I've recently been fascinated by speed-reading, although haven't been practicing it as much lately because some books are better when you hear it in a voice, like Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald, both who I'm getting into right now. But nevertheless, my own discoveries in speed-reading have been a little different from the texts and information I've come across to teach you how to do it, though I haven't had a mentor ($$$) or any computer software ($$$$$) which seems to be highly recommended. So I'd like to take this opportunity to lay down my own version, cutting the bullshit (I'm not getting paid for this), and getting to the gritty substance of what speed-reading is all about. The trick isn't learning how to speed-read, that's something you can do overnight. In fact, I'll tell you how to do it right now.

Speed-reading is a series of breaking habits, which is much easier than making them. The first habit you must break is vocalisation. This is when you are reading to yourself with your lips each word one-by-one at a time. Chew some gum, or sing a song if you have to, but stop reading with your mouth! The next step is to quit sub-vocalisation. This is when you are reading the words one-by-one in your head, sounding them out in your imagination. You may have stopped moving your lips, but you might still feel the back of your throat trying to shape out words! Sub-vocalisation is a tricky habit to break, I find it easier if I'm listening to instrumental music, or some kind of drone-y noise in the background to distract my mind from trying to hear the sound of the words. Concentration is key. Once you've broken sub-vocalisation, you are already reading much faster than you ever were before! But it doesn't end here.

When you are reading a word, you are not simply following one letter after another, but all of them at once, taking the word in as a whole. The same idea can be applied to multiple words, to read a whole phrase, or a sentence, as a whole. Now you are reading in chunks. Think of a painting, and think of each brush stroke as a word. The brush stroke doesn't make anything on its own, but multiple brush strokes when put together form a complete image. The first thing in a painting you see is the whole picture itself. The same concept applies to speed-reading, but it's more than a static image: it's concepts, ideas, and whole experiences all at once. Concentration is key!

By the way, you don't need both eyes to read the same word (with apologies to the one-eyed possibly the blind). Mastering your peripheral-vision, pretty soon you are able to read entire lines of text at a time, as if reading a single word. Now you are now approaching the art of vertical-reading. Reading vertically will allow you to read up to 900 words per minute, but this is only the limit of the linear approach. To read even faster, you're going to have to take on the layered approach, which is much more complex and involved, and something I can't get into right now as I haven't practiced it myself. To be perfectly honest, I'm happy to be just reading linear. If you would like more information on the layered approach, I'd recommend looking up information or books about Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics.

The most important thing that needs to be mentioned is one of the biggest banes of not just speed-reading, but all reading in general, and that is regression. This is when you've read a sentence or two, maybe even a paragraph or a whole page, and you realise your mind has been trailing off, and you've absorbed none of what you just read. So you have to go back and re-read what you just read again. This will slow you down immensely, and needs to be conquered. Remember, concentration is key! But another way to help stop regression is by using a pacer. On a computer screen, you can use your mouse-cursor. On a book you can simply use your finger (It may not be so easy on an e-reader or a phone, but those devices are good for speed-reading anyway because you can make the text large enough to chunk-read vertically with ease). The practice is to move your pacer over the words you are reading at your own comfortable pace. It may feel awkward and cumbersome at first, but with enough perseverance it will keep your eyes focused sharply on the words, and less chance of your mind to wonder off. When you are reading fast enough, your mind will be absorbing more information than it can think about, which means it will be even less likely to be distracted. Remember to concentrate! Because this is the tricky part, as I mentioned before.

The trick to speed-reading is not knowing how to do it. It's adjusting your brain so that it can absorb large amounts of new information at a time. When I was first reading pretty fast, I never ended up reading any more than I usually do, because I got so exhausted I kept falling asleep after about an hour or so. The brain needs to be exercised regularly, and trained to deal with massive quantities of new ideas and learning at a time. Don't worry, it can be done! This is what will really take you weeks of practice, and the ultimate key to unlocking this potential is something more potent than concentration, it's patience.

Brain-training exercises, such as those found on the Nintendo DS or iPhone/Android apps, can be helpful in keeping your brain strong and analytical. Understanding patterns and associations is important, doing a lot of sudoku and cross-word puzzles are also a great help. It will also be important to have good vocabulary, because if you read over any word you don't understand, the mind's image will be incomplete. So if you have time, find a dictionary and scan through for every word you don't know yet.

God-luck and good read!

1 comment:

  1. Im pretty stoked by what I read. Could you write a follow up post of how much you excelled with this ability and HOW you did it?