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Information overload? Five tips for reading faster!

speed readingIn today’s fast paced business environment it’s essential to be able to absorb material quickly and efficiently.

How much reading do you do in a day? Emails, magazines, reports, letters, memos and lists… and that’s without including web pages, texts and social media.

Speed isn’t always best

Sometimes speed isn’t important, and can even be counter-productive. For example, with complex legal documents it’s essential to read and re-read material slowly and carefully.

But with most reading – in this age of ‘information overload’ – there are some key techniques which can help us to increase both our reading speed, and our understanding of the text.

Five tips for fast and efficient reading

1 Don’t try to ‘hear the words in your head’. ‘Sub-vocalisation’ (the technical term for ‘hearing the words in your head’) can reduce your reading speed by limiting it to what sounds ‘normal’ – i.e. the spoken word.

2 Don’t read word by word. Try to group words together. Not only will this increase reading speed, but you will begin to see ‘the big picture’ of the overall argument. It’s actually true that focusing too much on each word is like looking at a forest in great detail… you literally can’t see the wood for the trees.

3 To help see ‘the big picture’, put the reading material further away from your eyes to widen your field of vision. Efficient readers read blocks of words, not individual ones and having the material further away will help.

4 Use a guide (pencil, pen, finger – run along the line you are reading) to help you read more quickly. Using this technique you not only push yourself to read faster. It also stops you from going back over material you’ve already read – something which can waste a lot of time, and interrupt the flow of your reading.

5 Begin with easier material. Recently I decided to improve my French by reading some books I ordered from Amazon France. Since I like traditional murder mysteries, I began with Agatha Christie in French. Her sentence structures tend to be simple and straightforward, which built my confidence and improved my reading speed in French. Now I’m reading Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley mysteries in French translation. These are in a much more elaborate style, using ‘literary tenses’ and so on. At first I read very slowly and laboriously; but over time have gradually increased my reading speed – and my comprehension.

Practice makes perfect

As with any skill, reading speed can be improved through regular practice. As a motivator, try testing your reading speed and comprehension by using Illumine’s Speed Reading Challenge

Then implement some of the techniques and strategies described in this article, and test yourself again. Seeing progress will encourage you!

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