Warren Buffett said he probably wasted at least 10 years reading slowly during a talk he had with Bill Gates. Bill said is he could have one superpower, it’d be to read faster. That’s the importance of learning to read faster.
I have tested out a lot of B.S. tactics that do not work and looked over the scientific research.
There’s some misinformation out there about speed reading. It’s not a flashy weird technique like spiral movement and it’s not simply skimming the book and cherry-picking the chapters or paragraphs that are most useful (that’s just reading smarter and usually applies to just non-fiction books).
People can be mistaught about the concept and come out thinking that it’s about reading 1 million words per minute or it’s some form of cherry-picking. I am not sure if these people are actually really reading or retaining any of the information they get.
I’ve gone through a ton of speed reading courses, videos, lectures, and books. There’s actually some good principles that actually work. Real speed reading is legit because what it does is it eliminates inefficiencies that you naturally pick up: subvocalization in your mind or voice and inefficiencies in eye movement.
As far as the extreme stuff about claims of increasing your speed by 10,000% and reading at 100,000 words a minute, that stuff raises my eyebrows. However, I wanted to share with you some timeless principles that will definitely double or triple your reading speed.
Class is in session…
Why Speed Reading Helps You Read Faster
This video from Thomas Frank goes into great detail to explain why speed reading can help you. Basically, there are numerous eye inefficiencies that speed reading might be able to fix.
This video goes into detail debunking the fake inefficiencies that speed reading experts try and teach. This was eye-opening.
I had gone through a lot of material about speed-reading and was always a bit skeptical about some of it. Yet Thomas’s video was the first to really debunk it with science and facts. Everyone else I came across was trying to sell a course or ridiculous claim that you could read a 1,000-page book in 10 seconds (like Howard Berg).
It changed my opinion on speed-reading techniques that I was previously using like peripheral vision reading or scrolling down a page too fast and trying to get a snapshot (which is essentially skimming).
Speed Reading Myths
Speed reading does not happen overnight. It takes time to improve your reading speed. Be careful of speed reading techniques that do not work. These include:
- You may have heard, “Fancy Page Reading Techniques Like Swirling or Zig Zags Work.” But in reality, these fancy speed reading swirl movements don’t work. I’ve seen this all the time. There’s literally hundreds of different “techniques”. Some people swirl down the page, some people, read from the bottom up, some people windshield wiper the page, some people read in a triangle, and so on. I was always a bit skeptical about this, but was almost tempted to believe it. Luckily, this is debunked. Studies show that we need to read the line to understand it.
- Peripheral vision techniques aren’t as helpful as we thought. Studies show that we only comprehend words within our focal point. Having said that, I think slightly pushing ourselves outside our peripheral can be helpful.
- Sub-vocalization elimination doesn’t matter. Speaking the words in your brain is important.
- Research shows RSVP systems don’t work. RSVP is basically where they flash the words in one spot using an app or program so we don’t have to waste time moving our eyes.
- Eye regression elimination (when we go back to re-read a line) isn’t as useful as it seems since studies show that re-reading a line and regression are important for comprehension and retention.
- Studies show that there is a negative correlation between comprehension and retention versus speed. You will do better by reading slower. Beware of what speed reading experts say.
How much more could you do in life if you read what you were assigned and what you wanted to read in a fraction of the time?
What if you could learn skills you wanted to much faster and become better than everyone else?
Most of these techniques you can exercise immediately and some of it will take practice to get better at over time. There is very little loss of retention and comprehension if you do it properly. Take your time with it and slowly increase your reading speed over time.
The information from this video is obtained from my own research on scientific techniques of speed reading from the top speed readers including those who give paid courses on them.
Foundation Speed-Reading Techniques
1. Environment and Time
This is highly overlooked because it’s so obvious but important. You read better in the environment most comfortable to you. This is different for everyone.
This is different for everyone.
For you, it may be a loud, noisy coffee store. For others, it must be out on the beach with no noise other than the ocean, and for others, it may mean complete silence in a comfortable, soft, sofa.
Find the right environment that works best for you and the best time to read. Make sure you consider what chair you sit on. Some people are better readers in the morning, and some other better at night.
Don’t spend too much time on the small things though. They have very fast diminishing returns. You shouldn’t be spending too much time debating which type of sofa to sit on or what type of fur to wear.
2. Eliminate Sub-Vocalization of the Mind or Mouth
You might not even realize it but you could be vocalizing with your mouth audibly or with your mind. If you are vocalizing the words out loud or in your mind, it can really slow down your reading speed because you can only do this so quickly.
Note: for some situations, it may be better to slow down to get the juice of the content: dialogues, the end of a great fiction story, or a really dense, complicated science textbook.
In other cases, this should be removed.
Usually, I can identify this myself. Other times, it may be good to record yourself to see if you are mouthing the words.
Ideally, you want to simply be reading without any form of vocalization as the pace you want to read eventually should allow you to understand the words with your mind. You can think a lot faster than you talk.
The emphasis is more on eliminating it in your mouth.
I’m a bit confused when people say you should eliminate this vocalization in your mind as when you read much faster, you have to vocalize it on some level to understand what’s going on. I think the emphasis is on removing the mentality of “word by word” vocalization.
As you will see, you want to focus on understanding what’s being said without having to vocalize it word by word. You will eventually start skipping a bit over the more common connector words like “the”, “and”, “to”, “by”, and still understanding the sentence.
3. Look At Groups of Words Rather Than 1 Word At A Time
When you’re starting out, don’t bite off more than you can chew or you’ll get overwhelmed. Start with looking at groups of 2 to 3 words at a time rather than 1 word at a time. Your eyes are large enough to do capture this all at once.
Doing so, you will be able to internalize more words at the same pace.
4. Use Your Peripheral Vision
What does this mean? Basically, you eyes are made so that you can see a wide range of things in your vision at the same time. Your Peripheral allows you to pick up movement on the very edge of your eye while you’re staring straight forward.When you’re starting
You can use this in reading. Use your peripheral to take in more groups of words at the same time. When you’re starting
When you’re starting out, take in a just few groups of words at the same time.
Start reading a line of text 2 to 3 words in from the line. For example, you should have focused your attention on the word “a” or “line” when you read that sentence. Your peripheral will pick up the words before it: “Start reading”
5. Use A Pointer Device (I prefer my finger)
Use the tip of a pen, a finger, or a pointer device to guide you while you read. This eliminates inefficiencies such as:
- re-reading a line
- forgetting which line you are on
- slowing down and not keeping pace
- losing focus or track of where you are
Pair your tracking tool (I prefer using my index finger) with what I told you about the Peripheral. Start each line by pointing your finger or the tip of your pen on the 3rd or 4th word from the start of a line and end on the 3rd or 4th word before the end of the line.
As you practice and get better and better, you will start farther away from the start of the line and end farther from the end of the line.
Eventually, your pointer movement should be a downward vertical sweep (see video above).
6. Don’t Regress
This was briefly mentioned in the previous point.
Don’t let yourself stop and look back at what you previously read. Keep going and moving even if you think you missed a few words and you think your attention has wandered.
If you’re missing a ton of words, you are going to fast and probably want to slow down slightly. You have not reached that level of speed yet. Pushing slightly faster than you are comfortable is a good way to practice.
Working on your pace and not regressing is a skill that needs to be practiced. When you’re doing this, it’s more of a practice mode you are in: you’re more concerned about getting better.
When I’m focused on reading and learning as much as I can from a book rather than speed or practice, I will sometimes regress, read slower, take notes, while still maintaining the speed reading tactics I learned.
What you can do is set some time for practicing speed reading, pacing, not regressing, and retaining the information. Afterwards, set some time for simply using your skills at a comfortable pace and getting the most out of the book.
- Read often. Read more challenging books. Reading diverse topics. Source: Elizabeth Schotter – Postdoc
- Become a more skilled language user.
- Find the best, most comfortable environment to avoid distractions and daydreaming.
- Don’t read just to show off that you read a lot. Read to actually create long-term wisdom that will create tangible results towards your goals. That may mean going for quality rather than quantity.
- Pre-read. Read the table of contents. Skim the book quickly to be aware of important headings, headlines, and paragraphs to know where to focus more on. Pay attention on the first and last sentences.
- Take notes and outline what you don’t want to forget.
The following video is more specific to non-fiction and textbooks. These techniques work more for this since fiction books, you kinda have to read almost all of it to get what’s going on in the story line.
The big takeaways are:
- Highlight, outline, or take notes.
- Use the table of contents and skimming to skip the unimportant paragraphs that you don’t need to read.
Extra Recommended Resources
For further reading, I suggest How To Read a Book by Mortimer Adler to better understand how to approach reading different genres and types of books.
I also suggest Jim Kwik’s content. He has some great podcast episodes on speed reading:
- Kwik Brain 007: How to Read Faster
- Kwik Brain 012: 3 Hacks For Rapid Reading (How To Reduce Subvocalization)
I suggest avoiding Howard Berg’s content. He’s a popular speed reading expert but he’s been stepping way past the line of reason into absurdity with his claims. There’s a video of his “proving” to read 1,500 pages in two minutes. When you go that far, it’s just going to raise skepticism and make you seem like it’s a scam.
Speed reading is real and can increase your performance moderately, but any grandiose claims are gimmicks that don’t actually work.
What’s the best lesson you learned from this article?
I challenge you to let me know and take action on it immediately.