Continuing on with my theme of reading for Drop Everything And Read month this April, I thought it would be fun to share my favorite speed reading tips. When I was studying to be a CPA, I took a course called Effective Speed Reading. Many of the tips I share below came from that course and some I have adapted to work better for me.
Not all books lend themselves to speed reading. There are some books I really enjoy reading, and I want to slow down and read every word. But as the saying goes, “So many books, so little time,” so here are some tips to help you increase your reading speed.
Silence your mind
One of the biggest things that slows us down when we read is our internal chatter. Have you ever noticed how you say each word inside your head as you read it? If you can drop this habit you will notice a dramatic increase in your reading speed.
A tip I learned from the Effective Speed Reading course that helps me eliminate my internal dialogue, is humming to myself as I'm reading. I don't hum a tune because that would be too distracting. I just hum a steady beat to the rhythm that my eyes are dashing around the page.
Use your finger
Often when we first learn to read we use our finger as a guide to help us keep our place. This can be useful for speed reading as well because the faster you move your finger the faster your eyes will follow along. You can also use a piece of blank paper as a guide to help you see just one line of text on the page at a time.
Another way to use your finger as a guide is to run it straight down the page. This encourages you to read whole lines of text all at once. I'll get into this more when I talk about skipping words.
Have you ever done one of those exercises where you're not shown a full sentence but you can still figure out what it means? This is the theory behind skipping words when you’re speed reading. Your brain puts it all together so that you still understand what the sentence is trying to convey.
When you first start to practice speed reading try to hit every third word or even just the large words in a sentence. Remember, you're just looking at them, you don't want to say them in your head because this will slow you down.
To use your finger as a guide when you're skipping words you would bounce it over the sentence, aiming for every third word.
The idea behind skipping sentences is that the first and last sentence of a paragraph will give you a general idea of what's happening in the paragraph. This works better with nonfiction, because nonfiction paragraphs have thesis and transition sentences, but I’ve tried it with fiction and it still works.
Sometimes I will skip entire paragraphs if the author is describing something in great detail and I just want to catch a few main descriptive words. Retraining your brain to realize it’s okay to skip words is a big part of speed reading.
The idea behind the zig-zag method is to use your finger as a guide again. You can either zig-zag through paragraphs where you start at the beginning of the paragraph and then zig down to the next sentence on an angle, or you can zig-zag through entire pages.
This technique works because your brain puts everything together and understands the meaning behind the words even if they are read out of order as you are zigging and zagging down the page.
I love using the zig-zag method when I’m reading on my phone with the Kindle app.
A method of speed reading that doesn’t involve your eyes is reading audio books. Most audio books allow you to adjust the speed at which it is read. I love seeing how fast I can listen while still understanding what’s being said.
I hope you’ll try some of these speed reading methods. Like any new skill, they require practice, so if it feels awkward at first, or you feel like you’re comprehension is suffering, keep trying. It took me a while to get the hang of it and to let go of the idea that I needed to read every single word of every book!
Do you have a speed read method you use that I didn’t mention? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.