Face it, you have an addiction problem!
This addiction problem, however, just might save you. It might save your marriage. It might save your business. It might save your life. Any problem anyone has ever faced in the history of the world can be solved through the addiction problem you’re dealing with right now.
You are addicted to books. Me too…
It’s a great problem to have. Each and every one of us have access to the greatest minds the planet has ever known: Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, General George Patton, just to name a few.
There’s just one little problem…
You can’t gain the knowledge if you don’t crack open the books!
Oh, but I can hear you now.
“I’d really like to read more but I just don’t have the time.”
“I know reading is important but we all can’t have as much time as you do.”
If you’ve become emotionally attached to your excuses as to why you don’t have the time to sharpen your mind, read no further!
But, if you are seriously committed to improving your mind, gaining new insights, building your creativity muscle, and surrounding yourself with incredible ideas, you’re in the right place.
Now, let’s get you reading efficiently, reading faster, and reading more so you can maximize the six inches between your ears.
Barring creating more time for yourself (something every man needs to do and something we’ll discuss in a future article), here are some common and some not-so-common ways to improve your reading.
No Tongue Action
It’s a fact – your mind can process information faster than your mouth. Which means that, as funny as it is to watch you mouth the words to the novel you’re reading, you’re doing yourself a disservice when you do.
This is a hard habit to break because you’ve been doing it since kindergarten. If you have to, place your fingers over your mouth, chew gum, or utilize my go-to option, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth so you can suppress your desire to “sub-vocalize” the words on the page.
When I was first learning to speed read, I would get too far ahead of myself. I knew I was going too fast when I would catch myself re-reading the words from a previous sentence or paragraph too often.
Every time you revert to previous words and/or sentences, you slow down the speed in which you can consume the words.
This is natural as you learn to read faster and faster but here are two steps to eliminating backtracking:
- Read Slower – I know what you’re thinking, “Ummm, Ryan, isn’t the point of this whole post to read faster?” Yes, it is but it comes with practice and patience. Slowing down just a touch will allow you to learn the process so you can read faster later. Build the foundation first!
- Cover Your Tracks – You can eliminate much of your backtracking by removing the option altogether. I personally used an index card at first to cover words and paragraphs I had already read in order to eliminate my ability to go back.
The mind is an amazing tool and studies have shown that you do not need to read every letter of every word or every word in every sentence in order for your brain to comprehend the information it is acquiring.
Further, it’s possible for your mind to read words in which the letters in the middle of the word are completely scrambled. In fact, it’s been suggested that humans can comprehend most words if just the first and last letter are in the correct position.
For example, you have probably seen this sentence:
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteers be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Or, how about this one using a process known as “Disemvoweling” in which all the vowels are removed from a sentence (commonly used in texting):
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
Th qck brwn fx jmps vr th lzy dg
Now that you know that, realize that, more than likely, you’ll be reading complete sentences, with the right sentence structure, with correctly spelled words.
But, this strategy does suggest we do not need to read everything in order to consume the sentence.
So, as you’re speeding up the time in which it takes you to read a book, try this: Attempt to read 2-3 words at a time as often as you can.
My high school football coach would always to scream to me, “Michler, keep your head on a swivel!” He wanted me to see the whole field at a single point in time. This can only be accomplished utilizing the amazing ability of peripheral vision our eyes and brains have developed.
Using your peripheral vision works on the football field when trying to avoid being tackled. And, it works when trying to read more than one word at once. In doing so, you’ll accelerate the pace in which you read.
Whether you’re in the gym, managing your business, or growing your wealth, tracking your progress has a way of improving your results.
What gets measured, gets improved.— Peter Drucker
Maybe it’s our competitive drive which stems from our evolutionary programming (for the desire to stay alive) over the last tens of thousands of years, but if you want to get better at anything, try measuring your results.
With regards to your reading, simply set up a timer on your phone and read one page. Read a different page and see if you improved. Read an entirely different page again and see if you improved.
Disclaimer: Don’t cheat yourself by reading the same page over and over and over again. Mix it up from page to page. As strong as your mind is in its ability to read faster, it’s also does pretty well memorizing the words you’re reading.
There’s An App For That
You’ve got to love technology. Apps utilizing technology known as Rapid Reading Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) are available on your computer and phone. These programs have shown to increase reading speed.
I won’t go into all the details here as everyone has their personal preference but here are a few of my favorites:
Spreeder (personal favorite)
Spritz (second best personal favorite)
Skipping and Scanning
Look, you’ve been taught since you were a child that skipping anything is a bad idea. Think connect the dots and having to show your work on a math problem.
The reality is, however, that skipping the unnecessary and scanning information are about the most effective and efficient strategies our brains employ. It’s the reason our brains can operate at such a high-level with such limited energy and, therefore, heat.
If our brains didn’t look for shortcuts, we’d all overheat and die!
With that said, I now grant you permission (as if you needed it) to skip, shortcut, and scan your books, magazines, newspapers, and whatever else you might be reading any given day. If you find something that resonates, read it in depth. If not, move along.
Simple as that!
And, while we’re on the subject, if you catch yourself in the middle of a lame book, DO NOT feel obligated to finish it.
In the past, I’ve completed some really bad books.
Looking back on it now, the only reason I did, was out of guilt (AKA, social conditioning that we HAVE to finish what we start) and/or because someone I respect said it was a good book.
Just DON’T DO IT!
There are hundreds-of-thousands of books that will resonate with you. As busy as we are, why waste time on one that doesn’t resonate? The sooner you dump the losers, the sooner you get to the winners.
I can’t give you too much information here because I don’t listen to audiobooks.
It’s not that I see anything wrong with consuming information through your eardrums. I just choose to consume my books the old fashion way.
That said, I do realize that listening to an audiobook during your workout, on your commute, or during your workday is an extremely efficient way to get through some information and/or entertainment.
I get that you’re busy so, if you can kill a book on your drive to work, get after it.
All I can say is if it works for you, do it!
Audible.com is a great resource so I’ve been told. Again, I don’t listen to audiobooks.
Reading is a very individualized process. At some point you’re going to have to experiment with some variables in order to find the most effective way for you.
Here are some things I’ve experimented with:
Environment – I personally read best in my room. I’ve tried to read in the living room. I’ve tried to read in my office. I’ve tried to read outside. But again, I always come back to my room.
Position – Do you prefer to sit, legs crossed, feet on the ground, lay on your back, lay on your stomach, stand up, hold your book in the air, rest it on your chest, etc.? That you’re going to have to determine for yourself.
Format – Again, I would rather read than listen. I would also prefer a hardcover over a paperback (I’m a bit of a book snob). I keep the book sleeve on. My wife takes her cover off. Do what works for you.
Reading Structure – Believe it or not, I’ve tried reading backwards. I once heard how well the brain can consume words even if reading backwards so, here’s what I did:
I would read from left to right on the first sentence, then right to left on the second sentence, then back to left to right on the third sentence and so on.
It did speed up my reading time since my eyes weren’t skipping around so much and, I was surprised at how well I remembered the information.
I can’t do it with every book but it works for books I’ve read before, the books that don’t explain detailed processes and systems, and the ones which use a more simplified vocabulary. The point is, just try different things.
At the end of the day, it just takes practice. My goal is to complete 1-2 books per week. And, because I read close to 50 books per year, I’ve had plenty of practice and time to experiment.
Just a word of caution – practice does not make perfect. If you’re doing it incorrectly or not striving to improve, you will not see the results.
Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect— Vince Lombardi
Practice right. Be deliberate about improving. Always be experimenting.
A Word on Annotations
Now, these tips may not increase your speed reading but, they’re certainly worth mentioning.
Someone once told me, “You should never, EVER, write in a book, tab your pages, or highlight a word.” And, for a long time, I believed that.
I’m happy to report I have seen the errors of my ways. These are your books! What good is it if you can’t make them your own. I now love to beat up my books – write in them, scribble on them, color them, bend the pages, etc.
My three go-to annotation methods are as follows:
Highlight – Any time I come across a sentence or a paragraph I really like, I highlight it.
Margins – If a sentence leads me to a new thought or idea, I write in the margin with a pencil.
Earmark – If a page has been highlighted and/or marked I earmark it.
Each of these methods is done for one reason only. After every book I read, I go back and read every single page that is tabbed, highlighted, and/or marked.
This process has help me create implementation strategies for every book I read.
Contrary to popular belief, knowledge is not power – acting on that knowledge is!
So, there you have it guys, my quick and easy guide to reading more books this year by increasing your ability to read faster.
This isn’t rocket science but it does require some effort, time, and patience. With that said, I cannot imagine a better investment than learning how to increase your capacity to put more information inside your brain.
Your future self will thank you for it!