Do you read as much as you’d like, or as many as you’d like of the books you’re interested in? Have you ever ploughed through a book purely because you felt you should finish it, rather than because you were enjoying it?
Try this short exercise – it will profoundly affect the way you look at your reading choices.
- How many books do you read on average a month?
- Multiply that figure by 12.
- How many years of life would you like to think you have left?
- Multiply the number of years by the number of books you can read in a year.
- That figure is the likely number of books you’ll read in the rest of your life, unless you learn to read faster.
How do you feel about that last sentence? And faced with that knowledge, are you happy with the selections you’re currently making? The time spent on today’s reading prevents you reading something else. Life is one of choice – make sure your choices take you in the direction you wish to go. The readers in a community are the leaders of the community.
My biggest recommendation to increase your reading rate is to attend a rapid reading course (sometimes called speed reading). You’ll probably have access to some in your community but the single most important element is your on-going practice.
If you want to try a few techniques on your own here are a few key pointers, but please don’t consider this the definitive instruction on how to speed-read. It’s only to whet your appetite. You really need to attend a course to be pushed to significantly higher levels of competency, because only an external person can push you past the comfort zone of your eyes, your brain, and your current beliefs about your abilities.
Some rapid-reading keys:
- Read with purpose. Don’t read things you won’t remember, and don’t waste time reading things that won’t further you in any way. For example, if you’re going to China, or have a keen interest in the area, an article about Chinese travel will be of relevance. However, many people read mindlessly, ploughing through whatever’s under their nose – just because it’s there!
- Review the way you’ll use this particular information, before you start. Start with the end in mind.
- Have an expectation of success. See yourself reading at great speed. Fill your mind with a positive expectation of great deeds. Feel and imagine the power of the rapid flow of information into your mind. And hear the rapid flow of words just pouring into your brain.
- Affirmations. What is your language and conversation about your reading ability? Do an audit on your words. If you find yourself saying, ‘I’m hopeless, slow, or can’t do it’ – guess what – you’ll be right. Instead, use positive present tense statements such as ‘I love reading’, ‘I’m becoming a really fast reader’, ‘Reading at speed is very easy for me’, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly it comes true.
- Sit upright and hold the book at a comfortable position.
- Have good overhead light, fresh air, plenty of water, and a comfortable temperature.
- Read from the back of your head (your visual cortex) through your eyes, not from your eyes. You’ll have a broader vision.
- Preview and review the book by flicking quickly through contents, index, information at the front and back.
- Use a visual guide, usually your finger, or sometimes two fingers, depending on the size of the column of print.This is where the training by an instructor is really useful (they won’t let you get away with bad habits, and they push you beyond your comfort level). Most of us as little children started to read by using our finger to guide our eyes, as we sounded and said the words. Then we graduated to silent reading. The teacher told us to take our finger away but we continued to ‘say’ the words, inside our head. Speech is many times slower than sight, and yet many people roll into adulthood still silently speaking the words they read. No wonder they struggle. Their brain is bored, the information is therefore hard to retain, and they find themselves labouring over the work.
One of the key elements of rapid reading is to use our finger at a very fast rate, running it down the page. We don’t need to read every word in order to comprehend and retain the information. All we need is chunks of text, and the sense is gathered at lightening speed.
- Speed training. Go as fast as your hand can turn the pages, and don’t worry that there seems to be virtually no comprehension at this stage. The key is to stretch the eye’s capacity to absorb, and to stretch your mind’s belief that it can be done. Two hands are needed. With one hand run your index finger down the page as fast as you can. At first you’ll notice an occasional word or phrase will jump out at you, but not much else. That’s fine – comprehension is not the objective at this stage. With the other hand, turn the pages as fast as you can go.
- Set yourself a daily target – it might be to race through a thick book that you’re interested to read. It might be to practice for a specified amount of time.
- Practice, practice, practice. Magazines and newspapers are great to practice on. The columns are thin, which helps you go even faster.
- Comprehension. You may think you’re not absorbing much, but try this test. Select a book you want to read. Each time you pick it up to read in your old style, first do the rapid run described above. You’ll notice when you come to read in your slow way that in fact you already know, and can remember having seen, most of the key concepts. We call this a conscious convincer. Your subconscious needs reassurance that nothing is being lost, and that you have absorbed the information you need.
- Coupled with the rapid ‘preview’, if you do wish to read slower, do it with a highlighter in your hand. Your retention of the material will be greatly enhanced, for you will have visited the information several times.
You may still wish to read at a slower speed for enjoyment, or because you need to really absorb every word of an author for study purposes, but if every day you practice this technique, suddenly you’ll find you really are reading and absorbing at a much faster rate.