For my entire life, I’ve considered myself a slow reader. In school, I had to put in long hours to keep up with the material we were expected to read. After formal schooling, I became interested in personal development and could never seem to keep up with the new books I was hearing about.
Finally one day I came across an article about speed reading. I’d never put much faith in it since my earliest memories growing up involved infomercials that showed people flipping through pages as fast as they could see them. I never believed I could be taught to read that fast.
The article I read recommended a book called Breakthrough Rapid Reading. I didn’t need much reason to pick up new books at that time, so I happily went on Amazon and ordered a copy. Immediately, I was enthralled with the reasons why people read slowly, all of it seemed to apply to how I was reading and how I could begin speed reading right now.
First, I became aware I was silently reading the words in my head. My guess is you do this too, almost everyone does. As it turns out though, it’s quite possible to see the words on the page and process them in your brain without having to speak them in your head.
Second, I found that when I read I tend to back-skip and read the same material over again. Sometimes I do this consciously and sometimes I learned I do this unconsciously. There’s a term for it called “regressions” and there’s a simple way to avoid doing it I’ll discuss below.
Once I discovered what I was doing wrong, I then learned how to go about fixing it. This turned out to be simple too. Mostly it involves re-reading the same material over and over again.
What this does is teach you how to overcome the first two problems I just mentioned, as well as how to read groups of words together. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out if you avoid back skipping and read multiple words at the same time instead of one-by-one, you’re bound to improve your reading speed.
This all may sound difficult, but believe me it’s much easier than you think. To unveil the curtain of how it’s all possible, let me introduce you to the first step in learning to speed read.
A Drill You Can Try Right Now
I hate to lead with the biggest obstacle in learning to speed read, but if you can get adjusted to this you can easily get used to everything else you need to start reading faster. It involves using the greatest speed reading device ever invented. If you’re fortunate, you may own a pair of them already.
What is it you ask? Your hands!
You see, when you learn the type of speed reading I recommend it’s imperative that you underline the words as you read them. When you are reading “normal” this is why you often back skip on the words you’re reading because you often lose track of where you are on the page. However, by using your finger you can point to exactly where you are at all times, as well as become consciously aware whether or not you are back skipping.
Pretty simple right? Use your hand and finger.
Now, I should warn you that this is going to feel quite awkward at first. If you’re like me, you’re probably going to hate it and give endless excuses why you don’t want to read like this. After all, you’ve went your entire life up to this point reading one way, it’s hard to break life-long habits.
All I can say is fight through those negative feelings. If you want to keep getting the same results you’ve always had, keep doing the same things you’ve always done. But if you want to improve and get better, it almost always involves trying and doing something new.
Practice right now, and as much as you can use your finger to underline the words as you read them. The more you do this, the more natural it will feel. After doing this for a couple years now, it’s so second nature to me it’s hard for me to read anything without using my finger, it feels. . . so. . . slowww!
Once you’ve given that some practice, I’m willing to bet your reading speed will improve from this tip alone. When I first started, within an hour of trying this I tested my reading speed and it went up 30%! I know it will improve your reading speed too.
Taking It Further
While 30% improvement is great, it’s quite possible to double, triple, and quadruple your reading rate. I know because I’ve done it to and believe me I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box.
It does take practice though. Speed reading is a skill, and like all skills the more you practice the better you’ll get.
I’ve read and taken every course on speed reading I can get my hands on. There are a few proven drills that if done consistently can help you achieve enormous results.
Are you speed reading right now? Share your tips with us!
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If you have an iPhone/iPad and would like to take your reading speed further, be sure to check out my speed reading app…
Also, if you have any questions regarding speed reading be sure to post a comment here. I’d love to discuss!
Great article, Ryan! I’ve been wanting to learn speed reading for quite some time and this is just the kick in the pants I needed to get started. Quick question though, I just downloaded your app and was wondering how long I should do drill #1 before I start doing drill #2 and 3?
I would do drill #1 until you get to 400 WPM. Then you can start on Drill #2 until you get up to around 550 WPM before transitioning to Drill #3.
There’s an app for that: ReadTrainer. Easy and fun to do! 🙂
Never heard of ReadTrainer and can’t seem to find it in the iTunes store. However, I’ve also created an iPhone/iPad app called RapidReading which uses the technique I mentioned above, as well as a few other things of course.
I feel like there’s so much material (fiction, non-fiction and training alike) that I desperately want to read and I feel like there’s not enough time in the world to accomplish it. Maybe I’ll make this a 2013 resolution or something.
What do you do to read quickly when it comes to online material? My entire job and much of the material I like to read for training and career development is online, and it obviously doesn’t make sense to use my hands on my laptop screens.
Great question! For online material, what I do is I have installed the Evernote Web Clipper Google Chrome Extension. Then, if I find an article I want to read, all if I have to do is click two buttons then the article is sent to my iPad. From there, I open up the Evernote app on my iPad and I can use the speed reading techniques quite easily from there.
Doing this also allows me to organize quality articles that I came across. For example, in Evernote I have “Productivity”, “Entrepreneur”, etc. folders that contain the best articles I’ve found on the Internet so I can go back and re-read later.
A part of me wonders if this is worth it because the enjoyment of many books is the flow of the language. But then, I have always thought I am a pretty fast reader, but lately I fall under a lot of these issues. I lose focus and backtrack, and just using my finger while reading this post has already proved that suggestion to be true. I also speak most of the words in my head. That one will be far tougher to change though. But I see this as a good method to increase my reading. Especially since I go never read just one book at a time.
Interesting, I’ll have to give this a try, see if I can up the speed of my reading, see if it actually works. As I just read above there’s actually an app for this, have to give this one a shot for sure, always reading on my phone.
Great, let me know how it goes!
Thank you so much man. I am going to apply this from right now.