Want to understand how to read faster and retain more information? Then you are in the right place.
On the one hand, you have books that require your full attention, free time, and perhaps coffee to read.
Classics like East of Eden, Of Mice and Men and War and Peace require you to sit patiently through every word and each sentence unless you lose an inkling of what the author was trying to say.
On the other hand, we have some reading material that requires less of our attention or concentration, and admittedly, the list is longer here.
When you wake up in the morning, the very first thing you do is check your mail, or look at the newspaper.
Do we need to concentrate too much on these two types of reading? Not too? What about grocery lists, Facebook and Twitter posts, movie subtitles or meeting summaries?
Reading material is important, but not so much that you isolate yourself from the outside world to read it.
That’s where the concept of Speed Reading comes in.
How To Read Faster And Retain More Information
Speed reading is, to state the apparent, reading anything at top speed, fully understanding its meaning but shortening the average time taken to an excellent extent.
Modern times have presented more and more new opportunities that require the need for speed reading; as time goes on, more and more research is being done on this topic.
Today, we have a number of methods, courses, trainings, software, and even apps that help to learn speed reading.
The average person reads 200-400 words a minute, more or less depending on their educational background, age, experience and intensity of the text they read.
Other factors are also important, such as whether we are concentrating on other things at the same time, i.e. multi-tasking, and whether there are distractions in the environment, i.e. sounds, noise, other people talking to us, etc.
A person experienced at speed reading can read up to 1000-1200 words per minute – that’s 5/6 times the normal speed – fully understanding what the text is trying to say, and the message it’s conveying.
The Importance of Speed Reading
It is quite possible that you, while reading this text, still have doubts about the importance and necessity of this skill, and lots of questions have arisen in your mind.
Questions like: are these skills really necessary in real life? Or, do we really achieve something by learning to read and understand quickly?
Let me put some pretty simple scenarios before you.
Suppose you are on a rush trip to the supermarket and need to finish shopping as soon as possible.
Instead of wasting your time going through each item on the list, you scan it in seconds to decide which aisle to visit first, and optimize your time by completing shopping aisle by aisle.
How does that sound?
You wake up late on a work day, and have two choices: spend a couple of minutes going through your thousands of mail for important emails arriving and risk more delays, or get out of bed to get ready.
How a few compromise? Scan your e-mail in a minute and get ready to work?
You have a crucial work meeting in a matter of minutes, and you have not had time to prepare yourself for this new client.
Did you confront them knowing nothing about their company, or did you spend a few precious moments on the internet skimming their ideals and basic history so you begin to understand them?
You’re in the last few pages of a really interesting thriller, but you need to get going. You know you cannot rest until you know the ending.
Do you want to be left irritated and dissatisfied because you could not finish it, or do you want to scan the last few pages so you know it is the end?
The real life examples above – and there are numerous more – are the perfect reasons why speed reading is such a crucial and necessary skill, particularly in this fast-paced life. furthermore,
Speed Reading keeps you ready, all the time.
As you adapt in this skill, you’ll find yourself ready to take on any situation that comes your way, be it a surprise exam in class, or a sudden board meeting.
Speed Reading increases Concentration.
Yes, in additional ways than one. When you speedread, you are – for now – putting all your focus on that one task.
This is a good practice when you must focus on other activities during your busy day.
Speed Reading makes you more confident.
Imagine finding yourself in a situation where you barely know the details, like finding yourself face to face with someone and knowing nothing about them?
A little reading about their background, a little googling, and you will find lots to discuss – not just about the weather, but about topics that matter to them.
Taking an impromptu vacation, or going on an office retreat with your colleagues?
Learn all there’s to know about the place you are visiting by skimming through brochures, local history, and guidebooks, and impress your boss with your knowledge, before the rest of your colleagues.
Speed Reading Method
Speed reading is an effective and important skill that requires clear understanding and practice.
There are several important methods and ways to speed up reading any text which we will explain in detail in this section of the text.
This method will help you speed up your reading speed by at least 3 or 4 times, saving you time and setting you up.
Skimming is a process in which the reader visually traverses through the text, searching for only the main ideas of the content rather than reading every word.
Some people do this by reading the first two or three paragraphs of an article, the first few sentences of a paragraph, or a few random sentences at the top, middle, or bottom of the article.
Skimming a text sometimes doesn’t give the reader a clear idea of all that the text has to offer, and only the general idea that’s present in the text.
This is a fine technique to follow rapidly, but can prove wrong if the text in question is written in an unorthodox manner or unexpectedly changes ideas and tone in the middle.
There are several steps of text skimming.
- Have a general understanding of what the text is about.
- If possible, read the first paragraph in detail. This will provide you with an idea of the author’s style and tone of text.
- Read the first few sentences of the rest of the paragraph, shifting your gaze to other parts of the paragraph to catch the important words.
- Read the last paragraph of the text to see if it matches the idea and tone of the rest of the body.
Skimming is nice practice for situations like revising before an exam, or going through a letter you have written to important correspondence.
Scanning is a faster process and helps speed up reading to a greater extent.
In contrast to skimming, when scanning text or content, readers only search for a few specific words or phrases throughout the text.
For example, you read the newspaper with the aim of searching for certain news, particularly tragic events in your environment.
You haven’t got to read all the newspaper articles to find a particular story; instead, all you need to do is scan the page until your neighborhood’s familiar name catches your eye.
To make scanning easier, it is advisable to narrow your search a bit.
As with the example above, when searching for news a few tragic incident in your neighborhood, it may be easier if you look on the right page, i.e. the crime section, or the local news.
Similarly, when you look up the word ‘xylophone’ in a dictionary, you simply look in the ‘X’ section of the book, and nothing else.
Or, when you search for a particular chapter of a book, you see the Index at the start of the book, rather than browsing through the whole book.
Scanning comes naturally to people.
We are continuously scanning texts rather than reading them in our daily lives – billboards, nutritional values on packaged foods, phone directory entries, contact lists on our cell phones, and lots of others.
It is human instinct to scan things to wait for something to catch our eye and attention.
3. Meta Guide
In this method, readers use a pointed device – such as a pen, finger, or pointer – to guide their eyes through the sentences in the text.
This helps the eye move around the text more quickly than normal, and results in fast reading ability.
This technique is a bit like a child learning to read for the first time, in that they also use their fingers to read sentences in a text that are new to them.
When someone moves their finger across a line of text, their eyes – and their reading speed – naturally follow the movement of their finger.
Over time, finger movements become faster, and this also increases reading speed.
Practicing any of these three methods for an hour or so can provide you with the skills to read text quickly – no matter how complex or intense.
Now that you’re knowledgeable about these methods it’s time to start trying them out. Maybe we can start our exercise in the next paragraph?
Speed reading is really a skill based on a number of tricks and concepts that combine together to let you read any text further.
Not all of these tricks work for everybody; conversely, one person only needed one of two people to start with.
When you are trying to find out how to speed up reading some documents, content, and text, we recommend trying each of the tricks described below to see which ones help you the most, or which suit your reading style.
1. Read in Groups
Instead of reading and trying to understand each word individually, try reading it as a group.
Reading a group of words takes less time because it requires less eye movement than looking at and reading each word individually.
In a paragraph, mentally pick three or four words in small groups and read them together, trying to understand their meaning together. For example:
It was the better of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of ignorance, it was the age of belief, it was the age of doubt, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it’s the winter of despair…
In this way, your mind will soon be trained to create groups of comparable words; as in the example above, the mind will know to form groups where some words are repetitive and less significant (i.e. were) and which words are more important for understanding the overall meaning of the text (i.e. other words).
2. Limit eye movement
Instead of moving your eyes across the page in large areas, limit your eyes to the sentence you are currently reading. Also, limit the width of your eyes to cover the edges of the sentence.
Another trick you can try is to draw a thin line right down the middle of the length of the text you are reading with a pencil and stay focused on that point.
Then, as you start reading, move your eyes – just your eyes – from one end of the sentence to the other, keeping your primary gaze fixed.
This will reduce unnecessary head and eye movements, and regulate your eye movements, and in the long run, save time.
3. Stop sub-vocalization
We may not know this, but most of us – when reading – repeat words we see on a page or screen, in our minds. Or, we tend to imagine how the word sounds, or imagine the word being said out loud.
This is a time-consuming habit that just about all of us have but aren’t aware of.
Most of us acquire these habits when we are very young and learn our ABCs, but they persist even when we are adults and are fluent in our language.
What used to be a learning technique became an enormous and time-consuming responsibility in the following years.
So, kick this habit – i.e. stop doing the sub-vowel (1) what we read can save us lots of time, because we won’t waste time trying to imagine how each word sounds.
The words in the text will only hold their meaning for our understanding, and not be heard – which isn’t important when we are in a rush to finish reading something.
4. Avoid re-reading content
Whether it is because we need to refer back to something, or we need to understand a sentence better, we sometimes have an inclination to return to the previous sentence, the previous paragraph, or the previous page.
Needless to say, it is quite time consuming – both the time it takes to find what we are searching for, read it and take a moment to understand it.
This is bad practice in terms of speed reading.
Avoid re-reading any part of the text that you have skipped over, even if it means you do not understand or remember what it means.
Chances are you will get the gist of the text as you go along; however, if it is really important, you are welcome to peek – but only for a moment – to the previous references.
This clever trick can really help you when you are trying to practice your speed reading skills. Give it a try and see which one (or, which) suits you best!
Learn to Speed Read in 1 Hour
And now comes the part where you can in fact sit down and practice speed reading – a step-by-step guide that will help you along the way.
Follow these well-described steps and you can have the hang of it in about an hour or less!
Yes, the environment is certainly very important, because after all we are here to learn. Don’t try to force yourself into a skill when the environment does not support you.
Choose a snug background – well-lit and calm – for your first lesson.
Turn off the tv and any music that may be blaring around; keep away from the crowd and stay alone for now.
Reduce distractions (2); it’s better if you’re in the comfort of your own home than in a crowded place with noise and distractions.
Alert and Alert
It’s not the right time to start learning a skill when you are feeling groggy, dizzy, or rushed.
It’s best to start when you are relaxed, haven’t got anything to do right away, and are at peace – like any other skill.
When you are tired from overwork or feeling restless, do something apart from trying to learn to speed read as this skill requires lots of concentration.
Instead, start on an off day, when you are relaxed, alert after your first dose of caffeine in the morning and don’t have anything to do at this time. That’s when you can give the task at hand your undivided attention.
Choose ingredients carefully
When you first learn something, this isn’t the time to practice with Dante’s Inferno or Anna Karenina. Why do not we start with something lighter – like books from the Harry Potter series, or even light novels?
You can even practice with the day’s newspaper or celebrity magazine if that includes some light reading on your part. Or, you can begin with something you have read to ensure you understand it well.
Don’t get carried away with serious books and encyclopedias on the first try; it might slow down the process altogether.
Understand what you read
When you have an idea of what you are reading, it can serve you better. This will be easier for you when you’re familiar with the book or text you are attempting.
If not, try to get a fast look at the content before you start – is it world news or the economics section of the newspaper? Is it romance you read, or science fiction? Celebrity magazines, or magazines with gardening recipes and tips?
Having a good idea of the content and tone of the book will provide you with a good sense of what is going on when you read it quickly.
Or else, you will read about robots in the distant future in a sci-fi novel and wonder when the romance will begin!
Get to know the contents
Now is the time to truly start the reading process. Open a book – a magazine or newspaper – and quickly browse through its sections.
In the case of a book, search for the name, subtitle, and index. They will provide you with insight into what you can expect from the book, making it easier for you to read it.
Read the important passages
The most significant parts of every chapter in a book are the introduction, conclusion and the title and subtitle (if any) of the chapter.
When you are in a rush or speed reading, it is advisable that you read this section.
The introduction will provide you with an idea of what the chapter is about, and the conclusion will confirm the concept.
Chapter titles – like this one – will provide you with an outline of what each paragraph says.
If you think you have understood what the paragraph is saying just by reading the title, you may be skimming it without in fact reading it.
Go into details if needed
If you are still uncertain whether you are missing a lot by not reading the actual text, you can scan the paragraphs, searching for important words or phrases that catch your attention.
When you know the title, topic and a few key words of the subject, your eye will absolutely catch if there’s something important in the paragraph.
If you do not want to risk the time it takes to read a long paragraph, the perfect thing you can do is read the first two or three sentences of the section.
You will be surprised to learn that almost all of the much-needed information from any text can be found within the first few sentences.
You may get all the information you need by simply reading the start – or end – of every section rather than the whole section.
You can use all the techniques, or one or two, mentioned in the previous chapter for speed reading. Keep trying one after another and you’ll find one that works for you.
Keep going even in Doubt
If you feel that you have lost your understanding of the meaning of context because of the speed at which you read it, don’t stop.
Keep reading at a rather faster pace than you are snug with, and you will slowly get the hang of it. You will feel your brain relax after a while, and you’ll feel snug with the increased reading speed.
Repeat the same process for all the chapters, and shortly you will start reading faster than you thought possible.
Speed reading is all about practice, so do not be disappointed – and positively do not be discouraged – if you do not succeed on your first try.
Go ahead, try and try, and shortly you will be capable to finish somewhat average content – like this length of text, in about an hour. Now, is not that something?
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my article on how to read faster and retain more information. I actually hope that its content has been of good help to you.