How to Read Faster and Retain More from Everything You Read
There is a chance reading is not your favorite thing in the world. And if that is the case, you’re most probably not very good at it. That needs to change.
Reading is not only a great pass time, it is a great way of processing information – as opposed to watching TV, for example.
Statistics tell us people who read more are richer, they are in relatively better health, they have more success in their careers.
If you happened to be able to read faster and get more information from it, will you will be willing to read more often?
This article will give you helpful advice how to teach your brain great techniques in order to go through written text faster and comprehend more from it.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO READ FASTER?
We read for multiple reasons. Some of us read mainly for pleasure, while others read mostly at work.
While you want to take your time when reading your favorite new novel, you certainly want to be more efficient when reading work documents, or anything that is taking your precious time at the office.
When you say the word ‘reading’ you probably imagine yourself standing in front of a book or a sheet of paper, fully concentrated, with all the time in the world. But that is not always the case.
Especially at the workplace.
For example, imagine you at one of those boring presentations, and the presenter of the information is in a hurry. You will only have a little bit of time to read those information heavy slides they are screening in front of you, and at the end you will be expected to be an efficient member of your brainstorming session or discussion.
The more you manage to get out of the presentation, the more creative and full potential your ideas will be.
Learning to read more efficiently will give you a competitive edge over your team members – you will become better at analysis, you’ll will be faster in comprehending new information.
Reading fast improves your memory
Reading is a great brain exercise. Not only do you have two digest the information, you have to retain it and analyze it, and, preferably, remember it.
It is not just a speed exercise.
Research proves exercising your brain regularly is very beneficial – you are not wearing it out – on the contrary. Research tells us that heavy mental exercises can actually preserve your brain from damage caused by disease – for example Alzheimer’s.
Activities such as solving crossword puzzles have been proven to be a healthy way to train your brain muscle. Learning to read fast and constantly challenging yourself is a way to progress in your training.
Improves your focus
When we’re not putting enough strain on our mind we get distracted very often and easily.
We tend to allow ourselves to do that – we watch TV while we read the news, or we listen to music while we work.
We seem to constantly prefer a false sense of comfort over focus. And focus is what guarantees us our efficiency.
Trying to read faster and faster requires that focus. What is more, research shows that focus is the subject of progress. The more often you put yourself in the situation of no distractions, the easier you will achieve a focused mind.
Saves you time
This is one of the more obvious reasons why you want to read faster. And while it is obvious it is a factor, it is underestimated how big of a factor this is.
As reported by Globalnews.ca
‘people now spend one-third of their time at the office – and half of the time they work at home – reading and answering emails. And 30 per cent of that time, the emails are neither urgent nor important. That’s 11.7 hours spent at work and 5.3 hours at home — every week.’
Imagine how much of your time you could save if you could double or even triple your reading speed.
HOW FAST SHOULD YOU BE ABLE TO READ?
Can you really double or triple your reading speed? Well, to answer that question, you first need to know how fast you are reading already.
According to Forbes, this is how fast you are supposed to be reading, counted in words per minute (wpm)
- Third-grade students = 150 words per minute (wpm)
- Eight grade students = 250
- Average college student = 450
- Average “high level exec” = 575
- Average college professor = 675
- Speed readers = 1,500
- World speed reading champion = 4,700
- Average adult: 300 wpm
There are free reading speed tests available online. Before you take any steps towards improving the speed of your reading, you need to know the current speed you’re working with.
HOW TO START READING FASTER
The Tim Ferris experiment
Tim Ferris reports to have always been fascinated by the idea of the amount of time he could save himself if he could read at one third or even one fifth of the time. He believes that increasing the reading speed mainly involves controlling the fine motor movement in particular.
He claims to have discovered a way to improve the reading speed of all participants, in what he calls the PX Project, by more than 30% in less than five minutes. And the further you are involved in the project the more you can increase your reading speed. The PX project is something Tim Ferris has taught to undergraduates at the Princeton University.
According to him, the project is nothing more than a three-hour cognitive experiment with some great results. He claims to have never seen the experiment fail – it has been tested on foreign language speakers and even dyslexics.
The experiment is supposed to teach anyone to read even technical material at more than 3000 words per minute which means 10 pages of text in one minute. To compare, the average reader has the speed of 300 words per minute, or half a page in one minute.
You will need:
- A reading material of more than 200 pages. The material should be able to stay open at all times – do not go for a small-page book that keeps closing all of the time.
- Three hours for the experiment, in increments of 20 minutes of exercise in one session.
- A pen.
- A timer.
You need to know:
- When you’re reading your eyes do not follow the lettering smoothly. Rather, they move in what is called saccadic movements. You are fixating your eyes on a particular part of the sentence you are reading and you are taking a temporary snapshot of the page you’re seeing. If you find that hard to believe you can conduct your own experiment. Close one of your eyes and put your index finger on it. With your other eye open, read several sentences. You will fill the little jerky movements with the finger on your closed eye.
- The average reader constantly rereads text on their material because of a wrong fixation – on text that has already been read. In order to improve your reading speed you must eliminate those regressions.
- Your current focus of reading fixation is most probably circular instead of elliptical. You are fixating on words that are above and below the text you’re reading. If you, instead, try and concentrate your sight horizontally and not vertically you will have a better understanding of the particular line your reading instead of focusing on unnecessary information above and below it. That alone is going to increase your reading speed by 50%.
How the experiment works
The experiment has several stages. You will learn to apply one principle, you exercise for it, you will time the increase of your reading speed, and you will challenge yourself with the new principle.
Start the experiment
- Even though you might already know your reading speed, it is a good idea to doublecheck their reading speed with the particular materials you will be using for your experiment. Count the words from the first five line of your text. Now count the number of lines on the first five pages. If you divided by five now you will have the average number of lines per page. Multiply the amount by the number of words per line and you have yourself a number of words on the first five pages. This will give you a good idea of the number of words. Now read from the text for one minute exactly. Multiplying the lines you have covered by your average words-per-line number and you are ready with your current reading speed.
- You have to use a tracker and a pacer. You probably already used a pen to count the words per line and lines per page. Using a tracker means you have an object that points to you what is your current position in the text you’re reading. That will minimize the amount of times you are going back to text you have already read involuntarily. If you use your pen as a tracker you will probably move it in a smooth pace with your hand under the lines that you’re reading – which means that that can also be your pacer. You will use it to force yourself to be reading at a particular speed.
- Start reading at the minimum speed for one line per second, using your pen as a tracker and a pacer, and at this point do not concern yourself with actually comprehending the text. Just make sure you read it at the minimum speed. Repeat until you have reached your goal for one line per second.
- Continue on the same exercise until you reach the goal of two lines in one second. Read it so for 3 minutes. Focus on the exercise – remember, at this point you are just teaching your brain to adapt to the higher speed. You will work for comprehension later.
- Take a little break from reading to work on your focus. Stare for a minute at the center of the page trying two expand your peripheral vision. Focus on one word in the middle of the line and try to figure out what the rest of the sentence says. When you’re ready check if you’re a correct and switch your focus to another line or another page.
- Now do another session of reading following this technique. Remember to never read slower than one line per second, once again do not concern yourself with comprehension. You’re just teaching your brain to adapt. You are going to comprehend the fast read text later. Using your pen for a tracker, track your text while you are reading it like you did before, but this time while pointing with your pen skip one word at the beginning of the line and then skip one word at the end of the line. Do so for one minute. Then for another minute skip two words at the beginning and two words at the end. Next, for three minutes straight try reading at the same pace skipping three words in the beginning of the line and three words at the end. Don’t worry if you do not understand the text completely. You’re just creating a reflex.
- Now calculate your words per minute reading speed. Try to read for a month fast with comprehension of the text. What were your findings? Did the experiment work for you? If you found there is a significant change in your reading speed, feel free to conduct the experiment again and track your changes.
While the PX project gives you an exercise to train your brain and to teach it to read differently – creating a reflex how you should approach comprehending written information, mindful reading relies on you understanding how reading happens in your brain, so that you’ll can manipulate that process and do it faster.
When you are reading written text you are probably hearing your own voice in your head going through the words on the page. You’re pronouncing them at the same speed if you read out loud. Well, you are not reading out loud. That is actually a very bad habit for people that want to learn to read faster. It is called subvocalizing.
If you keep subvocalizing you will never reach the full potential of your reading mindfully. It is unnecessarily slowing you down. It is distracting you. If you focus on the meaning of the text you will not need to focus on little things like the pronunciation of the words for example. Work towards awareness of your subvocalizing.
There is a trick that can help you achieve this. Try focusing on a word on the page without reading it aloud in your mind. Instead, focus on its meaning. Try a sentence then. Whenever you feel more confidence continue reading that text without hearing it in your head at all.
Preview what you are about to read
Probably it is way more difficult to comprehend a text if you have no idea what it’s about, who is it from and where is it going. Preview the first lines of the entire chapter of that text you’re about to start reading. Focus on the longer words from them. The longer words are usually the more specific words (as opposed to the more generic ones) – they will give you a better information about the jargon in the text – they will have a specific topic.
When you know where the text is going it will be more difficult for you to get caught up in misunderstandings in the text caused by the higher speed of reading. Has it ever happened to you that you missed a little word and then in the entire paragraph stopped making sense for awhile? For example, the difference between ‘we most certainly do not participate in such events’ and ‘we most certainly do participate in such events’.
The preview of the text will eliminate it most of those cases because you know what is coming next.
Be mindful of the purpose of the text
When you are previewing be more conscious of specific words into text, depending on its purpose. If you are reading a technical text, watch out for the jargon. If you are reading a novel, be more mindful of the words signifying feelings. If you are reading an email, watch out for action words and modal verbs – ‘we must go’, ‘please find’, ‘you should not delay’, ‘we would love it but…’
Once again, this is the rule that you should be more conscious of the words that bring you the greatest meaning in that particular text you are reading.
Track your speed and difficulty level
Do not get discouraged if your reading speed goes lower when you increase the difficulty level of the text. Remember there is a huge difference between reading your favorite novel and the reading a physics book.
Do not expect for your progress to go smoothly. You will always experience bumps on the road. You will not always be able to tell the text you’re reading right now is more difficult than the one you did before. Obviously you will have other factors – you could be tired, sick or your attention could be preoccupied by something else.
Track your reading progress
Be constantly mindful of your reading speed. To begin with, make sure you have determined your baseline reading speed when you begin working on improving your pace.
Whenever you read, take a second to think about the speed with which you want to read – if you are reading a large amount of information for your work you might prefer to read for a quality of comprehension and speed. If you’re reading for pleasure you might want to slow down and to cherish the authors work. In both of those cases being aware of the reading speed will help you improve your technique in the future.
Make sure you take a test as your reading pace at least once every two weeks.
Skip the small words when you read
Be careful. When we talk about skipping the small words we do not mean skimming your text. By popular definition, skimming your text means to go over that text so quickly you are really not expected to have any comprehension of what is written, but could just get the general idea. If you skim you might know what the text is about, what is the writing style, what happens at the end. But you will miss a large amount of the information.
While it could be useful in certain circumstances, it is not a form of reading we associate with understanding.
What we mean by saying you should skip the small words is, that you should focus on the words that bring specific meaning and not the words that are too generic and are used to often. Words such as ‘and’, ‘if’, ‘is’, ‘to’, and ‘the’ can be found in any context. They will not be essential for your understanding of the particular text that you need to read.
Read a lot
The moment you have an agenda with your reading, you will start feeling it’s a chore rather than a pleasurable activity. Do not put your reading materials aside, however.
As with anything your training to do, it takes practice. Make sure you give it at least 15 to 20 minutes a day.
Change your attitude towards reading
Reading, you used to think, was just another human ability. Now that you know a lot more about it, act accordingly. Your are now somewhat of an expert. You know how everything works in the brain. Experience the pleasure of your accomplishment. Cherish the power you’ll have now gained. You are a superhero with a very cool ability. Teach others.
Watch this fascinating video about learning faster to gain a new superhero skill:
There you have it. Now you know that reading is nothing more than a process that you can teach yourself and your brain. You are not done learning to read in the first grade. You can continue developing helpful techniques to read with more skill and more mindfulness.
You will read more quickly, more efficiently, and the entire process will be more pleasurable and will give your more information.
You will have a competitive edge against all your co-workers and even your friends. Make it a goal till the end of the year to double your reading speed.
You can do it!
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