Speed Reading: Because Effectiveness Is Everything

Speed reading uses comprehension techniques to increase your reading pace. This is a clever way to make the most of your time, since many of us entrepreneurs never have enough of that in a day! The key is to read fast enough to enjoy a reduction in time commitment while still absorbing the information. 

As a systematic scientist, I can see how speed reading tricks the brain into putting together information using fewer resources, ie., fewer words. These techniques are especially handy when you are reading business resources or textbooks. A balanced goal to aim for in speed reading is a score of 200-400 words per minute (WPM). This rate allows for comprehension of the subject matter while still allowing you to move along briskly.

Here are a few speed reading techniques that you can put into practice:

  1. Read the most important points first. The table of contents, any reviews of key information or chapter summaries should be read first. By reading these right away, your brain will have already been exposed to the subject matter, and as you are reading through the book you will be able to pull out related key concepts. This aids in speedy comprehension.
  2. Read the first and last sentence of each paragraph. These two sentences hold the core concepts of a paragraph. After reading the first and last sentence, glance over the body of the paragraph. This gives you a general notion of what the paragraph is about. 
  3. Guide your eyes with your finger or pen. Help prevent visual regression, the unconscious re-reading of sentences, by dragging your finger or a pen underneath the words as you read. This forces your eyes to follow along. You will read the words directly above your finger/pen rather than unconsciously retracing back over the sentence.
  4. Avoid subvocalizing while you read. This means you must not read outloud or mouth the words, as doing so will slow you down. If you can’t break the habit of subvocalizing, try chewing a bubble-gum while you are reading.
  5. Practice chunking. Learn to read common phrases as chunks rather than individual words. This technique works because your brain can recognize common groupings of words. For example, Catcher in the Rye or Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year are commonly seen phrases. Once you are familiar with these word groupings, all you really need to read is Catcher and Rye, or Christmas and Happy to know what the entire phrase is referring to.
  6. Play instrumental music in the background. Classical music, meditation soundtracks or alpha wave relaxation music are all ideal. Do not play music with lyrics, though, as this can hinder rather than help the speed reading process.
  7. Push yourself. You may not believe that you can complete that book or read that article, but push yourself to go faster than you think you can. Drag your finger along under the words a bit faster; skim the body of the paragraph faster than you normally would. You might be surprised by what you are capable of achieving!

You will have become an effective speed reader once you have a high WPM score while still being able to understand the key concepts of the material you are reading. Train your brain to approach reading the same way you would approach any other important aspect of your life: as a challenge to be conquered.

-Denis Bederov

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