Speed Reading Crash Course

Speed reading is a valuable technique that can make your life easier.  This is especially true if you’re a student, professor, or works in a field that requires a lot of reading and reviewing.

These techniques effectively reduce the time it takes you to read material : 

  1. Organize your material. The most important step is to organize your material in the order in which it will be read. If you’re reading just one book, organizing your material is self-explanatory. Other materials, such as worksheets can be trickier.
  • If you’re reading multiple worksheets and writing down the information afterward, you may want to remove the staples from the pages. Then fan them out over your work surface.
  • Generally speaking, speed reading online isn’t recommended. There are so many distractions, including intrusive ads, flamboyant fonts, communication from friends, or the sheer temptation to go off and do something else.
  • If you must speed read material from the internet, consider printing it onto a piece of paper. Then organize the sheets in the same manner you’d do a worksheet. You can turn off your browser’s page style settings to eliminate distractions.
  1. Create the proper environment. It is equally difficult if you are sitting in a room where kids are playing, running, screaming, or simply begging for attention.  It may be difficult to develop the concentration necessary to absorb what you’ve read. The same goes for trying to speed read while watching television.
  • Before sitting down to speed read, create the proper environment. Ensure that you’re in a quiet, comfortable space. Also, consider details like having good task lighting and a book holder to help flip pages quicker.
  • Timing is just as important as your setup. Choose a time to speed read where your mind will be primed to absorb the most information. Most find that either very early morning or late night works best for them.   Most people struggle with afternoon speed reading due to all the distractions.
  1. Put down the highlighter. Actually, highlighting words or phrases actually works against the practice of speed reading. When you highlight a phrase, you’re essentially refusing the information at the moment.  Your intention is to revisit the phrase at a later time.
  • Highlighting also takes time and effort away from speed reading the material at hand. You must decide to highlight the sentence, grab the highlighter, open it, highlight the material and then close it and set it aside. If you highlight even one line, you’ve already lost about 10 valuable seconds.
  • The point of speed reading is to retain a minimum of 50% of the information on the page. Highlighting not only cuts into your time. It is ineffective as it gives you a “way out” of needing to retain the information now.
  1. Skim and scan your material. Speed reading is skim reading or scan reading, depending on your material. You’re only expected to retain 50% of the information you read.  This is because you’re skimming and scanning paragraphs rather than clinging to the meaning of every word. 
  • Scanning and skimming are different. When you scan pages, you’re searching for specific information. When you skim material, you’re trying to grasp the idea as a whole as efficiently as possible.

Speed reading is a skill acquired and can take time to perfect. Trying to learn how to speed read 5 minutes before it needs to be done could be counter-productive. You must give the process your time and your dedication. The most important ingredient to speed reading success is continued practice. In fact, the more you practice, the faster you’ll get!