Speed reading – How to read as fast as a cheetah can run

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had or wanted to read so many books for work, school or even for yourself to enhance your knowledge, but you did not have enough time?
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to read twice as fast as you do right now? That way, you could read double the number of books in a month as you would do normally. Or you could finish a book in half the time and have more time for other things. Maybe you also happen to catch your thoughts wandering off while you are trying to read something? Do you have trouble focusing while reading? If you know what I am talking about, I have a recommendation for you:

Speed reading.

Speed reading is a technique that enables you to read much faster, while at the same time reading more focused and retaining more information. That way you can read twice the number of books in the same time – or even more. The speed of reading is measured in words per minute. Normal readers read with approximately 200 words per minute. Knowing the technique of speed reading makes you read at least twice as fast. Trained speed readers can read 1.000 words per minute or even more. Once you know the technique it is all about training. But even if you don’t train after you have learned it, reading twice as fast is a great amount of time you could save.

How is it possible to remember more of the content, even though you read faster?

The reason for that is our brain. Everything you read goes into the short-term memory. Without actively maintaining information in the short-term memory, information will remain only a few seconds. The short-term memory sorts the incoming information and throws out everything that seems to be not important. If you read slowly, the short-term-memory starts to throw out information before it has received all relevant information. This means that it cannot assess which information is important and which is not, making it harder to get the big picture. If you can read faster, your short-term memory gets all information and is able to sort the relevant from the non-relevant information. Therefore, you remember more.

Speed reading helps you a lot if you have problems focusing on the text when reading. Maybe you catch your thoughts wandering off while you read.

Why does this happen?

The brain is almost always active and tries to be efficient. The brain can take in information very fast. When someone reads at a normal reading speed of around 200 words per minute, the amount of incoming information is quite low. The brain gets bored and tries to be more efficient by thinking about something else. The solution for this problem is simple: read faster. If you read with 600 words per minute your brain is forced to pay attention to the text in order to be able to understand anything. The result is that you can read more focused without becoming tired.

But how do we read?

The last time we actively practiced reading was in primary school when we learned how to read. We started to read letter per letter, then word per word and finally two or three words at once. Most people read phonologically, which means that you read a word and transform it into a sound from where the meaning is made accessible. This is how we learned to read, but it takes up a lot of time. The brain is capable of lexical reading, which is much more efficient. The brain has stored a type of dictionary with the letter combinations of all the words you know. This makes it possible to see a word and directly understand the meaning – even when the order of the letters is not entirely correct.

 

It deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

 

This works only with words you know. Unknown words are still read phonologically. Lexical reading means also that you don’t need your inner voice to pronounce all the words for you when you read. This makes you slow, because the maximum speed for speaking is lower than for reading. In speed reading we read lexically – only unknown words are read slowly.

Let’s talk about how it is possible to read 1.000 words per minute. It is not about skipping words and reading only half of the text which is a widespread prejudice. With speed reading you learn how to read really fast without skipping anything. Firstly, it is important to use a pen or a finger for reading. Even though it might feel like you are in primary school again, this is a crucial part for speed reading. The pen or finger shows your eyes where to read, which helps a lot when you read that fast. As your eyes follow movement, this is a good way to draw your attention to the text. Besides, using movement means using more than one of our five senses. Above all, movement helps to activate your body and therefore the brain, which leads to better concentration.

Secondly, it is important to read forwards. This may sound obvious, but in fact we are jumping backwards many times while reading. Most of the times we don’t even notice. This jumping backwards can cost us about 30% of our time. It happens when we don’t pay attention to the text. Using a pen or finger helps to read forwards. The third part of the technique is the most important one. When reading, the eyes don’t move smoothly over the lines, but they look at two or three words at once. For reading an average sized pocket book, it means that the eyes fixate 5 to 6 times per line. Hence, it is more a staccato movement. Each fixation takes time, so reducing the amount of them saves a lot of time. The speed-reading technique teaches how to reduce the fixations to two or three fixations per line through expanding the visual field of every fixation to be able to read more words at each fixation.

At this point it is all about developing the physical requirements through training. Speed reading is exhausting for the eyes – especially at the beginning. Your eyes are not used to read that fast and your body is not used to read with a pen or finger. This requires practice. The good news is that after a few hours of training you will already see huge improvements.

So, although you have to invest some time in learning the technique of speed reading, it is worth learning. You can save a lot of time, read more focused and remember more. In addition to that, it is fun to read that fast and you will feel energized while reading. Why not give it a try?