Most people do a lot of reading in a single day. This could be reading newspapers, emails, reports, books, proposals, letters and periodicals. Since reading takes up a lot of our time on a daily basis, it is a skill that needs to be improved. We need to learn how to read faster and more efficiently. Though the reading speed of most people is 250 words per minute, it is possible to read as much as 500 words per minute. Reading faster allows you to save time which can be used to focus on other tasks or simply relax.
To become a better reader, you must first break some bad reading habits. Here are a few examples:
1. Reading word by word
When you read word by word, you might end up missing the main message or the ‘bigger picture’. Instead, you need to learn how to ‘lump’ words together in blocks. The main reason people read word for word is due to poor eye motion. However, the eye can span four or five words at a time. Therefore, you need to learn how to expand your gaze when reading. As a result, you will find yourself moving faster across the page.
This refers to the needless re-reading of text. Many people have a habit of going back to text they have already read. When you do this, you are likely to miss the structure and flow of words, and consequently your understanding of the overall message. Therefore, as much as possible, avoid re-reading material. To avoid the temptation to regress, use a pointer as you read. This could be a pencil, pen or finger. Following the tip of the pointer will keep you from going back.
3. Poor concentration
To enhance your concentration when reading, you need to get rid of distractions. For example, trying to read while the TV is on will only prove counterproductive. You will not only spend more time, but you might also not understand what you have read. It is also important to eliminate ‘internal distractions’. If you are thinking about what to wear tomorrow or what to cook, you are not likely to process information very well.
Here are some guidelines which will help you develop speed reading skills:
- Practice – To master the skill of speed reading, you need to use it frequently. It will take time for you to unlearn bad habits and enhance your reading skills
- Start with simple material - If you begin with difficult materials, you might get discouraged. Instead, start with easy to read materials such as magazines or novels
- Use a pointer – As mentioned previously, a pointer can help speed up your reading. Run the pointer faster gradually and force your brain and eyes to keep pace
- Speed read appropriately – Speed reading should not be used for documents like annual reports or legal documents. Such materials should be read in their entirety, analyzed and understood completely
As you apply speed reading, take time regularly to evaluate your progress. Tools such as ReadingSoft.com can come in handy for reading assessment.