You probably don’t remember learning to read as a child. But the way we were taught to read when we were in our infant years has little relevance to how we should read as an adult. Whereas the slow methodical method may work for youngsters who are grappling with the basics of words and sentence structure, adults, who often need to process a lot of information in a short time, need a completely different method of reading. Learning to read faster is one of the best skills to develop as an adult, saving you time as you study, research, and sort through your inbox. Read on for some great tips on how to read faster.
1. Learn How to ScanThe most important skill you need to develop if you want to read faster is scanning. Many adults find scanning difficult because it feels counter-intuitive. After all, when we were taught to read, we were taught to pay attention to every word in a sentence. However, much of this is unnecessary, because research shows that our adult minds have an amazing ability to fill in information gaps.
For example, look at the following piece of text:
‘After this experience she decided that she would never again date men from Mediterranean backgrounds, no matter how great they looked or their accents sounded. It simply wasn’t worth the pain.’
By drawing out and focusing on only the highlighted words, I am saving myself the effort of processing every word, and allowing my brain to fill in the missing information.
2. Only Read the First and Last Sentence of Each ParagraphAccording to Abby Marks Beale, America’s #1 Speed Reading Expert, people who write to convey information generally follow a fairly tried-and-true formula. That is, to start each paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the paragraph and gives an idea of where that paragraph is headed. As paragraphs in publications like science and academic journals can contain a lot of information, you’re wasting your time reading all of it if you are already familiar with the topic. Next time you’re faced with a daunting text, try reading the first and last sentence in each paragraph. Chances are you won’t miss much.
3. Turn Off the Voice in Your HeadAnother habit we picked up when learning to read in grade school is to sound out words, often from reading aloud. Even as adults, most of us retain this habit to some extent, as over the years, we have become so used to “hearing” the word in our minds. The problem with this is that it takes up unnecessary time, because we can understand a word more quickly than we can say it.
One way to eliminate the voice is to read blocks of words (as mentioned in point 1), as it’s much harder to vocalize sets of words than single words.
Simply eliminating this voice can drastically increase your ability to read faster. However, this techniques does tend to reduce your enjoyment of a well-written text, so you can turn it back on for your favorite crime novelist or poet.
4. Use A PointerOften when we read, we tend to ‘regress’, or go over and read the same material again. This is usually due to poor concentration, and results in losing the flow of what your are reading. This is a waste of time, especially when the information you’re re-reading isn’t really necessary. But you can cut down on regression by using a pen as a pointer. Train your eyes to follow the pointer, and this will help you to avoid skipping back.
5. Don’t Multitask While ReadingOne of the worst reading habits is reading while watching TV, listening to the radio, or even allowing mental interference to distract you from what you are reading. If you want to read faster, you MUST cut out the distractions and focus solely on the task.
6. Use ‘Soft Eyes’According to experts at Mind Tools, inefficient readers tend to focus on each word, working across each line. This is inefficient because your eye can actually take in about 1.5 inches at a glance, which includes five words. You can also engage your peripheral vision to expand your gaze and take in even more words. You can achieve this by relaxing your facial muscles when reading and allowing your eyes to soften.
7. Ask Yourself Questions About the Text Before You ReadThis technique is used by teachers to improve reading comprehension. But it’s also a good way to help you read faster. If you have some idea about what useful information can be taken from the text, make yourself a set of questions and then read quickly to find the answers. This will definitely save you time spent on looking through useless information.
8. Try Speed Reading SoftwareMany speed-reading techniques can be done manually. However, there is always the temptation to fall back into old habits. If you are serious about learning to read faster, you may want to check out software like Spreeder, a free speed reading training course designed to improve reading speed and comprehension. It uses methods like ‘pointing’, but does it electronically, and is a great way to increase your reading speed.
Living in the information age, we are often bombarded with information we simply don’t have time to process, but if you take these suggestions on board and practice them regularly, you’ll learn to read faster and cut down on the amount of time you waste on information overload in no time.