Self Improvement, Skills

The Many Benefits of Speed Reading

We all have had that overwhelming feeling wandering through the library or bookstore and seeing all these treasure chests of potential knowledge but then thinking of how many hours/days/years it would take to get through them!

Up until a few years ago, I considered myself a slow reader. And I just sort of accepted it as unchanging, kinda like calling yourself a brown-thumb or bad with names. It’s one of those things you brush off as genetic or fate of the gods, but in reality is a easily learn-able skill.

So back in 2009-ish, I ‘Stumbled-Upon’ a blog post called 50 Life Secrets and Tips and one of the tips was to take a speed reading course. As I’m always up for new challenges, I Google’d ‘Speed Reading’ and sure enough a teacher in Calgary popped up with an at-home DVD course called Effective Speed Reading. The whole concept of Speed Reading gives off a huge too-good-to-be-true vibe, but I learned that the truth is, we just suck at reading. There’s two main reasons for this:

  • 1. We speak the words in our head as we read, and since we can only speak so quickly, that limits our reading speed.
  • 2. Our brain is this massively complex and powerful human tool, yet we read one pitiful word at a time! Our mind, combined with our eyes, can in fact read multiple words at a time, so you can read a line of 12 words in ‘chunks’ of 3 or 4 words, allowing you to effectively triple or quadruple your reading speed!

So immediately after completing the course I could actually read 2-3 times faster, it was amazing! I went from 275 Words Per Minute (WPM) to 650 wpm on her tests without loss in comprehension. This speed increase has done wonders for my learning progression. I hit the library, grab a few books and can actually get through them before they’re due back! I honestly crave learning new things now. There’s just so much cool stuff to learn about and it’s all in thousands of books and internet articles just waiting to be read.

I encourage you to check out this site: www.eyercize.com, to learn and practice speed reading for free. The page has an interactive program and goes into further detail about speed reading skills and the reasons we ‘suck’ at reading.

Also I’d like to mention one of the lessons she discussed was learning “Faster than Comfortable” reading. You know when you’re driving at 140 km/h then when you slow down to 100 km/h it feels so slow? She applied this to reading. She made us zig-zag our eyes as quickly as possible across and down the page for 1 minute (not worrying about understanding) then when we went back to reading normally, reading was instantly faster as it felt slow and comfortable compared to the lightning-quick pace before. It also trains your eye muscles to move faster.

Since then I’ve noticed this “faster than comfortable” idea applies to all sorts of every day things! It’s a great way to improve in all areas of life. For instance you can learn to play a song on guitar very quickly, then at the normal speed it feels quite easy. Or when I’m swimming I push myself to a faster, uncomfortable speed so when I go back to my normal pace it feels easier and I can improve more quickly. Even by training my eyes to move quicker, I notice I can scan grocery store shelves faster or find a particular word or sentence out of a page or chapter.

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