What if you could triple your reading speed, double your comprehension AND remember more of what you read? What difference would that make in your career or business?
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Speed reading can be an outstanding strategy to overcome information overload, filter out what is important and save you precious time while adding considerable value to your life.
Let's look at two different scenarios. In the first you want to get from London to Brighton quickly, making a couple of stops to pick up supplies on the way. In the second scenario, you fancy a trip to Brighton; however, it's a sunny day, and you're keen to have a bit of adventure and variety.
For each scenario, when faced with a choice between driving or cycling which would you choose?
In the first scenario, a car is an obvious choice, and in the second (if you enjoy cycling), it's more likely you'll take the bike or at the very least have a leisurely drive in the car.
You could think of reading in the same way. There will be occasions when you want to savour a book and enjoy the story, but often you will simply want to get from A to B, understand crucial concepts along the way that produce results.
Having a range of reading speeds and strategies offers you this choice; this is where speed reading comes in. Let's look at three key strategies that can level up your reading skills.
Being able to prime yourself is like having a superpower, it immediately gives you the skill to focus on what is important and increase your interest levels, as well as setting you up for a great learning experience.
A simple example of priming would be when you buy a new gadget, item of clothing or something more significant like a car. What happens? You start to notice this thing everywhere! Your brain is primed and tags the gadget, clothing or car with a high level of importance, it turns on your internal radar and subconsciously directs your attention, raising your awareness.
When it comes to reading, you can use this concept to your advantage by asking this simple question before reading an article, email, document or book, "What do I want this to give me?"
It's essential to engage with the answer intellectually and emotionally. In the case of a book, you can glance at the table of contents while you are considering your response.
Think about it like this, before going on a journey you enter the address into your SatNav and select the appropriate route. This gives you a quick snapshot of where you are going, the direction of travel and what you will pass on the way.
When it comes to reading, priming is your internal SatNav. By asking that one simple question, you articulate what you want, where you want to go and give yourself a big picture view. By going through this simple process, you are more likely to pick up relevant information when you start reading.
Our eyes don't move smoothly; they move in fixations, stopping to take in information and then move on. Because of this, you will often end up re-reading what you just read, this is known as back skipping and regression (where your eyes jump backwards in the middle of a sentence either consciously or sub-consciously).
Think back to when you were learning to read as a child, what did you do? If you are like most, you probably used your finger to guide your eyes. This kept your eyes focused on where you were and helped reduce back skipping and regression.
As we grow, guiding our eyes in this way feels childish. However, for many, this can lead to an increase in re-reading and ultimately, slower reading speeds with reduced comprehension.
Re-introducing guiding can combat this. When using this method, follow a few simple rules:
To improve comprehension and increase memory retention, you want to act like a detective during and after reading. Identifying the gaps in your knowledge, and asking searching questions that help connect what you read with what you already know, increasing the odds of it sticking in your mind.
I'm reminded of the 80s detective Columbo. He had curiosity built into his DNA and was a master at the art of questioning.
For probing to be effective, there are three techniques you can employ:
The biggest challenge with speed reading is that for most people, the promise doesn't turn into reality, and it just doesn't seem to work. A similar occurrence happens with memory strategies. There is a tendency to jump in before laying the groundwork, leading to several common mistakes that stop people getting started or cause burnout.
The first mistake is treating speed reading as a quick fix or magic bullet, rather than a skill you improve at over time.
It's the number 1 mistake made by new speed readers. They give up too early as, like any skill, it's difficult in the beginning, and there is a lag-time, meaning results don't show up straight away. This lag will typically result in a plummet in understanding and a belief that 'it's just not working for me'.
Remember what it was like as a learner driver? You were so focused on the process that you probably didn't take much else in. Speed reading is no different; it takes time for your brain to switch onto automatic pilot, and take in words.
Like all skills, when it 'clicks' it's like a lightbulb goes on inside your head, you find yourself reading faster and experiencing increased comprehension.
The takeaway to remember is that speed reading doesn't feel like regular reading, and there are no 'magic bullets', however, put in the effort and the rewards are significant.
Not being clear on 'why' you want to do something often manifests as uncertainty and procrastination.
Whether you want to learn how to play golf, do yoga, code, improve your memory or speed read, understanding the reasons 'why' you want to do these things, will go a long way to enhancing clarity and increasing motivation.
In the same way, you might prime yourself before reading a book, priming why you want to master the skill of speed reading is going to up your game and help you stay the course when things get bumpy.
With any new skill, it can be relatively easy to understand 'how' something works and way more challenging to put what you know into practice.
How many times have you experienced a comprehensive training course, where you had the intention of implementing what you were taught, and then it just doesn't happen?
To overcome this, start by planting the right habits that lead to firm foundations and ultimately, success when it comes to increasing reading speed and comprehension.
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