Putting aside the wealth of information out there, the simple act of taking time out to yourself and reading a book has a host of psychological benefits, so let’s talk about some of the strategies you can implement to improve the speed of your reading.
With speed reading, the aim is to improve your ability to absorb written information without sacrificing any of the comprehension as you speed up. Tim Ferris has covered it extensively in his blog post and the accompanying video, and I’m going to be leaning on his advice – because that’s how I’ve learnt how to speed read – as we go through this piece.
Step One – Get a baseline
Get a baseline on your current reading speed by calculating the words per line, and then the lines per page. Depending on the format of the book, this will change rather dramatically depending on font size, etc. Rough math works out at around 10 words per line, and around 30 lines per page, equalling 300 words per page.
Tim Ferris says you should as many pages as you can in a single minute to get your baseline; this will give you your baseline WPM (words per minute), which is what we’re trying to double, or triple.
Step 2 – Understand Peripheral Vision
Understanding peripheral vision is the key to unlocking your speed reading potential. Ferris makes the example of if you had someone sitting directly in front of you while you’re fixated on their nose, if they move their hands, you’re still able to see the movement, and even pick up on how many fingers they’re holding up.
In spite of the fact that your fixation point is locked on to something, your peripheral vision is still able to pick up information and transmit it to the brain. We’re taught to read word-by-word, left to right – depending on your language – and this is actually an inefficient means of taking in information.
Step 3 – Draw New Margin Lines
Draw lines on either side of the margin of the book you’re reading. For those trying this for the first time, Ferris recommends you draw this line one word from the margin to begin with, and increase this as you lift your reading abilities. You use this line as the starting-off point of your reading, and the end-point when you reach the margin on the right-hand side. Practice this for 5-10 pages, and gauge whether or not you’re able to comprehend the information with these new margins.
Step 4 – Bring The Margin In
If you’ve been able to take in the information so far, you can consider increasing this margin by another word, bringing that margin in from the edges and closer to the center. The aim here is to get to the point that you’re focusing on the middle-third of the page, while taking in the same amount of information as if you were reading side to side. “That in and of itself could double your reading speed without sacrificing comprehension” Ferris says.
Step 5 – Reduce Fixation Points with Finger
Ferris says that it’s essential to reduce the amount of fixation points on the page, so you can improve the speed of your reading by reducing the friction points for your eyes. Our traditional means of reading fixates on each word, so you need to learn to flow through the middle-third of the text rapidly. Ferris says using your finger to continuously track through the middle portion of the text is a good way to encourage this fluid movement through the text.
Step 6 – Ramp up the Speed
To ramp up the learning curve, Ferris says you should try reading slightly beyond your comprehension level, to give your brain some sense of anticipation and to set your intentions for the brain to pick up its ability to comprehend with this new means of reading.
And now to the slightly annoying part- practicing!
It’s a battered old cliche, but one that rings true for a reason. Practice makes perfect, and if you’re prepared to invest the time into improving your speed reading abilities, you stand to double, even triple the amount of information you can ingest in a single sitting.
I’ll leave you with that for now, so you can start practicing!
Kobi Simmat, Director & CEO of the Best Practice Group.