Our mission is to improve our reading speed, retention, and comprehension. In the information age that we currently live in, we have to quickly go through a lot of information and determine if it has value. We must conquer information overload – catch up and then keep up.
Most of us learned how to read at the age of 5 and haven’t updated this skill since while the complexity of the information that we read has changed dramatically.
Unfortunately, there are no classes in school that we teach us the art of learning. We are completely unprepared for information overload that we are facing.
Fiction hardcover books are the easiest to read, which is why we will be testing our reading speed by reading those types of books. The techniques for reading newspapers and technical information is a bit different and we have to consider more factors that affect our reading speed such as not being familiar with the industry or some of the words from the topic of computer science.
In order to calculate the number of words that we are able to read per minute, read for three minutes. Then count the lines of words that you read and divide it by three. Lastly, add a zero to the end because there are on average ten words per line – if your book is smaller, use a different strategy. If you are reading online, you can just paste the amount of text that you read into an online tool such as wordcounter.net or calculate with Windows Word at the bottom of the page.
It is important to determine your current reading speed in order to have a baseline. This will help you know if you have made any progress. The average reading speed is about 200 to 250 words per minute. The reading speed will be affected by a number of factors such as your current mood, focus, a level of energy, background information about that topic, multitasking and hunger.
Our strategies will be considered successful if the people who are using them are reading at least 500 words per minute while understanding the information. This also applies to people who do not read books on a regular basis because they still probably deal with a lot of emails that they need to go through or social media content that takes them hours every single week.
Here are some of the examples of things that you might be able to do when you increase your reading speed:
- read those unread books that are currently on your shelf
- go through all of your emails and determine which of them have value rather than wasting hours or deleting all of them
- keep up with all the new information that is being published in your industry to stay up to date
- go through all the important newspapers and magazines in the morning
The most important benefit of reading quickly in the information age is being able to quickly catch up, keep up and get ahead in any area – health books, business books, relationship books or fiction. The strategies also apply to people who lack focus and get distracted while reading. It is very common that people read a page and forget what they have read when they get to the end.
The beauty of reading high-quality information is that somebody might have devoted 50 years of their life in order to research and master a certain area of expertise. When that expert writes a book, you can read it in one day and get most of that knowledge in a few hours that took him decades. Books are one of the best shortcuts to success in almost any area because you can quickly learn anything. I would personally say that the best way to learn something is to find a mentor that has already done what you are trying to do and then do everything that they say. Unfortunately, some people have already died and we can’t have them as mentors. Their books and research papers are the next best thing that can help us.
People are usually paid based on what they know and most of them only read one or two books per year. CEO’s read a lot more than that – quite a few of them read a book every week!
It only makes sense to master both
- reading speed and
- reading comprehension
One without the other will not do us a lot of good. There is certainly value in being able to scan or skim through the material rather than reading it fully such as certain emails but that is not what this article is about. We are here to read faster while remembering more information.
“I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.” – Woody Allen
Most common obstacles to effective reading
- Lack of education – nobody is born a quick reader; it is a skill that everyone can learn. Most people use the same strategies that they did when they were ten years old
- Distractions – internal distractions with thoughts and external. Increasing reading speed improves comprehension and focus because distractions occur when your mind is bored. The human brain is a supercomputer and we are feeding it information extremely slowly when we normally read. If we fail to stimulate our brain by reading, it seeks entertainment elsewhere by distracting us. Driving slowly through your neighborhood requires a lot less attention and focus than driving a racecar on the unknown street. Keep your mind challenged in order to get maximum focus.
- Subvocalization – our inner-voice reads along with us by saying every single word. If we subvocalize what we read, then we cannot read faster than we talk. If we would be able to get rid of this obstacle, our reading speed would be only limited to thinking speed. Words that we have seen thousands of times are called sight words and we know what they are just by seeing them rather than having to read them. Pronunciation is not required. Fast readers at the very least do not pronounce filler words – the, and, in, an…
- Regression must be eliminated. Many readers forget what they read and have to go back in order to read it again. This dramatically reduces overall reading speed.
- All behavior is belief driven – beliefs can help you or destroy your reading speed and comprehension. High standards create an exceptional environment and results while most people unconsciously set mediocre beliefs, which produce mediocre results (200 words per minute with average focus and regression).
Factors of fast reading
- Location – where do I read?
- The location will not always be optimal – library, bus, college classroom… but I must create an optimal learning environment at home or at the office where my only focus is learning.
- This should not be the bedroom or wherever I am relaxing (watching TV, eating)
- Must be a dedicated place that trains my nervous system to put me in the learning state each time I enter that environment – the environment becomes associated with that state of mind similar to the way athletes associate the gym with working out. All learning is state dependent.
- Warm temperature slows down our learning – keep the room cool
- Indirect sunlight, pick the best light that works for you but for most people, getting lights that closely match sunlight work best.
- Minimize distractions and interruptions
- Positive anchors that put you in a positive state – family pictures, famous quotes
- Body language – what do I do? How do I use my body?
- Sit up straight with a straight back and feet on the ground
- The brain uses 30% of the entire oxygen – posture is important because leaning forward collapses lungs. Breathe deep using a diaphragm.
- Drink a lot of water
- The way you hold the book – avoid having it flat while leaning forward.
- Motivation/attitude – why am I reading this?
- Nature music will bring us into the alpha state – relaxed awareness
- Children learn fast because they are curious – positive state where you know you will learn something fascinating
- Learn helplessness – if you say you are bad remembering names, you will be. Be careful what you say because you are programming yourself with words. Have a positive expectancy that you will read quickly and learn a lot!
- Process – how do I do it?
- By using a visual pacer, you can increase your reading speed by 25%. The visual pacer is most commonly your index finger or a pen. It can also be a computer mouse. It increases focus.
- Get your eyes checked to make sure they are healthy.
- The left part of the brain:
- The right part of the brain:
- Reading is mostly the left-brain process but it is a shame that most people only use the left side of their brains when they read.
- The top readers use the right side of the brain – they are imagining and experiencing the words that they read. No movie can do what you can do with your own imagination. Use your LEFT hand as the visual pacer because it connects with the right side of the brain. Make it a practice to use your opposite hand for common activities to stimulate the brain (brush teeth or eat a meal).
- This might be uncomfortable at first but it is important to practice it the right way (just like typing with 10 fingers is much faster than typing with 2 fingers even if you can only type with 2 fingers right now)
- Practice – when, how long, and how often do I do it?
- Start with just 20 minutes per day by using all of the above techniques
- Develop a habit by doing it every day for 21 days without skipping a day
- Practice during your best times – when you have the most energy, however, it is important to schedule it daily
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
Condition your mind to take in more information than it is used to with the 4-3-2-1 exercise. It is difficult to practice for speed and comprehension at the same time. This exercise is intended for practicing speed. Before every practice, check all the elements above (posture, breathing, book position, etc.).
- Read for four minutes using your finger.
- Instead of reading what you read before in four minutes, now do it in three while compromising comprehension. Remember to be in a relaxed alpha state because all learning is state dependent. Have childlike curiosity and positive expectancy.
- Read the same text in only two minutes.
- Lastly, read the entire text in only one minute.
Take notes on what you have read. Only answer with keywords:
In order to increase comprehension, you MUST ASK MORE QUESTIONS. More curiosity and interest leads to more learning because the mind is looking for specific answers rather than mindlessly reading. No questions, no answers! Questions act like a magnet when it comes to information.
Increase comprehension by:
- Reading – practice makes perfect
- Recording – take notes
- Relating – talk about what you read
Technical reading will always be slower than fiction reading.
Reading is primarily a VISUAL process that is vital for keeping your eyes healthy. Eyes are just like camera lenses. Check them regularly and do palming (rubbing hands together to make them warm and putting palms on your eyes. Rest your eyes by looking into the distance and by rolling them instead of having them focused just on the book or monitor.
Rather than seeing just letters or individual words, merge them together into groups of words and ideas.
Use left hand to read and right hand to turn pages. Double your reading speed by reading one line normally and the other line backwards (like a computer printer prints). The brain can decode words in any orientation.
Warren Buffett reads five newspapers every single day. Nobody reads the entire newspaper, which is why we need to do two things:
- Understand the organization of the newspaper
- Quality the information – only read based on interest
A part of being a quick learner is to quickly filter out the information that you actually want to read and learn about.
Three basic components of any newspaper are:
- The headline includes the most newsworthy info (who, what, where, why, and how)
- The lead – first paragraph that gives you the summary (important details)
- Structure of the article (other general information and background information) – skim through the rest of the article where you can increase speed of reading
Magazines are very similar:
- First, read the title
- Pictures, charts, captions, and diagrams
- Read large text and move along to the smaller text
Quick reading is active reading. You need to get involved.
Reading for power:
- Power of purpose
- Why am I reading this?
- What is in it for me?
- What is my outcome?
- I cannot hit a target that I cannot see.
- What are my reasons? They will come before my results come.
- What benefits will I receive?
- How can this benefit others?
- If I used this, how will it make me feel?
- Power of organization
- How is this information organized?
- How can I organize it better?
- How is all this information related to each other?
- How does this relate to what I already know?
- How can I sort this material out?
- What is the easiest way for me to organize this?
- Power of questions
- What do I already know about this?
- What information is important?
- What are the main ideas?
- How does this work?
- Who are the main characters?
- When does this take place?
- Where does this take place?
- Is this information correct?
- Power of anticipation
- What is coming next?
- Where is the author going with this?
- What is going to happen?
- How can I use this?
- How will I use this?
- If I had to teach this to someone, how would I do it?
- What will this mean in the future (tomorrow, next year, and in a hundred years)?
We all have a learning curve and a forgetting curve. We lose about 80% of information in the first 48 hours of learning but if we review that information each day, it goes to our long-term memory.
In order to learn the technical material, you have to:
- Create a map – connect the ideas, make connections
- Reading is a left brain process, use the right brain by using pictures or the right brain will seek entertainment elsewhere
- Vocabulary words – pull out the words that you do not know yet. By writing down these words, you are creating open loops or questions that you want to answer because you want to learn what those words mean and how they are connected to the overall document.
- Read questions first, before you start reading the material!
- Organize – go through the table of contents and write down the chapters
- Review – rehearse everything multiple times
- Skim through the material and then go back to see if you can build on the map just by skimming the material
- Read it