Speed Reading – The Essential Guide To Hacking Our Reading Speed
The modern information age places many demands on our lives and being able to read and scan through large volumes of information in a short period is a distinct advantage.
Modern research has shown that your eye-brain system is thousands of times more complex and powerful than had previously been estimated, and that with proper training you can quickly reap the benefits of this enormous potential – Tony Buzan
Gaining speed reading skills not only ensures that you read through voluminous information at a fraction of the time it would normally take you but also guarantees that you expend much less effort while at it. You will gradually find it much easier to go through any book more quickly while processing more information and comprehending a greater amount of detail while at it.
The skill you gain while speed reading will stand you in good stead at home, at the workplace as well as enhancing the value of your hobbies.
Harnessing the Power of the Brain
It may sound incredible, but speed reading began as a skill taught to fighter pilots undergoing training on how to spot enemy war planes quickly. An instrument known as a tachistoscope was used to place flashing images before the trainee pilot’s eyes at rapidly changing speeds. The trainee had to identify images of enemy planes quickly to pass the test.
As you would expect, the pilots were required to pass flawlessly as in real life situations, they would be using the skills to make life and death decisions. One of the most remarkable outcomes of this military program was that it made it clear that the human brain could process vast amounts of visual information than was thought possible previously.
Even when confronted by dozens upon dozens of conflicting images, the trainees could quickly be adapted to identify specific ones flawlessly and make instantaneous decisions based on messages passed from the right side of the brain. You may not realize it but without constant stimulation and challenges, your brain gets bored.
Reading at a cursory rate does not exploit your brain’s potential and your mind soon loses interest as most of its capacity is lying idle. This loss of interest does not mean that you cannot become a proficient reader or that your skills are awful. It only implies that your brain is not being put to its maximum potential.
How to Get Rid of Subvocalization
The greatest impediment to speed reading is a practice known as subvocalization. This is where you visualize the words in the head as you read along. It its most devastating; people move their lips in order to vocalize the words they are reading. Needless to say, such behavior slows down your reading speed significantly. Getting rid of subvocalizing is the first thing to master on your path to becoming a speed reading expert.
There are some good online tools you can use for this such as Spreeder. To be fair, at times the practice of subvocalizing is useful. This is especially so in cases where you are dealing with compactly written textual information or when the subject matter is unfamiliar. Mathematics and science subjects are good examples of such subjects.
There are also other times when reading slowly to savor the content is fulfilling in and of itself such as is the case when dealing with poetry or fiction thrillers.
Speed Reading: How-to Guide
Below are some tried and proven techniques for those who want to master speed reading:
- Effective reading is not about reading a book or piece of text from its beginning to the end but rather from one point to the next. Getting good value from the book is about getting important points in the text, and does not necessarily mean you have to read them in a specific order. Even the most well written books have needless information (or details which won’t benefit you in particular). Identifying such parts and skipping them is essential to speed reading and getting the most out of the experience.
- Begin practicing by pacing yourself with a tool. This can be a pencil or a finger, and it will help you pace yourself as you move it faster and faster across the text you are reading. Learn how to read faster by using a set of progressive snapshots known as saccades. A visual guide comes in handy here as it keeps you from regressing.
- The faster you move the pacing tool, your eyes gradually adjust to visualize larger chunks of text at once and your brain also gets used to processing more information. Even better, this will progressively get rid of sub-vocalization.
- Take effort to eliminate all potential interruptions and distractions prior to reading. The room should be quiet and your seat comfortable.
- Try reading the text in phrases of three words or more. Known as chunking, this practice helps your brain to get used to processing visual images and ideas instead of a series of individual words.
- No matter how tempting it is to go back over a block of text you just read, do not move back to read it again. This not only breaks up the pace you had picked up in reading but confuses your mind and how it processes information. Any benefits that may result in returning back to the idea do not measure up to the disadvantages.
- Visualizing the ideas you read as pictures in your head is the single most potent speed reading skill you are likely to ever master. Your brain dedicates most of its capacity to process visual information and all information that can be visualized will be processed faster and be more easily remembered in the future. The best approach in visual information processing is the use of visual maps. The approach helps process information faster, and you will soon be flying across the pages without missing a single detail. The more you practice speed reading, the more proficient you will become and by the end of it, you will be amazed at just how useful the skill is in your daily life.
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