There are few skills more useful for a man than the ability to assimilate information at a quick pace, and that's exactly what speed reading allows you to do. While the average person reads in a range of 150 - 250 words per minute, speed readers can rip through material at over 1000 words per minute and sometimes even faster.
This ability to gather knowledge comes with a whole world of new possibilities. Imagine if you could read 4x as fast as you normally do. You could take up new hobbies, improve efficiency at your job and explore subjects that you otherwise wouldn't have time for. Basically, you'd be kicking ass in a whole new sort of way. So why aren't more of us learning how to speed to read?
The sad truth is though that most guys resign themselves to the idea that how fast they read is simply a matter of cognitive intelligence, that speed reading is something you either you can do or you can't. And that my friends, is utterly false.
Being able to read fast is all about training your mind to use habits that will affect the way you process the information you're attempting to read. It is not a gift, but rather a discipline that is developed over time. Of course first you have to get past the bad habits that you probably already have when it comes to reading and that can be a chore in of itself.
Three Things That Prevent Speed Reading
In reality there are a number of habits you need to purge from your brain in order to become an adept speed reader. They are not insurmountable but they are ingrained in most of us from a young age and careful practice is needed to help reverse the effects. Here's three of the biggest challenges that most people face.
Fixation is the notion that our eyes "fix" on an image and transmit that image to the brain, after which reading actually occurs. Many people literally read word by word, as if each collection of letters were just as important as the next (which they are not). By fixating on reading bit by bit we both slow ourselves down and can strain our eyes as our vision darts from word to word across the page. Learning how to rid yourself of this tunnel vision is one of the first main steps to speed reading.
Ever find yourself constantly jumping back a few lines every five seconds to verify the words and ideas that they have just glossed over. It's sort of like fixation, only in reverse. And with each back check you cost yourself time, strain your eyes and waste effort. They have a term for this. It's called regression and it's the plague of slow reading people all over the world.
3. Auditory Reassurance
We've all been taught from childhood to sound out words and this training stays with us as we grow older. Most of the time, even when we don't realize it, as we read we're actually sounding out the words that we see. Even if we don't physically say the words there is usually an "inner voice" that Generally most people are able to speak (coherently) at a maximum of around 200 words per minute. It's interesting to note that limit falls almost directly in line with the average reading speed of most adults. Becoming a speed reader is all about reading at the speed of thought and not at the speed of speech.
Ok, so we've identified some of the primary factors that hinder us from being faster readers but what can we do about it? The truth is, quite a lot.
One of the first simple steps we can take is to use a pointer. On a computer screen this would mean your mouse icon while in the physical world you could use the back end of pencil or just your plain finger. Use the pointer to trace the path of the words as you read. Because your eyes will naturally be attracted to the motion of the pointer you'll flow through the text with greater speed and continuity. You'll also be far less likely to regress or fixate on any particular passage.
Another easy step you can take for quicker reading to make sure you always skim ahead when reading any type of textbook or technical material (like a research paper). Look for headings or bolded points that clue you in to what the general idea is of the material you're about read. Understanding where the author is headed and what the framework of the argument is will help you fill in the gaps as you read so you won't have to constantly go back to reassure yourself. It's a great way to battle regression and increase retention.
Lastly, it's extremely important to utilize your peripheral vision while learning to speed read. Most of us read line by line, starting at the first word and ending at the last first. What we fail to understand is that our peripheral vision can be used to take in information just outside of our primary focus. Next time you read, try indenting your vision at few words in each time you read each line. You could even practice reading each line by starting at the second or third word then finishing two or three words before the next line begins. For example:
Try it. It works!
Being a speed reader isn't some gift from heaven that you either have or you don't. It's a skill that takes hard work to achieve. Obviously the techniques I've mentioned are not the end all be all of speed reading but they are a nice primer and with enough practice even just using the simple steps outlined above will greatly increase the rate at which you read and retain texts. Hopefully you've also gained the insight that speed reading has far less to do with intelligence level as it does with training the brain to use the habits you want it to use.
If you're interested in further information on speed reading check this tutorial from fourhourworkweek.com.