A Simple Tip on How to Read Faster

One of the things I want to do this year is to learn to read faster. I’m a slow reader, therefore, I can’t finish as many books as I’d like to. Many successful people, however, are fast readers. Warren Buffett once said that it’s a huge advantage to be able to read fast.

I’m not going to give you detailed tips on it (Breakthrough Rapid Reading is a good book for that), but I’d like to give you one simple tip that I have found useful.

It uses something called “no-stakes practice” that Tim Ferriss mentioned in an interview. In essence, it means that in order to be good at a technique, you should practice it in a pressure-free environment. For instance, if you want to learn how to shoot in basketball, you should practice it alone when there is no fear of embarrassment from other people. That way you can focus on your technique until it becomes good.

Applied to reading skills, it means that you should practice the skills in a way that is pressure-free. What is the pressure? Well, you might have a different opinion, but for me the pressure is the need to comprehend the material. That’s the case when I read a book or article that contains ideas I can’t afford to lose.

Consequently, the first step is to find non-essential materials to practice on. The materials that fall under this category are different for everyone. In my case, I have articles that I use for this purpose. The articles fall under the “nice to know but not essential” category. Therefore, I can afford to miss the ideas.

The next step after finding the materials is to use your finger as a pacer. Move your finger throughout the text and follow it with your eyes. Since your goal is to increase your reading speed, you should move your finger faster than your normal reading speed. This technique is useful to eliminate (or at least reduce) sub-vocalization, which is an obstacle to faster reading.

Combining the two parts above, here is a tip on how to read faster:
Find non-essential reading materials to practice finger pacing on.

I’ve tried this technique for some time now and it works. It trains my mind to comprehend the text at a faster rate without the fear of missing an important idea. I can later use my improved reading skill on “real” reading materials.

What do you think? Do you have a suggestion on how to read faster? Feel free to share it in the comments.

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  1. I can read this way. Funny thing is, I find it easier to read dense material this way, and usually take my time with fiction or light reading so I can savor it. But I learned long ago how to speed read. I am a bit out of practice, though, and this might stir me to start using it more regularly again.

  2. Yes! Speed reading is awesome. If you haven’t checked out Tims blog post on this, you REALLY should: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/07/30/speed-reading-and-accelerated-learning/
    Nowadays, I always use a pointer when I read and the difference is huge 🙂

  3. I remember some years back eyeq was the program of choice for speed reading. Thanks for the tip Donald

  4. I believe he also mentions in the article that you should stop reading “aloud” in your head. I read quite fast but I still have the problem of reading along in my head.

  5. I was taught about some of these tips in high school but I don’t find that easy to apply them. I don’t know why, it seems that sometimes is too much information and my brain just cannot handle.
    But it is a great way to improve productivity, that’s for sure.

  6. I love this topic. I read over 150 books a year.

    A lot of techniques help, but one I like from Tim Ferriss is to not move your eyes from side to side. Your peripherals can pick up the entire line.

    I also try to read important words only, and skip the to’s, and’s, in’s, this’s, etc. Your brain can connect the words without them.

  7. I am not a very fast reader either for similar reasons like you. I was not born in an English speaking country therefore I was trying to improve the speed with which I read so I personally came up with what I think is an amazing alternative that works like magic for myself. I realized that every time I listen to an audio book I zip through it with almost the speed of light and I remember the content far better than if I had read the book. To put the two side by side, it takes me weeks if not a month to read a good book but only hours or days to listen to the same book in audio and have a deeper effect. I than started to think why that is. To beging with listening to an audio book is like having a conversation with someone. Its a huge plus if you really like the author and they are the narrator of their own book. You can really get to the depth this way. Also, if you have to look away it does not stop the book. In fact you can walk, sit, lay down, close your eyes and really go deep into the book. You can mutli task, multi task like lay down and close your eyes not multi task listen and watch TV or surf the net kind of multi tasking.

    Another reason why people read slow is this. While we read we come across of the word in a book that we think we know but we really do not understand its true meaning. What happens after that is our mind gets derailed and everything we read after that we can not remember. The technigue is to understand everything and when you find the world you do not understand or you have doubts about to pick up a dictionary and to dwell on this word and grasp its meaning. It may take a few complicated books that use difficult words to try this technigue but as your capacity to understand difficult (so called) words grows so will your speed and than you woun’t have to distiguish a must read book from a not so important book. All books will be easy to read and the speed will follow.

    Another tip I would like to share is this. we think of reading as something that should be taken lightly but reading is an activity that requires a clear and well tunes and concentrated mind. For instance if I do a breathing practice or meditation before I have my soccer game I am lot better on the field than if I had just watched the knews and than quickly started to play my soccer game. This technique applies to reading as well. You will read faster and understand books better if your mind is tuned, cleared of junk and noise before you start reading. But if you jump from one activity to another and expect better results that wount be very easy, lets just say.

    Another golden rule I think I agree with holeheartedly is this. Practice makes the difference. The more you practice reading the better you are going to read and I do not think your technique of reading unimportant and easy to read books with a finger can help you read important must know books better. Its more like the other way around. Indulge yourself in hard to read books. Read every sentence carefully and make sure you understand every word. If in doubt pick up a dictionary and churn on the word. You will be shocked how many words we think we know but they actually mean something completely different which is why there is a communication problem and misunderstand amongst people.

    Good luck and thats it from me. I’d love to hear your feedback and comments.


  8. Thanks for the comments and suggestions, everyone! I still have a lot to learn so I appreciate your thoughts.

  9. One tip that really changed my reading style was to look at the space underneath the line of words, not at the actual words themselves.

  10. This was actually very interesting to read. I was always a fast reader when I was a child.

    However, I was reading fiction and novels that didn’t require thinking.

    I now am reading far less fiction and more self-improvement books. I find it takes me so much longer to read!

    It may have to do with the fact that I often pause to reflect on what I read, how it impacts my life, and what I can do to improve on it.

    I guess practice makes perfect though!

  11. There are some great tips here. I always wanted to read faster while understanding what I just read I will give some of these tips a try and let yoou know how it works out.

  12. Reading faster has always been a goal of mine. Have definitely improved over the years but will try these tips to see if I can get even faster.

  13. A few things that help me read way faster:
    1. Start with questions (read to answer your own questions, which helps internalize and comprehend the info)
    2. Train my eyes to move way faster than I thought they could go (I used EyeQ software to train the pace)
    3. Stop sub-vocalizing (saying things internally slows us down)

    An interesting point on #3 is that while I often can skip subvocalizing, sometimes I really need my audio learning style to kick-in and sub-vocalizing actually helps.

  14. Aoccdrnig to reserach at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, the oredr of lteetrs in a wrod is nto vrey iprmoetnt. Waht mttaers is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The ohter letetrs can be a ttoal mses and you can sitll raed wthuot mcuh probelm. Tihs is bcauseae yuor brian deos not raed ervey lteter, but raeds wrods and gruops of wrods.

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