I have always been a terribly slow reader. I’ve been acutely aware of this since my university days when I had hundreds and hundreds of pages to read each week from a plethora of text books and never managed to do even half of it (otherwise it would cut down on my time down at the pub and let’s be clear on priorities). However, even compared to my friends who were down at the pub with me, they seemed to get through the material quicker and out-read me most of the time. However, I’ve always been an avid reader. I used to spend hours in my room by myself as a child reading Nancy Drew books. And as I got older I realized the reason why I was spending hours reading was because I was so slow at it. Maybe years of reading for pure pleasure and savoring every word had made me an unfocused reader. Who knows but I had never thought of doing anything about it until I read in the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss about how you can increase your reading speed by 200% in just 10 minutes. Seriously?! Every college kid should be reading this book just for pages 89-90 alone!
Here’s how to do it:
For two minutes: use a pen or finger to trace under each line as you read as fast as possible
For three minutes: begin each line focusing on the third word in from the first word, and end each line focusing on the third word in from the last word. Once you are comfortable with this then
For three minutes: attempt to take only 2 snapshots so that you are only in effect “reading” the two indented words
For three minutes: practice reading too fast for comprehension but with good technique (e.g. using the three above techniques) for 5 pages before reading at a comfortable speed.
I’m not giving you the full explanation as to why the practice tasks are designed the way they are. There is a science behind it but that way you’ll have to go and read Tim’s book. In order to calculate your words per minutes (wpm), add up the number of words in 10 lines and divide by 10 to get the average words per line. Multiply this by the number of lines per page and you have the per page average. Then multiply that by the number of pages you read in a minute to get your speed. Of if you’re as slow as I was when I started, I just multiplied the average words per line by the number of lines I read since it was easy to quickly count.
Prior to any training whatsoever: 228 wpm. After 10 minutes of training, I did 3 one minute tests to see if they were correct. I scored 520, 624, and 683. Either way you sliced it I had doubled my speed in 10 minutes. I decided to test myself again, this time a real challenge – 15 minutes standing up on the tube during the commute home after work. This was going to be interesting. I wouldn’t have a pen to underline to words to keep me from regressing plus I’d have the added distraction of making sure that I didn’t miss my stop. I scored 389. Clearly not as good as when I had a pen in my hand and no distractions but still better than where I had started from. Even though I read that I’d quadruple my speed, I was still content on doubling it (in the more conducive environment). Like anything practice makes perfect so I’ll have to keep trying.
Just imagine what could do if you double the speed at which you read! You’ll get through tedious documents, the fine print of terms and conditions, and anything else you don’t want to be reading twice as fast. When you’re reading for pleasure you’ll get twice as much pleasure. I wish I thought about trying speed reading a lot sooner. All those years, all those books, but regret is a waste of time. I think I might dust off my library card and take full advantage of my new speedy reading straight away!