Click here to read full series on How to Speed-Read
In today’s world, there often seems to be too much information to absorb and less time to absorb it all. If an average person reads 250 words per minute, they would take 7 hours to read a 300-page book (with around 500 words per page). If the speed is raised to reading 1000 words per minute, you can finish the same book in an hour and a half!
How speed-reading can change your life?
Before I took my speed-reading course, my reading rate was 250-300 words. Today I read with a speed of approximately 1000 words per minute, alhamdulillah. And I am in the process of increasing the rate even more!
It is very easy for me to finish 4 or 5 books in one day – as I do while preparing for an article. And with the right skills, you too can do the same.
This is the first of a 3 part series on the topic and here’s how we’re going to break it down:
- Part 1: Introduction to speed reading, and setting the stage for our study. Here we learn what is speed reading, difference between Fiction and non-fiction, how we became a slow reader, and concept of “Meat, Potatoes and Veggies”
- Part 2: Here we continue from what we learnt in Part 1, discuss the difference between speed reading and photo reading, choosing a study buddy, and learn 5 introductory strategies for effective speed-reading.
- Part 3: Then we’ll go to an advanced level and learn about eyes movements, vocalization, and sub-vocalization, vision span and introduce you to a very effective technique called “Two Step Process”. I will end the series with references to reading and video materials you can use, and how you can take your speed-reading study to the next level!
Taking inventory of yourself:
So firstly, let’s find where you stand in regards to your current reading speed. Take any large paragraph, and count the number of words in it (using the word count option in your text editor). Read with your regular rate from start to end, and time it. Then divide the total words in the document by the total time it took for you, you got your reading speed!
For an average reader, it will be around 300 wpm (words per minute). Make sure as you learn each technique, you time yourself, and see how much you are progressing every day.
What is ‘Speed Reading’ and how it is helpful in life?
To navigate a city, you can go street by street, or take a helicopter and enjoy the city as a whole. This is the difference between speed-reading and regular reading. Reading a material from word to word, cover to cover, is typically not the most efficient or effective strategy. Efficient way is to – read by taking a helicopter ride of the book!
Deciding What to Speed Read and What Not-To Speed Read
I am a fan of mystery novels, and I read them regularly. Even though I know speed-reading, I don’t read these novels using the speed-reading techniques because my goal is to enjoy the quality of the content of these books and not try to simply finish them.
Thus if you ask, here is my take on what type of material speed-reading can be useful for:
- Light novels
- Research publications
When you should not speed-read:
- Books or articles with complex, complicated, or detailed topics
- Where personal development is the focus (for example you might not want to speed-read an Islamic book)
- You want to appreciate the author’s style
- You need to really think about what you’re reading
- You are editing, not reading
- When your goal is to enjoy the reading, and not necessarily finish the book quickly
Decide Your Content: Fiction Vs Non-fiction.
Fiction is generally easier to read because it engages the brain visually, at an auditory level and provides a kinesthetic feeling. It’s like your own movie playing in your head while you read, these can be good for expanding vocabulary but should not be the only types of book you read.
Non-fiction is different (textbooks, newspapers, or study materials); they engage your brain digitally, providing data and information which you must make sense of and provokes thought. When you approach a material for speed-reading, understand what kind of material it is and base your strategy accordingly.
So how did we learn to read slowly?
You might be asking yourself at this stage the bizarre question, how did we learn to read? We learned reading by reading it aloud to our parent and/or teacher – in our regular speech speed. Once the oral checking is done, we go back to the house and practice our self-reading to our self. And we read in the same speed we are taught to read to the teacher. As days went, we learned new words and sentences, but we followed the same (slow) speed, and this became a habit for us.
Meat, Potatoes and Veggies?
Contents of any reading material can be divided into three: ‘Meat, Potatoes and Veggies’. The most important information is the “Meat”, and other explanations and details are ‘Potatoes’ and ‘Veggies’. When speed reading, you should look out for the ‘Meat’ and leave the potatoes and veggies for later (like any good meal!).
Summary: In this part, we learned the concept of speed-reading, and set the base for our study process. Before we go to Part 2, here’s a small homework exercise for you to do: measure your current reading speed by calculating how long it took to read this!