Have you ever known someone who could read entire books in a sitting, devour classroom materials in an evening and get through paperwork like a hurricane and still be able to tell you precisely what they read, how it was and what was important in it? This amazing skill is known as Speed Reading and while it may seem magical or a talent that only a select few have, it's actually something you can learn with some practice and the right tricks.
Don't believe me? The human brain is a fairly miraculous thing. It takes in far more information than we give it credit for, even when you think that what you see is complete gibberish:
There see? Your brain just deciphered all of that with no problem, even though everything was completely scrambled up! And this is just one example of how the brain can function with information that we subjectively think is nonsense, but can be sorted out with ease. It is this ability of the brain that we will tap to make speed reading easy for just about anyone to learn.
Time to start practicing!
- Read, read, read! You cannot practice speed reading if you don't, well, do it. People who are speedy are voracious readers; they can't eat a meal without a book and they need a good story to wind down. It's time for you to join these ranks. Read whatever it is you enjoy and read often. Another good tip here is to read in the morning; our brains are fresher then and it’s a good way to start the day.
- Peripheral Vision. The human brain and eyes are able to take in far more information than what we think. Peripheral vision comes into play here; it refers to the idea of catching information from the corners of our eyes-so to speak. In speed reading, what you're doing is taking advantage of the fact that the brain can actually grab up the written information that comes from the side of our vision as well as in the front. Use your peripherals to read several words at a time and your speed will vastly improve.
You can improve your vision by drawing two parallel lines three inches apart from each other down the middle of a block of text. Concentrate on the area between the lines, but try to catch the words on the other side of the lines. The more you do this, the better your vision will be. You can also use newspapers to start reading chunks at a time.
- Do you subvocalize? Stop it! Subvocalizing is done when we use our mental voice to pronounce words we are reading. Maybe you even open your mouth while reading! Unfortunately, this will slow you down and you have to quit the habit. You can do things by reading faster than your mouth can move or mentally counting while you read to train you out of reading with your throat and just with your eyes.
- The Power of Z! This is another neat little trick that can speed up your reading instantly. First, it relies on the fact that the brain will grab up information even if you are not directly concentrating on it. What you are going to do is read a line of text normally and then sweep diagonally over the next line and read the third line-creating a Z with your eyes. It will take a bit of practice, but it can greatly speed up your reading.
- Look for main ideas. In nonfiction work, there will always be main ideas to get across. Track them down by using the table of contents and the first and last sentences of paragraphs. This will help you to determine which parts of the books you’ll need to skim and which need more attention. I learned this trick in university and it was pretty useful for getting through dry texts.
- Stop backtracking. We do a lot of backtracking in our reading without even realizing it. Many people read one word, read a few more and then dart back to the first word. You can train yourself out of doing that by using your index finger to force your eyes to keep up while you trace under words just ahead of where you are in the book. This will prevent you from backtracking and will promote greater reading speed.
- Finally, take a close look at your environment. Most people read better when they are sitting up straight and at a desk rather than in bed or on a couch --unless they are reading for fun in which case, read upside down if you like! No matter what you are reading, it’s important to have good lighting, take breaks regularly, and make sure you are comfortable. And finally, change up your readings speed as necessary; for example, even the fastest of readers will slow down for legal contracts and mathematics, but can speed up for novels, newspapers and magazines.
(*)Johanna Bergstrom is a motivated woman who takes self-development pretty seriously. She is currently associated with Freedownloadb.com and mostly finds herself amongst a wide variety of reading material and business tools.