How to stop failing at reading: my tested speed reading secrets
I agree. Reading time is never at the right moment. You want to, but there’s always something that shows up that needs your attention. And it’s not like you can say “I can’t now, I have to read.” Because you’re not 5 anymore. That excuse doesn’t work when you’re an adult.
But the thing is, as humans we need to learn. If you don’t, your brain atrophies. For some of you, it might be too late. You might have already forgotten what atrophy means, so here’s a definition.
See, we are learning animals. Learning is part of who we are, part of what your brain demands.
So, to make sure you keep on learning, no matter what, here is a technic I use to make sure I finish a book per week.
No fuss, just facts.
Why is it essential to speed read?
Let’s say you get 50% of the book while speed reading. (it’s way more than that, but let’s be conservative).
If you read at least twice as fast, the expected knowledge acquisition is already higher.
It also improves your ability to focus in short bursts of time. And that’s a rare quality in today’s interruptive world.
Let’s get to it now.
The speedreading technique
How to speed read most efficiently?
Start a backlog of books that you’d like to read. Amazon’s wishlist works great.
On your reading time, get to the first book on your reading list. Then gain a first basic understanding of the messages of the book.
To do this, read:
- the inner description
- the TOC
- A summary online or on one of the summary apps. I use Instaread.
Then, buy the book (paperback or Kindle, but I like paper better as I don’t get tired as fast compared to a screen).
When you’re ready to start the book, start a 25-minute timer. You’re going to sprint read this way. Take 5-minute breaks between sprints (known as the Pomodoro technique).
- Sometimes the author wrote a summary of the chapter at the end of it. Read it first.
- Scan the first paragraph of the chapter to get a better understanding of it.
- Fixate on 2 points per line (don’t read the first and last words of each line, and make bigger eye jumps on each line)
- Don’t subvocalize (don’t talk to yourself you freak)
- Use a pointer with your left hand
- Highlight the ideas that strike you. If nothing hits you, don’t highlight anything. It happens more often than you think. And don’t be afraid to write on and dog-ear the book. It wasn’t written by hand by some monk in a monastery. It was printed with thousands of other copies by a machine operator called Joe who was sipping Bud. Chill a bit.
- Sum up the highlighted ideas at the end of each chapter on a piece of paper
Once you’re done with the book, sum it all up. You can use a mind mapping software, publish it in a blog post, on Facebook, wherever. You can write it on a flashcard and archive it next to your dead cat coffin. I don’t care as long as you actively sum it up. Don’t rely on your amazingly shitty memory to recall the central concepts of the book.
And come back to your summaries once in a while. It will reactivate your memory until it becomes part of your long-term memory. Exactly where your memories of when your cousin Harry locked you up in the basement for 48 hours. Or maybe that was just me.
Thanks to this technique, I now read at a rate of 450 words a min. Which means there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but that already allows me to read a book per week. And that’s a major win for me.
Create a habit
Learning and reading must become habits if you want to reap life-long benefits.
How do you create a habit?
Well according to extensive research, you need a cue, which triggers a routine followed by a reward.
The brain releases dopamine when the reward is exciting. You teach your brain to enjoy learning & reading. You become hooked on learning. You’re a word-junkie. Kudos!
And don’t forget to practice.
Learning without practicing is like eating artichoke leaves without touching the heart. You need to put what you learn into action. An excellent way to do it would be to apply the principles you learned the week before into this week’s behaviors.
Now let’s answer to the haters.
Don’t you miss a lot of info?
Oh yeah, you do.
But that info is not relevant to understanding the book and its core messages. If you refer to the Pareto Principle, 20% of the words stand for 80% of the learning value of a book. Just like this article. But I’ve hidden the best 20% a little bit everywhere, to make sure you read everything.
Nonfiction books are often full of examples that you don’t need to grasp the core concepts. They are usually composed of long explanations of a principle that is already stated in the chapter title (or the first paragraph of the chapter).
It’s not relaxing, wah-wah!
First, grab a tissue and wipe off that snot. There you go.
Relaxing is not the goal of speedreading. Who said reading should be anyways? When I hear “I’m gonna relax with a good book,” and I see that person read 50 shades of grey, here is my advice to you: go skim a Playboy / Men’s Health magazine (depending on your tastes). Same benefits.
If you want to relax by reading, get a fiction book and sit down next your fireplace. If you live in NYC, we call them trash can fires.
But today we live in a world where information is infinite and cheap. You can become every day more savvy in what you love. How can you resist this access to all-you-can-eat knowledge? The more you know, the easier it becomes to connect the dots. You see connections where other novices don’t. But you have to do the work. You have to carve those neural pathways.
Don’t have the time? Poor you
I often hear “I don’t have the time, unlike you, you piece of lazy camel shit.” Maybe not that often actually.
Don’t you have 15 minutes to yourself every day? At that rhythm, you can read a book in 12 days, so at least two books a month.
Think about that time that you spend reading so-called indispensable newspapers. Or mindlessly watch stupid TV shows because you want to be “entertained.” Three episodes of Games of Thrones take as much time to watch as one book to read. How many did you watch last month?
You need to wind down, I know. But you know what?
Go practice 5 min of minutes of meditation, to feel refreshed. You don’t eat trans fat because you don’t want to put garbage into your system, stop putting shit into your mind.
And if you honestly don’t have 15 min to yourself every day it’s about time you rethink your entire way of life. No lifestyle should leave you without 15 minutes of free time every day. Damn, even professional boxers take 11 minutes to rest during the actual fight.
Welcome to unlimited power
I don’t know why people don’t grab the chance they are given today with the access to endless knowledge. Natural talent is overrated.
You need grit. That’s it.
You need to activate at the same time passion & perseverance. Learn every day, and you’ll get better. You actually might become the best.
Because the others don’t do it. I swear. You think that because it’s publicly written here, people will truly make a lasting change in their lifestyles? Most of us don’t. Most of us don’t take the driver’s seat.
And that’s where you have an opportunity to stand out.
Now, it’s not about who has access to what, it’s about who is going to absorb every day.
So what are you going to learn today?