(this article explains what to do . . .)


Your Reading Speed Might Be Holding You Back

As you know, reading speed and comprehension matter. Whether you’re at work, helping your children with their homework, or completing the SAT for college, your reading speed and comprehension will determine how successful you are. Reading is everywhere in our lives. Because of that, it’s important you read effectively. For example, you might need to read and write reports for work. If you’re a student, you’ll need to read many pages  of complex text every night. If you’re a slow reader, that’s holding you back.

The proven secret to success is: the faster you read, the more successful you’ll be. This isn’t opinion… it’s a fact. The faster you read, the faster you’ll get work done. The faster you read, the more you’re able to learn about your industry. The faster you read, the quicker you’ll react to new tasks. Here are just some of the benefits you’ll enjoy when you can read 3 times faster with improved comprehension:

Learning to Read More Efficiently

Think about how much reading you do every day.

Perhaps you read the newspaper or browse countless emails from colleagues. And you then read a book, reports, proposals, periodicals and letters.

When you look at it, reading could be the work-related skill you use most often!

It's also a skill most of us take for granted by the time we reach the age of 12. After all, it seems if we can read the written word, surely, we must be good readers?

Maybe not. And, given the time reading consumes in our daily lives, it may be a skill we should improve.

But what does becoming a better reader involve?

It means getting faster and more efficient at reading, while still understanding what is being read. In this article, we'll look at how you can do this, and how you can unlearn poor reading habits.

How We Read
Although you spend a good part of your day reading, have you ever thought about how you read?

How do your eyes make sense of the shapes of the letters, and then put those letters together to form a sentence you can understand?

When you actually think about it, reading is quite a complex skill. Previously, scientists believed that when you read, both of your eyes focused on a particular letter in a word. Recent research shows this isn't the case.

Scientists now believe that each of your eyes lock onto a different letter at the same time, usually two characters apart. Your brain then fuses these images together to form a word. This happens almost instantaneously, as we zip through pages of text!

Advantages of Speed Reading
Many people read at an average rate of 250 words per minute. This means an average page in a book or document takes 1-2 minutes to read.

However, imagine if you could double your rate to 500 words per minute. You could zip through all of the content in half the time. You could then spend time on other tasks, or take a few extra minutes to relax and de-stress.

Another important advantage of speed reading is you can better comprehend the overall structure of what is being presented. This leads to a "bigger picture" understanding, which can greatly benefit your work and career.

Speed reading is a useful and valuable skill. However, there might be times when using this technique isn't appropriate. For instance, it's often best to read important or challenging documents slowly, so you can fully understand each detail.

Breaking Poor Reading Habits
If you're like most people, you probably have one or more reading habits that slow you down. Becoming a better reader means overcoming these bad habits, so you can clear the way for new, effective ways of reading.

Below, we cover some of the most common bad reading habits, and discuss what you can do to overcome them.

Sub-vocalization is the habit of pronouncing each word in your head as you read it. Most people do this to some extent or another.

When you sub-vocalize, you "hear" the word being spoken in your mind. This takes much more time than is necessary, because you can understand a word more quickly than you can say it.

To turn off the voice in your head, you have to first acknowledge that it's there (how did you read the first part of this article?), and then you have to practice "not speaking." When you sit down to read, tell yourself that you will not sub-vocalize. You need to practice this until this bad habit is erased. Reading blocks of words also helps, as it's harder to vocalize a block of words. (See below for more on this.)

Eliminating sub-vocalization alone can increase your reading speed by an astounding amount. Otherwise, you're limited to reading at the same pace as talking, which is about 250-350 words per minute. The only way to break through this barrier is to stop saying the words in your head as you read.

Reading Word-by-Word
Not only is it slow to read word-by-word, but when you concentrate on separate words, you often miss the overall concept of what's being said. People who read each word as a distinct unit can understand less than those who read faster by "chunking" words together in blocks. (Think about how your eyes are moving as you read this article. Are you actually reading each word, or are you reading blocks of two, or three, or five words?)

Practice expanding the number of words that you read at a time. You may also find you can increase the number of words you read in a single fixation by holding the text a little further from your eyes. The more words you can read in each block, the faster you'll read!

Inefficient Eye Motion
Slow readers tend to focus on each word, and work their way across each line. The eye can actually span about 1.5 inches at a time, which, for an average page, encompasses four or five words. Related to this is the fact that most readers don't use their peripheral vision to see words at the ends of each line.

To overcome this, "soften" your gaze when you read – by relaxing your face and expanding your gaze, you'll begin to see blocks of words instead of seeing each word as distinct unit. As you get good at this, your eyes will skip faster and faster across the page.

When you get close to the end of the line, let your peripheral vision take over to see the last set of words. This way you can quickly scan across and down to the next line.

Regression is the unnecessary re-reading of material.

Sometimes people get into the habit of skipping back to words they have just read, while, other times, they may jump back a few sentences, just to make sure that they read something right. When you regress like this, you lose the flow and structure of the text, and your overall understanding of the subject can decrease.

Be very conscious of regression, and don't allow yourself to re-read material unless you absolutely have to.

To reduce the number of times your eyes skip back, run a pointer along the line as you read. This could be a finger, or a pen or pencil. Your eyes will follow the tip of your pointer, helping you avoid skipping back. The speed at which you read using this method will largely depend on the speed at which you move the pointer.

Poor Concentration
If you've tried to read while the TV is on, you'll know how hard it is to concentrate on one word, let alone on many sentences strung together. Reading has to be done in an environment where external distractions are kept to a minimum.

To improve your concentration as you read, stop multitasking while reading, and remove any distractions. This is particularly important, because when you use the techniques of chunking blocks of words together and ceasing to sub-vocalize, you may find that you read several pages before you realize you haven't understood something properly.

Pay attention to "internal distractions" as well. If you're rehashing a heated discussion, or if you're wondering what to make for dinner, this will also limit your ability to process information.

Sub-vocalization actually forces your brain to attend to what you're reading, and that's why people often say that they can read and watch TV at the same time. To become an efficient reader, you need to avoid this.

Approaching Reading Linearly
We're taught to read across and down, taking in every word, sentence, paragraph and page in sequence.

When you do this, though, you pay the same attention to supplementary material as you do to core information. (Often, much more information is presented than you actually need to know.)

Overcome this by scanning the page for headings, and by looking for bullet points and things in bold. There is no rule saying you have to read a document in the order the author intended, so scan it quickly, and decide what is necessary and what isn't. Skim over the fluff, and only pay attention to the key material.

As you read, look for the little extras that authors add to make their writing interesting and engaging. If you get the point, there's no need to read the example or anecdote. Similarly, decide what you need to re-read as well. It's far better to read one critical paragraph twice than it is to read another eight paragraphs elaborating on that same concept.

Keys to Speed Reading Success
Knowing the "how" of speed reading is only the first step. You have to practice it to get good at it. Here are some tips to help you break poor reading habits and master the speed reading skills discussed above.

Practice, practice, practice – you have to use your skills on a regular basis. It took you several years to learn to read, and it will take time to improve your reading skills.
Choose easy material to start with – when you begin speed reading, don't use a challenging textbook. Read something like a novel which you can understand and enjoy with a quick once-over.
Speed read appropriately – not everything you read lends itself to speed reading.
Legal documents, the draft annual report, or even the letter you receive from a loved one in the mail – these are better read in their entirety, sub-vocalizations and all.
If you need to understand the message completely, memorize the information, discuss it in detail, analyze it thoroughly, or simply enjoy the prose the way the author intended, then speed reading is the wrong approach. (Here, it helps to choose an appropriate reading strategy before you start.)
Use a pointer or other device to help push your reading speed – when you quickly draw a card down the page, or run your finger back and forth, you force your eyes and brain to keep pace (sometimes this creates a slow reader.)
Take a step back and use the material's structure – this includes skimming information to get a feel for the organization and layout of the text, looking for bold words and headings, and looking for the ways in which the author transitions from one topic to the next.
When you start speed reading, it's wise to benchmark your current reading speed. This way you can tell whether your practice is paying off, and you can impress your friends and family when you tell them that you can now read faster.

Key Points
Speed reading is a skill that can be learned. It mostly involves breaking poor habits you may have developed since you learned to read. Simply becoming a faster reader isn't the point, either – you want to become a more efficient reader.

There are some great techniques you can use when practicing speed reading, including reading blocks of words, and breaking the habit of sub-vocalization.

Whichever techniques you apply, you must always be aware of the purpose of your reading and decide whether speed reading is the most appropriate approach.

When applied correctly and practiced diligently, speed reading can significantly improve your overall effectiveness, as it frees up precious time and allows you to work more efficiently in other areas.