We spend a lot of our time with our nose in front of a screen, book, phone or newspaper. By using the fastest way to learn speed reading, you buy tonnes of extra time each day.
Most kids never got any follow-up from teachers in school beyond the initial phase of learning to recognize letters and read a sentence out loud.
As most of us spend a lot of time reading either as students or professionals, it doesn’t make any sense to not do this optimally.
With just a few simple adjustments, we can increase our reading speed drastically. Read on for the fastest way to learn speed reading.
Knowing when to speed read
The first thing you need to come to terms with is that you can’t read all types of materials at the same pace.
A magazine article, or notes on the market, could be skimmed easily. While a heavy law text or a paper describing a new technology may take you much more time and effort.
The second thing you need to understand, is that when you’re speed reading, you’re not reading every single word. Most techniques involve skipping parts of sentences.
Don’t let this stress you out. Your brain is usually able to decipher the remaining information.
Don’t be scared of missing information
Some critique speed reading for making you miss vital parts of information. I would say it’s the opposite.
Reading at a faster pace stops your mind from wandering. I find that I can more easily concentrate on a text if the words I read per minute are closer to the words my brain can manage at that time – not at the pace I can speak or read out loud.
How to do it
1. Don’t read from a screen
You read faster on paper than a screen, so don’t try to process enormous amounts of information while you’re staring at a computer on your desk. According to Wikipedia, you will read 25% slower on a screen.
Avoid reading on screens unless you can use a Kindle. This screen is optimized for reading, and you can adjust it further by setting the width of the paragraph to suit you. I find that I read a lot quicker on a Kindle.
2. Get rid of your inner voice
Most people read at a pace of around 200 words per minute (WPM). This is because 200 WPM is the speed they can read out loud.
This was how our teachers taught us how to read when we were kids. We read out loud in the classroom, and most people kept the internal voice as a habit afterward.
This is by far the biggest factor in slowing down your reading speed. Most of the techniques mentioned in this article are just ways of trying to minimize the chance of your inner voice taking over.
Don’t worry though, your brain will still understand the words if you don’t whisper them to yourself!
3. Use a pencil or finger
That way, you can force your eyes down the page faster. Yes, this is a great technique for forcing your inner voice to give up.
It may seem silly, but it works. Don’t move your finger across the page, only down. You want to be able to force your eyes down the page without stopping and fixating on words.
You are capable of reading much faster than you think you can, but your eyes need something to move after.
4. Don’t go back
Our minds wander, also when we read. Mostly, we don’t even think about this when we do it.
When we do this, we find ourselves going back in the text when we don’t have to. Make yourself comfortable pushing ahead quicker and don’t re-read unless you absolutely have to.
5. Read more than one word at a time
Start by focusing on a few words at a time instead of only one. Then entire sentences or paragraphs.
As long as you’re comfortable with the language, your brain easily recognizes combinations of words, so you don’t need to dwell on every single one.
Our brains are used to recognizing this pattern of words. Use it!
6. Improve your side vision
Train your eyes, so you will be able to see larger amounts of text at once.
If you’re reading on a Kindle, you can also try adjusting the width of the text to better align it with your preferences.
It’s easier to go fast down a page when you don’t have to jump from left to right at the same time. Try to start and stop reading your sentences at the third or fourth word away from the beginning and end of the page.
7. Practice reading too fast
You should practice your reading skills at a much faster pace than you want to read at. This will make it seem much less challenging when you go back to reading slower.
Read with a pencil and force yourself to read at a pace where you don’t even understand the text. Don’t let this make you uncomfortable. It’s for training purposes only.
When you later go on to read a text you wish to understand, your natural reading speed has increased.
8. Reduce background noise
You may believe that you can concentrate better when listening to music, but chances are you can’t. Most people read and understand better if they sit in complete silence.
If you’re in a shared office space and need to wear headphones with music to avoid background noise, try listening to for example classical music. When we listen to music with words, we get more distracted than if we just listen to tones.
9. Skim overall content first
Something I do for large amounts of text is to skim everything first. By doing that, I accept that I won’t understand everything I read the first time around.
However, I note where the essential passages are, and then go back to study them in more depth. I find that this is especially helpful when studying for a test or trying to learn something new.
A lot of the text in books and articles are unnecessary. You want to be able to choose the parts that help you understand the basics first.
10. Stop the daydreaming!
A lot of the time, we spend the hours when we’re supposed to concentrate on a text thinking about other unrelated things.
Not only does this slow us down, it also makes us miss a lot of important content.
Daydreaming isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but don’t do it when you’re supposed to read. Try setting aside some time just to think or meditate, and reserve your reading time for actual reading.