10 Days to Faster Reading

Abby Marks-Beale Also available in audiobook: Download our app for free listening.

Here at 12min we are addicted to books (did you ever imagine that?) Abby Marks-Beale's 10-day quicker book is an excellent guide for anyone who wants to finish up that long-awaited reading list, or Kindle and, of course, the 12min summaries. The goal is to read at high speed while maintaining high levels of reading comprehension. That's why, dear reader, I believe you will like this book. We compile our favorite ideas from the original text. Have a good time! Reading word for word may not be the best idea. The purpose of nonfiction reading is not to read every word on every page - it is to extract useful information from the material.

As we grew older, most of us learned to read by starting with the first word on the first page and continuing the reading until we reached the last word on the last page. Unless you have learned structural non-fiction reading techniques, you probably still read it that way, and the bad news is that it is very inefficient. Efficient reading is non-linear - a series of schemes, skipping the environment, references, and editorial notes. The purpose is not to cover 100% of the text with your eyes, but to extract all useful information that is relevant to you. Once you're comfortable with the idea that you do not need to read the entire book linearly to benefit from reading, you can read much faster and put it away when you've learned what you need to know.

One Day (Or Book) At a Time

Most of us have too many things to read. Between books, newspapers, magazines, email, Kindle and blog posts, our reading pile quickly overflows and while no one invents the time machine, we must choose what to read. Sorting helps you read the most critical materials first: you may have a large stack of books, but some materials will always be more valuable than others. Having clarity about what you are trying to do is necessary for efficient screening. If you've taken the time to set your goals, it's much easier to identify if reading specific materials will help you find the information for which you're looking.

What Do I Expect From This Read? The Power Of Fixation

You can multiply your reading efficiency by taking a few minutes before you start, to decide first, why you're doing it. It is important to determine the reason, i.e., decide what you want to learn from the material. Determining what information would help you, what questions you want to answer, and how you want to apply that material will be much easier to recognize useful information when you find it. The best way to determine goals is to write questions that you hope to answer before you open the book. It effectively programs your brain to look for the information you are trying to find - a very important concept called "pre-activation effect."

The Value of Mental Indexation

Pre-activation is the act of "programming" your brain to perceive factors about your environment. Your interest changes the filters, so you realize when they appear. The pre-activation effect happens unconsciously, but you can control it if you are aware. Motive fixation works because it gives you the opportunity to consciously "prioritize" your filters and note information related to your interests. When you are sufficiently focused, you can quickly read a book until your brain recognizes something that is interesting or important.

As you read, you instinctively find your eyes stopping at the part of the text that is related to what you are looking for. It sounds magical, but it's just your brain doing its job. Before you start reading, do not skip the two main sources to determine the importance of the book: the list of contents and the index. The first tells you about the structure, content, and order of the book. The second, besides being a useful reference tool, is essentially a frequency map of terms that are keywords in the book.

Your Brain Is Faster Than Your Mouth

When you learn to read, learn to repeat, speak mentally what is being read. It is useful and easier to learn to read like this but to read faster, this is an obstacle, especially since most people do not realize they are doing it, which makes them read slowly because they "pronounce" in their mind the words before understanding their meaning. A good way to break this habit is to read faster, without vocalizing the content, because from a certain point you will be reading faster than you can "mentally pronounce" and then the habit will be rewritten in your brain. Breaking this way of reading, you'll be impressed by the amount of information you can understand and retain, and you can dramatically increase your reading speed.

Here are some more great tricks to becoming a better reader: One way to overcome the habit of reading aloud is to focus on the white space just above each line. That way, you can still see the top half of the letters and can thus easily understand them without obsessing over the words themselves. The idea here is to move through words without getting stuck on each one. You can do this more effectively if you are not looking directly at them.

Another strategy is the so-called Retreat Method, which involves the use of your peripheral vision. Instead of putting your eyes at the beginning of each line, try pointing them 1 centimeter inside the left margin, then stop reading 1 centimeter before the right margin. You will still be able to see the beginning and end of the line using your peripheral vision. As you do not have your gaze on every word, you reduce the number of potential starts and stops that occur while glancing at the lines. If your eyes are stopping seven or eight times per line and you can only reduce one stop, your overall speed can increase by more than ten percent! To help you get accustomed to this exercise, start with one line, then increase to one page: draw vertical lines about half an inch inside both sides. This way, you know exactly where to start and stop eye movement.

You Can Read More Than One Word At a Time

Instead of sticking to each word, picking groups of 3 or more words at a time can maximize your reading speed without harming your comprehension. Learning to read more than one word at a time is a matter of training. One tip is to create a constant movement, with a pen pulling your reading to next line because the eyes naturally follow the movement. Similarly, pointing and moving your fingers can orient your eyes more quickly through a text. Simply place your finger to the left or right of a line, and after viewing the entire line, move your finger slowly even firmly toward the bottom of the page. This will make you faster and read in larger blocks of words.

Take Notes!

Reading is not like watching television, where your job is simply to absorb stimuli. It is an active mental process that can result in many unexpected ideas and connections. Do not hesitate to jot down as you read; this helps reinforce what you have learned. Highlighting and taking notes helps knowledge fixate in your long-term memory. The process can occur in several ways: some people prefer to write on the edges of the book itself, others prefer notebooks, and some choose to use the computer or other devices.

Read Without Distractions

Reading quickly requires intense mental concentration and effort; it demands your full attention, challenges your skills and requires focus. If the phone is ringing, email alert whistle and co-workers constantly interrupting you, it's best to find a quiet and pleasant place where you can focus for longer periods of time.

Challenge The Author!

If the material is relevant, it pays to read twice. The first reading is non-critical, keeping an open mind. The second reading should be critical. Are there elements that are confusing or contradictory? Are there points of view that you disagree? Use this to feed your ideas. An idea is worthless if it is not put into practice. Reading is not an end in itself. You don't read to brag that you read all the 12min summaries. You read to learn something useful. After reading a good book, you should always be able to add at least three items to your list of things to do or projects. Ideally, these actions should be directly related to the goals you set before you started reading.

Final Notes:

Reading faster will change your life. Quick reading takes some time and lots of practice to learn, but once you have achieved it, you will gain in productivity and learning ability. Try, practice and see the results. Re-learning to read is challenging, but the gains are incredible.

12min tip: To help you in the quest to read faster, download an application called ReadQuick!

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