Read significantly faster


Reading is one of those things I wish I could do more of, but often slips onto my Low Priority list.

I enjoyed it as a kid, but never read reams. Through university, the opportunity cost of reading, was socialising, and so I always chose the latter. However now that I’ve carved out a bit of a routine in my weeks, I feel there’s the opportunity to introduce reading books back into what I do.

But reading can be a time-consuming activity. At the best of times I would manage 20 minutes or so before bed, and this staccato method meant it was often not particularly enjoyable, and difficult to ‘get your teeth into’ something.

So the resolution to this would be to block out 3-4 hour chunks of time a couple of times a week to solely devote to a book. Get some quiet time and get lost between the pages. However, it seems nigh-on impossible to manage a block of time to simply read.

Any post-work activity crosses out weekday evenings which leaves you with the weekend. And all it takes is a few busy ones to break up the continuity of getting in to what you are reading. As well, given the offer to socialise, it is unlikely I’d turn it down to settle in and read a book for 4 hours.

What then could I do to resolve this? Rather than attempting to manage my week to find blocks of 4 hours

I’ve tackled the assumption that reading is a time-consuming activity

The idea of speed-reading is by no means revolutionary, I recall seeing articles on it a few times. It’s just something I’d not really put into practice before.

Rather than research and go over how I should be doing it, I thought I’d just rely on what would have been stored up in my unconscious, and go about it intuitively. I had a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers lying about and so thought I’d have a go with that.

2 sets of 2 hours later, I’d finished it.

This surprised me, and I felt I still engaged with the text and could hold a conversation with someone if it ever came up. (This is of course only a hypothesis right now, feel free to test it)

So this is, more or less, how I went about it.

 

1. Turn off your internal voice

your brain runs faster than your speech. The typical way of reading is to say each word out in your head. This means that your are constrained by how quick you go from one word/ sentence/ line to the next.

If you simply scan your eyes over a page, you’ll be surprised how much your brain an capture. At the end of a page quickly glance back and go over anything that needs clarifying, and then move on to the next.

2. Pick your points on the page

This might not be the best method, but I found criss-crossing down meant I could gather words in from my peripheral vision rather than process each individual word.

Roughly picking where to read

Roughly picking where to read

I imagine eventually the aim is to go from reading horizontally (what I did before) and then diagonally (what I’ve tried now) to reading vertically. But we’ll see how this goes.

3. Have a distractions outlet

I often find myself trying to remember lots of little tasks that I need to do. When I was reading I found that at the beginning a lot of things came flooding back to me. Rather than attempt to do them (send so-and-so an email etc) or ignore them, I had a pen and paper to hand to scribble them down.

I usually keep lists on my phone as it’s more convenient to hold in one place, but when reading it felt intuitive to go for the paper as  it’s the least resistant form of storing the thought (no need to find and then load an app etc). Within seconds you can be back within the text.

 

These are my findings after reading one, non-fiction book in quick time. Because I was familiar with the author and the contents of the book I am fully aware that I have run a biased experiment. The real test will come when I go for a book I’ve not come across before…

I’ll report back on how it goes.

 

Epilogue

This wasn’t the article I read a while ago, but it explains (infinitely better than I can) how to go about speed reading. The author is in general a bit of a guru in these sorts of things.

How to Speed Read by Tim Ferriss