speed reading techniques

Master the art of speed reading: Here’s how you can read more in less time

Whether it is for work or personal interest, finding enough time to read a vast amount of information daily is becoming increasingly difficult due to our packed schedules. This is where speed reading techniques can come in handy.
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Picture this. You have to finish writing a comprehensive business report in two days, which requires you to do extensive research within a short period. It means you have to do a lot of reading within the time frame. Asking for a deadline extension is not an option and the clock is ticking. You try your best to finish the report within the allotted time but couldn’t. This leads to stress and frustration, which eventually hampers your productivity.

Whether it is for work or personal interest, finding enough time to read a vast amount of information daily is becoming increasingly difficult due to our packed schedules. The average reading speed in adults has been estimated to be around 300 words per minute (WPM).  You can save a lot more time and gain more information in a short span if you can unlock the potential to enhance your reading speed. This is where speed reading techniques can come in handy.

The idea of speed reading is said to have been invented by American educator Evelyn Wood in the 1950s. She developed techniques to bolster the reading speed of slow readers. According to Britannica, by 1958 she was teaching students at the University of Utah to “read at speeds of several thousand words per minute.” Over the years, speed reading has gained popularity and many speed reading techniques have emerged that can help readers increase their speed.

If you or someone your know wants to increase their reading speed, here are a few ways to read more in less time.

Use pacers

A pacer is a visual guide that can help readers boost their reading speed by forcing their eyes to focus on the text. While reading a book, you can use your fingers or a pen as a pacer. This reading technique can help you maintain focus while making it easier to move quickly from one sentence to the other. This, in turn, helps boost your reading speed. If you are reading a text online, a PDF, or a Word document, you can use the highlight tool as your pacer. Once you develop a habit of using a pacer, you can gradually increase the speed at which you move it. The key is to stay alert and focussed while using a pacer, which will help you read faster.

Minimise subvocalisation

When you began reading at school, you were probably told to read each word aloud to improve your fluency and pronunciation. After that, you may have been instructed to read the words in your head. This is called subvocalisation. Try to minimise subvocalisation to increase your reading speed. While it is not possible to turn off the internal speech while reading, with practice, you can reduce it to just a few words per sentence. Use hacks such as distracting the internal speech by focussing on a different activity, such as humming a tune or training yourself to visualise the text instead of repeating words in your mind.

Improve your concentration

Chatting with others or checking social media feeds while reading can significantly hamper your ability to focus. If you are working from home and have to read and review lengthy reports, find a quiet place where you won’t get distracted by external sounds. Clear your mind before you begin to read a text. If your mind is cluttered with too many thoughts, that would also stifle your ability to read. You may try mindfulness meditation to calm the chaotic mind and regain focus. Once you develop stillness, it becomes easier to concentrate on the text.

Widen your vocabulary

An extensive vocabulary is crucial if you want to increase your reading speed. Be it technical documents or science fiction, try to build familiarity with the jargon or the vocabulary used in the texts. Use dictionaries and thesauruses, either online or offline, to strengthen your vocabulary. You can even use specific dictionaries for different subjects. If you are an entrepreneur, refer to corporate and business dictionaries. Or, if you are a science writer, pick up scientific dictionaries to enhance your knowledge of scientific terminology. Try to learn new words every day, which will help you gain familiarity and augment to read faster than usual.

Use a timer

Time your reading to get a better understanding of your speed. Use a timer on your phone before reading a text to gauge the time you would need to finish it. For example, if you have to read a 50-page report, check how much time you would require to finish it. Once you develop a habit of using a timer, you would get a better understanding of your reading speed. You can determine your current words per minute rate and then gradually increase it by using the timer every time you read.

Scan and preview

Scanning and previewing a text is akin to watching a movie trailer. Just like a trailer gives you an insight into what the film is going to be about, scanning a text will provide you with information about its content and the message it contains. If you are reading a new text, quickly scan the content from start to finish: the index, topics, subtopics, headings, et cetera. That will help you identify the core message of the text and what you, as a reader, should expect from it. When you understand how the text is structured, paying attention to the details contained therein becomes easier. By incorporating this reading technique into your routine, you can gradually enhance your reading speed.

Avoid re-reading

Do you have a habit of reading a sentence over and over again? That undoubtedly slows down your ability to speed-read. Re-reading is an unnecessary and time-consuming process, which acts as an obstacle on your path to becoming a speed reader. Why does re-reading occur? Generally, readers may pause and go through a word or a sentence again for clarity, especially if they harbour doubts about the meaning of some words and phrases. While it’s okay to re-read when you are tackling a new subject, you would want to eliminate this habit eventually to save time. Refer to the aforementioned points, such as broadening your vocabulary or enhancing your concentration, to tackle this issue. Once you have strengthened your comprehension skills, you will gradually get rid of the habit of re-reading, thus paving the way for faster reading skills.

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