The goal of my last tip was explaining the importance of increasing your vision span. I told you that the easiest way to widen your vision span is to stop looking at a single word at a time and instead start learning how to look at chunks of words. I explained that once you learn how to interpret word chunks your eyes don’t have to make as many eye fixations. From there I went on to describe how fewer eye fixations can translate into faster reading speeds.
What I didn’t touch upon though was the role your peripheral vision plays in learning to speed read. Your peripheral vision is more than your vision span. It encompasses everything that your eyes can see outside their main area of focus.
Some of you might have had a reason to develop your peripheral vision. But this is more likely another thing that most of us simply take for granted. Chances are your vision span isn’t very wide and neither is your peripheral vision.
And that makes sense. If you’ve been reading the same way all of your life, you haven’t really had any reason to expand your peripheral vision. But all that’s going to change now that you’re taking steps to increase your reading speed.
You see, widening your peripheral vision is an important part of developing speed reading skills. When you expand your peripheral vision, you’ll be able to see more of the words that appear horizontally to the left and to the right of your central area of focus and also more of the words that appear above and below that central area of focus.
How do you enhance your peripheral vision?
The answer is simple: Exercise.
All day long your eyes are busy receiving visual stimuli and continually focusing and refocusing on whatever it is they’re looking at. Even as you’re sitting there listening to me, your eyes are working hard and you probably don’t even realize it.
What’s doing a lot of that work are the six muscles attached to each of your eyes. These muscles control all of the movements your eyes make including the movements that make your eyes look up, down, and all around. Eye muscles also help your eyes focus on near objects and objects far away.
The only time you ever really notice your eye muscles is when your eyes feel strained. Those eye twitches, watery eyes, and burning sensations are some of the signs that your eye muscles are tired and need a break.
Just like any other muscle in your body, exercise helps your eye muscles gain strength and flexibility. And just like other muscles, there are specially designed exercises that help build eye muscles strength and flexibility.
Why should you care about exercising your eye muscles?
Because the only way you’ll be reaching and sustaining reading speeds of 700word per minute and more is by exercising them. The stronger your eye muscles are, the more work they can handle before tiring. And the more flexible they are, the wider you can stretch your peripheral vision.
Follow along as I teach you a simple eye exercise designed to help build eye muscle flexibility:
To start, sit or stand and focus your vision straight ahead. Next stretch each hand out to the side like you used to do when pretending you were an airplane. Stick each thumb up towards the sky and hold that pose.
Now, keeping your head straight, move your eyes to the right until you can see your thumb. If you can’t quite see it, just stretch your eyes as far to the right side as you can. Then glance to the left while making sure you keep your head still and facing straight ahead. Continue glancing right to left and left to right nine more times. Repeat the sequence of 10 glances to each side for a total of three sets. That’s it!