 simple tips to speed-read, you can increase your reading rate to 1000 wpm, improve comprehension, enjoy reading, and savor the wonderful benefits that come with learning.
- Read in your favorite environment. You can’t read well while watching television. I don’t care how good you think you are. When my environment is bad, I tend to re-read after missing a point and read less. The best environment I’ve found is a desk in a quiet room with a high support (like other books) for the book so I don’t have to lean over.
- Read at a consistent point in your day. You’ll form a habit that lets you read more and practice speed reading. I like to read after lunch because it is a mental reset and usually energizes me for tasks ahead (reading inspiring materials at night keeps me awake). I find a habit is more easily formed once you link it to something else like going to the gym once you get home from work or brushing your teeth once you’ve eaten breakfast. You may find it easier to read as soon as you wake up rather than reading at 8:00am. Once you’ve done one thing, it means you do the next thing. No questions.
- Dip into your reason-why. Why are you reading and what will it do for your life? Will it help your earning power? Improve your conversation potential? Or even just have one less thing on your mind? If there’s no compelling reason-why, there’s no point in reading. If you argue there is a point, that’s your reason-why!
- Have a purpose and stick to it. What do you want to get out of the book, journal, or newspaper? Are you studying for a test? Do you want to briefly understand the subject? Are you after some key points to add to your presentation? Once you know your purpose, read to it. Let’s says your purpose is get up-to-date with key stories in the newspaper. You could read the headlines of the first five pages and their first paragraphs. You’d be done in 3 minutes.
- Scan key points. Let’s say you’re about to read a book. Look at the table of contents, chapter headings, captions, and highlighted quotes to gauge the book’s main points and direction. You’re after an understanding of what the book is about and main ideas to look out for. Try this now on a piece of reading material you need to get through then afterwards read it normally. How much did you learn from scanning key points compared to a thorough read? You may surprised you learned 80% in 20% of the time.
- Don’t read every word. With an average-sized book, I go for 3 eye-movements per line. You’ll read more when you do this too because your eyes feel less fatigued from fewer movements.
- Minimize silent speech (subvocalization) where you hear the words read in your mind. I think it’s impossible to eliminate silent speech altogether, but keeping it to a minimum frees your mind to skim faster.
- Use a tracker like your finger, a pen, a bookmarker, or mouse cursor to track your reading location. What you like to use will differ from a friend. A tracker minimizes regression where you go back to see what you missed. A good reading exercise with your favorite tracker is to move it faster than you feel comfortable to force yourself to speed up.
- Be okay with not understanding everything you read. You’ll often understand what you read later on as you discover other words and lessons. Even if you understand something now, does it matter? Does it fulfill your purpose? I hate open loops, missing a fact, and unfinished stories merely because it’s incomplete. This is a constant challenge for me.
- Be 100% absorbed in the material. I know, easier said than done especially for boring stuff. A good environment and knowing your reason-why helps to get absorbed. The best way to “lose yourself in all reading materials” is to be 100% focused on what you’re reading. When you find yourself thinking about anything else, don’t beat yourself up. Just smile at yourself then come back. The next and final tip helps as well.
- Think speed, speed, speed. You’ll be surprised at how fast you read with the 10 tips above once you remind yourself to read faster. Tell yourself to read faster each time you turn a page. A boring book becomes a challenge when you read faster than you feel comfortable.
What’s a speed-read tip you find useful others can try?