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Category: Speed Reading

Speed Reading Tips That Make a Difference

In this post I will cover a number of speed reading tips related to ergonomics.

Speed Reading Tip #1 – Choose your environment

One thing that surprises my students when they first learn to speed read is the importance of where they read.  Most of them think, “Hey it’s time to read.  Let me settle in and get comfortable so I can start reading faster than I’ve ever read before.”

They head over to the couch, or bring their laptop or their books to their favorite coffee shop that’s buzzing with activity, or they plunk their chairs in the sand, books in their laps.  Then open their books or laptops and begin reading.

Before they know it, they find themselves literally baffled when they realize that instead of reading at 600 or 700 words per minute or faster, they’ve fallen back into their old habits.  They start regressing, or they start daydreaming, or they tune in to what’s going around them.  Sometimes, they’ve gotten so comfortable, they end up falling asleep!

Funny as it sounds, the situation is not all that funny.  Reverting to old reading habits is frustrating and worse, it can hinder all the progress you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

This kind of misunderstanding about speed reading happens all the time which is why I include a lesson about ergonomics in my speed reading workshops.

Speed Reading Tip #2 – Ergonomics is important

How many of you know what the word ergonomics means?

How many of you have ever heard of ergonomics?

I typically find that plenty of people have heard of the word.  But few really understand what ergonomics is all about and even fewer understand the role it plays in speed reading.

So let me explain.

Ergonomics is a science that deals with studying the proper “fit” between a workplace and the people who operate within that workplace.  The primary purpose of studying this fit is to design a working environment that maximizes the efficiency and productivity of the people working within that environment.

Besides increasing efficiency and productivity, proper ergonomic design helps reduce operator fatigue and discomfort.  It also plays an important role in reducing injury, especially the types of injuries that are caused by repetitive motion.

All sorts of things that people use can and should be ergonomically designed.  Chairs, desks, telephones, headsets, wrist rests, keyboards and mice, foot rests, tools, chair mats, and computer monitors are just a few examples of common ergonomically designed equipment.

In order for ergonomics to work, not only do you need the properly-designed equipment, it also needs to be set up so that your head, wrists, legs and other body parts don’t end up spending long hours in awkward positions.

I could go on for hours about ergonomics, the high costs of ignoring it and the countless benefits of proper ergonomic design.  But I’m not teaching about workplace safety; I’m teaching you about speed reading.

Video Version of Post

A Fast Reading Technique – Weed out the bad information

Next I want to talk about the digital information explosion and offer a technique you can use to help weed out the bad information from the good.  If you’ve ever done any online research, you probably know what I mean when I say there’s some good information out there but there’s also a lot of information that’s not so good.

That’s because anyone can publish any information on the Internet.  The information doesn’t have to be well researched.  It doesn’t have to be verified for correctness.  It doesn’t even have to be edited.

All that’s needed is a web site and someone to put it there.  And that can be a problem when you’re trying to find reliable information about whatever topic you’re searching.

So where do you start?

Most people start reading on the first search engine results page and work their way down the listings that appear on this page.  Most people never even make it to the second page of search engine results or beyond.

That’s not necessarily bad as long as you remember that a high search page rank doesn’t necessarily mean the information you’ll find on that site is accurate.  There are ways to get a web site ranked higher than the hundreds of others that might also maintain information about the same topic.

However, a high ranking doesn’t necessarily mean the information on a highly-ranked site is inaccurate, either.  That’s why you need to know what to look for.

Most important is to know whether the source of the information you are reading is dependable.  If it’s published by a government agency, a reputable educational institution, or a newspaper you’ve actually heard of before, the information is probably worth a closer look.

When you look more closely, check out the author to help determine whether he or she is credible.  An easy technique is by looking for information about the author’s background, credentials and/or affiliations.

You should also try to determine whether or not the author might be biased.  If you’re reading a story about a product that has a questionable track record or a lot of controversy surrounding it, and the story puts a positive spin on the product, there’s always a chance the author might not have objectively presented the facts.  If you find this to be the case, consider moving on.

Some other information you can find out simply from the page is whether or not the information presented is recent or recently revised.  You can also check to see whether the author lists sources, references, footnotes and any other information that can help substantiate and validate the information being presented.

Finally, take a look at what’s written and ask, “Does this even make sense?”  If the information is confusing, inconsistent, incomplete, or irrelevant, or if it contains grammatical and spelling errors, don’t waste any more time on it.  Move on until you find a more trustworthy source.

Once you find information you want to keep, make sure it’s saved in a way that’s organized and easily retrievable.  Most importantly, try to resist the temptation to print everything out.  Whether electronic or printed, nothing’s worse than being buried under a disorganized pile of papers!

Video Version of Post

Speed Reading Methods for Computer Screen

Moving on, I want to share with you some screen reading techniques I use to help read faster on screen.

The first method is reformatting pages that present a challenge to your eyes.  When you find an online page that’s cluttered or difficult to read like the kind described previously, don’t skip it.  Instead copy and paste it.  With the page pasted into your word processor or text editor all you need to do is reformat the text until it’s easier to read.  You can change fonts so they’re consistent in size and appearance.  You can adjust line spacing and delete distracting images and links.  And from there, you could print the page and speed read it like you’d speed read a page in a book.

Admittedly, that can be a lot of work and you may not want to go through all that trouble, especially when you can probably find equally good information on another site with better presentation.

Another useful speed reading method to help you read better on screen is to learn how to use different software and hardware features as pacers.  A pacer is nothing more than a visual guide that readers can use to help guide their eyes across as well as down lines of text.  In the printed world a pacer can be a card, or a finger, or even your entire hand.

Back when we relied on those really thick telephone directories and dictionaries, most of us used our fingers as we read down each column in search of a name or word.  Some of us still use our fingers to help skim through pages of text in search of certain information.  In these instances, our fingers are our pacers.

Using a pacer has many benefits.  By guiding your reading, your eyes are forced into moving in the direction of the pacer.  In other words, pacers force your eyes to focus when and where you want them to focus.  With a pacer, it’s nearly impossible to lose your place on a page and it’s a lot easier to advance to each successive line.  All of this helps increase reading speed.  Since pacers involve using other parts of the body, it’s easier to stay alert while reading and that helps improve concentration, too.

This all works very well on paper and pages that lie flat on your desk.  But fingers, hands, plastic rulers and cards aren’t very effective when trying to speed read on screen.  So you have to use what’s available.  And one of those things is highlighting.

If you’re reading a document using a word processing tool that has a highlight feature, you can use that feature as your pacer.  Simply click your cursor at the point where you want to begin reading.  Then drag your cursor down and across the page to continue highlighting the areas of the page as you read.  When you’re finished with a section, release the mouse button and click to clear the highlighted area.  Then move your cursor to the next section you want to read, and repeat the highlighting process.  Continue this way until you’re through.

Although effective, the highlighting method could spell disaster if you inadvertently hit the delete key while highlighting a block of text.  So only use this technique if your word processor or text editor has a Read Only mode.  If it has an “Undo” feature you can use it if you accidentally modify a document in a way you didn’t mean to!

Something that’s even easier to use as an online pacer is your mouse.  All you do is use the mouse button or scroll wheel to navigate up and down your document at whatever pace is comfortable for you.  If your mouse has an automatic scroll setting, you won’t even have to touch your mouse.  Simply set the speed and let your mouse loose on auto pilot mode, moving your page along as you sit back and read.

If you haven’t experimented with your mouse settings before, now might be a good time to try.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, find someone who’s more technically-inclined, explain what you’re trying to achieve, and then have some fun!

I have one more online pacer tip.  But before I explain it I’ll explain the way it works on paper first.

When reading printed material, you can use a card to cover up the lines of text above the line that you’re currently reading.  As you move your eyes from left to right to begin reading, you drag the card down and over the text you just read as you continue advancing to each next line.  The card’s smooth edge helps keep eye movements smooth and helps improve reading speed.

It’s a really good pacer technique and you’ll be happy to know that you can accomplish this same type of line-by-line pacer movement using the top edge of your computer screen.  And it’s really simple to do.  All you do is use your mouse or the down arrow to scroll the page up until the first line of text you want to read appears at the top of your screen.  Then with your mouse still positioned on the down arrow on the scroll bar click the down arrow each time you’re ready to advance to the next line of text.

What you’ve done in effect is created a straight edge that helps guide your eyes in the same way a card guides your eyes when reading printed material.  But that’s not all.  By keeping the line of text you’re currently reading consistently at the top of your screen, the text that you’ve already read scrolls up and out of sight.  With already read text out of sight, your eyes won’t be tempted to go back and reread!

This is a great online speed reading method for anyone struggling with regression.  It’s also very effective when the materials are relatively easy and when you’re just skimming a page.

Video Version of Post

Online Speed Reading – Best Methods

When you think about it, the process of reading is the same regardless of whether you read online or off.  Reading starts with the eyes as they begin looking at letters and the words those letters create.  Right away, the brain kicks into gear, breathing meaning into the images received by the eyes.

If the reading process is the same, why does it seem there’s a difference between speed reading online and reading material in a book?

A lot of the difference has to do with presentation.  When we read books, we pretty much know what to expect.  We’ll see crisp black letters against a white background.  We’ll see plenty of space between each sentence and usually, the same type of font.  We’ll see formatting that helps break apart the text, adds more white space and makes reading easier on the eye.  Images may or may not be included, but when they are they’re included in a way that’s easy on the eye.

This is what we’ve come to expect from printed material and that consistency helps ensure that the speed reading techniques we’ve learned can be uniformly applied.

But that all changes when we begin reading on screen.  The ability to visit so many web sites so quickly and with such ease is really terrific.  Unfortunately though, it also means that our eyes are at the mercy of thousands of different web site owners who each have their own ideas about the way their sites should look.

As we visit different web sites, our eyes are bombarded with inconsistent presentations of on screen text.  They encounter different fonts, different-sized fonts and different-colored fonts.  They see pages with varying amounts of space between each line, with some text presented in the familiar space and a half and other text crammed together with barely a single space separating each line.  They see varying column widths and links to other sites.

And not only that, there always seems to be things popping up all over our screens that serve no other purpose than to grab our attention away from the information we initially visited the site to review.

Add to all of this the vast differences in computer monitor resolutions and refresh rates and it’s easy to understand why our eyes sometimes have trouble focusing on what we seeing online.

Unlike the crisp clear letters that appear in printed material, the letters on computer screens are comprised of tiny pixels.  The more pixels a computer screen is capable of displaying, the clearer the image that appears on the screen.  In this case, text is also considered an image.

Computer screen resolution is referred to as PPI or Pixels per Inch and the general rule of thumb is more is better since pixels reflect color and brightness.  The downside is that more usually costs more.  More pixels also consume more memory and can, depending on your computer hardware’s overall configuration, slow image display rates.

The point I’m trying to make is a higher computer monitor resolutions produce much clearer and much more detailed images than a computer screen with a lower output capacity.  There are other ways computer screens affect how you speed read online, and I’ll cover them in detail later on in the next post.

Video Version of Post

Best Speed Reading Strategies – Then vs Now

In the earliest days of speed reading strategies, computers were nowhere near as popular as they are today.  Back then people mainly read printed material like books and magazines and newspapers.  Construction of the Information Superhighway was in its earliest stages.  So when people needed information, they usually headed to the nearest library.

Today the opposite is true – and this has had an impact on how we select ideal speed reading strategies.  Computers are everywhere and nearly everyone uses them.  They’re at the office, they’re at home, they’re at school, they’re in hospitals, they’re out in the field, and they’re even taking center stage at libraries.  Nowadays kids are learning to use computers even as they’re learning to talk.  And seniors, who for so long had tried to resist them, now use computers just as easily and sometimes just as frequently as their teen-aged neighbors.

Right alongside the explosive growth in computer use has been an explosive growth of digital information.  Thanks to the Internet, finding boatloads of information on any topic you can imagine is possible with just a search engine and a few mouse clicks.  In literally a matter of seconds you can find more online content than you could ever find searching through those clunky card catalog files at the library.

But for all the good computers have done in terms of speed, efficiency and convenience they’ve created challenges for speed reading strategies.  The instant availability of so much online information can quickly overwhelm readers and slow their reading progress.

With so much to sift through, it’s easy to become buried under piles of electronic paper.  Plus, long hours spent staring at computer monitors can cause other problems including eye strain and fatigue, which further slow the reading process.

So, what’s a speed reader to do?

The answer is simple: learn to adapt.

Speed reading online doesn’t have to be inefficient or uncomfortable.  Efficiency and comfort can both be enhanced by understanding how computer screens are different from paper and by learning newer techniques designed to facilitate onscreen reading.

Video Version of Post

Improve Your Reading Speed by Trusting Your Brain

To improve your reading speed, you have to start trusting your brain.  I promise that if you start trusting your brain more, you will have an easier time breaking your old reading habits and learning new ones.  It’s about time you start trusting your brain anyway and here’s why.

Without your brain, you could not have come as far in life as you’ve come already.  Every step of the way, your brain has been right alongside you.  Well, it’s actually been up in your head, but when I say it’s beside you, it sounds more like a friend.

Stop and think for a moment of everything your brain has already helped you through – learning to eat and walk, your teen-aged years, your education and your jobs, your relationships, sports, driving; everything that you have ever done in your life, you have done with the help of your brain.

And whether you want to believe it right now or not, your brain is fully capable of understanding all of the information it reads – the first time you read it, even if you don’t read that information word-for-word.

How can I be so certain?

Because of all of the things you already know.  If you know something, doesn’t it mean that your brain knows it, too?  Of course it does.  Everything your brain already knows is called your background knowledge, and you have a lot of it.  Background knowledge is a compilation of every single thing you already know.  And a big part of it includes all of the words currently in your vocabulary and all of your past life experiences.

As you’ll learn later on when we’re developing speed reading skills, your vocabulary, which by now is far more extensive than it was when you first learned to read, is going to help you make split-second predictions about the words and word phrases that you read.  And all of your previous life experiences are going to help you better understand all different types of reading materials you’ll encounter.

All I want you to understand right now is that your background knowledge plays a key role in your ability to increase both your reading speed and your comprehension.  If you’re still unsure about the connection, think about this.

If you do a lot of traveling, you probably have an easier time understanding travel-related reading material, right?  But when you read about a topic you’re not very familiar with, like maybe your homeowner’s insurance policy, wouldn’t you agree reading becomes more difficult, even slower?  Sure you would.

But what you may not realize is that whenever you read unfamiliar material, there is almost always something in your background knowledge that you can draw upon to help you become more familiar with an unfamiliar topic.

For example, if you’ve lived in a home before, you can call upon that experience that’s maintained inside your brain to help you understand all of the different things inside and outside your home that are and are not covered in your insurance policy.

When you learn how to use your brain in this way, you will have learned a very effective way of broadening your knowledge base.

Now let me finish off by pointing out something else I’ve learned from all of the years I’ve taught speed reading:

The people with the most background knowledge are typically the people who have the most success with improving their reading speed.

If you recall, I began this post discussing the importance of knowledge.  Back then I told you that knowledge is power and that knowledge attracts others and helps you reach your goals.

I also said that having knowledge means being able to comprehend what you read, retain it, and recall it when you need it.  I told you then that learning to speed read will help you gain more knowledge because you’ll be able to read more with better comprehension.  And as a result, reading will become more enjoyable.

Now I’m telling you that having more knowledge will facilitate increased reading speed.  So what does all this mean?  It means that the more you read, the more you know, and the more you know, the faster you read.  And the faster you read, the faster you gain more knowledge.  And the more knowledge you gain the more power you have.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

Here’s one final thought.

Every single day you have an opportunity to broaden your knowledge simply by living and being inquisitive, but mostly by reading.  Whether you read at the library or online, or you pick up a book that’s been sitting on your bookshelf for as long as you remember doesn’t matter.  All you have to do is find something you’re not familiar with, read it, and when you’re finished, you will know more than you did before you started reading.

And that is how you build more knowledge.

By learning how to increase your reading speed and learning to read with better comprehension, you will be able to read more than you ever could before.  As a result, you will also build knowledge faster than you ever could before and faster than people who don’t speed read!

And that’s going to give you the competitive edge you need to succeed in today’s increasingly competitive world.  Now that’s some powerful stuff, isn’t it!

Video Version of Post

Speed Reading Training and your goals

Let me change course right now and remind you of something else you might not have realized: Training to increase your reading speed shouldn’t be your only goal.  During this post, we will also focus on exercises that are designed to help you improve your comprehension.

Think about it, reading and comprehension really go hand-in-hand.  I mean, what sense would it make for you to learn how to read really, really fast, but not be able to understand anything that you just read?

It wouldn’t make any sense at all, would it?  If you were able to increase your reading speed to some crazy number like 1,000 words per minute, but you didn’t comprehend anything you read during the previous minutes, guess what?  You’d have to go back and reread everything you just read!  If you read just as fast the second time and still had no idea what you just read, you’d have to go back again – and again – and possibly again.

If you kept doing that you’d find that your reading speed would probably be as slow as or even slower than it was when you started reading this post!  Your aim here is read faster and with better comprehension.

Although reading and comprehension go hand-in-hand, when you’re first learning to speed read, they won’t always be in synch.  As you begin learning techniques to help you read faster like skipping unimportant words, you will probably find that you comprehend less.  Again, don’t worry.  That happens because you’re used to reading word-for-word.

Once you start skipping words, you’ll be preoccupied with worry wondering whether the words you skip change the meaning of the sentence.  Because you aren’t quite ready to trust your brain, you’ll be tempted to go back to your old habit of rereading, or regressing.  But we can’t let that happen.

Instead, I want you to keep training the way the speed reading activities teach you to read because a big part of learning how to skip words is learning how to improve your concentration.  One of the ways to do that is by learning to stay more focused on what you read.

As you will learn later on, the better your ability to concentrate while you read, the better your ability to comprehend what you read.  But that’s not all.  The more you comprehend what you read, the more information you retain.  And once you retain it, that information will always be there, ready for you to recall it.

I know this seems like a lot to grasp right now, and it is.  Learning to speed read is like learning how to do any new thing.  Before you can acquire new skills, you need to break free of your comfort zone and spend some time feeling uncomfortable.

If you wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle without training wheels, you’d have to start by taking the training wheels off your bike, right?  Then you’d have to muster up the courage to straddle the bike and begin pushing the pedals, knowing full well that you’re now on two wheels, not four.

Without those extra two wheels, you’ll no longer have that familiar feeling of comfort.  With only two wheels on your bike there’s now a bigger risk of falling.  A bigger risk of falling also means there’s a bigger risk of getting hurt.  No one wants to fall and get hurt.

But somewhere in your mind you realize that without those two training wheels slowing you down, you’ll be able to ride your bike so much faster.  So now you have to decide.  Do you want to remain in your comfort zone and remain on four wheels?  Or do you want to experience temporary discomfort in order to take a chance on something new?

Deciding to throw caution to the wind, you take off the training wheels and start pedaling.  When you fall, you get up and try again.  If you fall again, you get up and try again.  After a few times of falling and getting back up, you’re going to find that you start feeling more comfortable, even though you might be a bit banged up!

But also something else is happening.  As you start to feel more comfortable, you’ll notice that your confidence is also beginning to increase.  And before you know it, you’re riding like an expert full of confidence on only two wheels.  Riding on two wheels starts feeling so normal and so comfortable that you won’t even remember what it was like to ride on four wheels.

Learning to speed read requires the same kind of approach.  Before you’ll be successful, you’ll have to decide it’s worthwhile to break free of your old comfortable reading habits, the ones that have been part of your life since way back in elementary school.

And that’s a hard decision because really, who wants to do that?  Most of us prefer to operate from within our comfort zone.  That’s why we don’t vary our routine or the way we drive to work or school.  We get up, eat, shower, work, and do whatever else we do pretty much on the same schedule every day, with the exception of the weekends.

Changing old habits is like asking someone to take off the sweat pants they’re accustomed to wearing and change into business attire.  When you’re not used to dressing for business and you first put on slacks, it’s natural to resist and feel uncomfortable at first.  With different pants on, you won’t think you look right, you won’t know the best way to sit or stand to avoid wrinkles, and the material might even feel itchy.

But after a few weeks of wearing different clothes, your body and your mind begin to adjust.  And before you know it, you’ll start enjoying your new look and you’ll start feeling just as comfortable in your new slacks as you used to feel wearing your old baggy sweats!

The habits we’ll work on breaking in our speed reading training are the same ones we talked about previously; habits like subvocalization, which involves saying or hearing in your mind the words you read one-by-one, and regression which happens when you reread material you’ve already read because you don’t trust your brain to get the information right the first time.  We’ll spend some time on fixation as well.

Video Version of Post

Speed Your Read!

A lot of things you do in life have an associated speed.  But you probably don’t think about that speed very much.  A good example is walking.  The pace at which you normally walk has an associated speed.  How you drive, how long it takes to complete your homework or work assignments, and how long it takes to shower can all be associated with various speeds as well.

Something else you probably don’t think about is your ability to modify the speeds at which you perform these and other daily tasks.  You can drive faster and slower as traffic conditions allow.  You can walk faster or slower, depending on where you’re going, how quickly you need to get there, and your energy level.  And you can do your homework faster, especially when there’s something you want to do or someplace you want to go.

Well guess what?

Reading is no different.  If you do any reading at all, whether a lot or a little, it’s safe to say that you read at a certain speed.  Most of the time your reading speed remains consistent.  However when necessary, you can, to a certain extent, adjust your reading speed faster or slower.  Usually it’s slower because you want to make sure you understand what you’re reading.

As I said before, I doubt you give much thought to how fast or slow you’re doing it.  The most you ever think about your reading speed is that it’s slower than you’d like it to be, which explains why you’re here.

Later on, I’ll teach you how to measure your reading speed.  It’s not that hard and it’s something you can do on your own.  It’s mostly a matter of figuring out how many words you can read per minute.

If you’re wondering why all the focus on knowing your reading speed, the answer is simple.  The only way you can gauge your speed reading progress is to start with a point of reference.  It’s just like losing weight.

Before you can determine how much weight you’ve lost, you need to know what your weight was when you started dieting.  By regularly weighing yourself while you diet, you’re able to keep track of whether you’re losing or gaining weight.  If you didn’t have a starting weight to use as a point of reference, you’d never know whether or not you were making any progress.

Well, that same concept applies to measuring your speed reading progress.  If at the beginning of this post your reading speed is clocked at 250 words per minute, and the next time you test your reading speed it’s 345 words per minute, you can easily see that your reading speed has increased by nearly 100 words per minute.  Seeing your progress reflected in actual numbers will make you happy and keep you motivated.

If your reading speed increases even more the next time you test it, say from 345 words per minute to 500 words per minute, you’ll clearly see that you’re continuing to make good progress.

When we first test your reading speed, don’t be surprised or discouraged if your numbers puts you in the category of a slow reader.  That doesn’t matter because the point of determining your current reading speed is not to classify you in any certain way.

In fact, without knowing anything at all about any of you, I’m willing to bet that most of your initial reading scores fall somewhere in the range of a slow reader.  That’s what I find with most of the speed reading students I teach.

If you recall, slow readers are those whose reading speeds are between 150 and 250 words per minute.  Again, if that’s where your initial speed lands, don’t worry.  I won’t call you any names, or laugh at you or anything like that.  And besides, I already know you’re not happy with your reading speed.  Otherwise you wouldn’t be making an effort to improve it.

Instead, I respect your desire to improve your reading speed, and I plan to do my best to help you achieve that goal.

Video Version of Post

How to Read Better and Faster

Now let me switch gears and talk about one last habit that can interfere with your reading speed.  Only this time, it’s a habit you may need to break only occasionally.  The habit I’m talking about is daydreaming.

How many of you daydream?  Or should I say, how many times a day do you daydream?  We all daydream because it’s a lot of fun.  When we daydream, we can be anything we want to be and go anywhere we want to go.

Daydreaming has other benefits, as well.  It can take you away from the day’s problems and help you relax by releasing tension and reducing anxiety.  Some people use daydreaming as a problem-solving tool.  They see the problem in their mind, and use the mind to help envision solutions to the problem.

Daydreaming sometimes helps strengthen relationships, too.  If you don’t believe me, think about the last time you had an entire conversation with your partner or love interest in your mind.  You probably did this to help you “practice” for the real thing.

Daydreaming also helps enhance productivity and it helps people achieve their goals.  Some people call this type of daydreaming visualization, but either way it involves a situation where you see yourself having accomplished some goal, and then figuring out the steps necessary turn that vision into reality.

Without a doubt though, most people daydream because they’re bored.  Unfortunately, many people get bored when they read so they daydream while they read to escape their boredom.  But people daydream while reading for other reasons including being preoccupied, tired, overwhelmed, or uninterested, or because they’re not paying attention.

No matter why people do it, there’s no denying that daydreaming slows reading speed.

Now, whether or not you need to stop daydreaming while reading really depends on why you’re doing it.  Sometimes it’s not a good use of your time, like when you daydream about doing anything but reading.  That’s when you have to break the habit.

However, there are times when daydreaming can actually reinforce your knowledge and comprehension, like when you’re able to relate what you’re reading to a previous memory.  So in those instances, daydreaming while reading is actually a good thing.

The main point I’m trying to convey here is this:  Whenever you catch yourself daydreaming while reading, quickly stop and think why you’re doing it.  You might find that you simply need more rest, or you need to read someplace where you can concentrate more, or you need to read something more interesting.  If so, make the change and then see what happens.

If you find that daydreaming is interfering with your reading progress, you need to stop.  One way to do that is by implementing speed reading strategies, like using your hand or a card to guide you.  That strategy help you focus better, which in turn increases your reading speed and decreases daydreaming!

I gave you a lot of information about reading habits and how they slow your reading speed.  What I haven’t told you though, is how to break free of these bad habits.   I’m going to do that, but not quite yet.

Next up, I’m going to talk about your current reading and comprehension abilities and the role both play in speed reading.  I’ll also talk about some other good stuff, so let’s keep moving!

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Speed Reading Help (With Fixation)

Now I want to spend some time talking about something readers do called Fixation.

Fixation itself isn’t a habit.  It’s something your eyes do naturally.  But when it’s not done right, fixation causes inefficient reading.  I realize this probably sounds a little confusing right now, so let me start by explaining what fixation is.

You probably already know that before images can register in your mind, your eyes need to stop moving and still themselves.  Well, fixation is basically the eyes’ ability to stop moving so they can focus.   If it wasn’t possible to fixate, everything you looked at would be one big blur.

The size of what you’re looking at doesn’t matter and neither does it matter how close or far off in the distance it is.  When you want to focus, you have to settle your eyes on something and allow them the chance to be still.

And that same principle applies to the words you read.  When you want your eyes to see the words you’re trying to read, your eyes must make frequent stops on the words in each sentence.  Your eyes don’t have to stop very long.  In fact, they don’t and really, they can’t.


Because the process of reading requires that your eyes continually move forward from one sentence to the next, usually moving to the right until reaching the end of the line.  Once there, your eyes swing back to the left where they begin their journey across the next line.  And so on and so on.

Wondering how your eyes can stop while at the same time, still move?

That’s a good question and the reason is because eye fixations don’t operate alone.

Fixations, which are also appropriately called eye stops, occur countless times a day.  And most of the time, you don’t even realize they’re happening.  Working alongside fixations are these other things called eye jumps, which are also known as saccades.  Saccades are the rapid intermittent eye movements that occur as the eyes fixate and then change focus as they jump from one point to another.

When the eyes stop or fixate on a word, the brief pause gives the brain a chance to comprehend the words upon which the eyes are fixated.

Remember I told you that phonetic reading involves sounding out a word, voicing it or hearing in it your mind, and then comprehending it?  Well, now I’m going to tell you that anyone still in the old habit of reading phonetically reads on a word-by-word basis.  If you still read phonetically, which you probably do, your eyes will stop or fixate on nearly every word you read, and then take time to decode each one, before moving on to the next.

Let me give you an example to help make what I’m saying clearer.  If there are 10 words in every line of text you read, and you read word-for-word, it means your eyes fixate about 9 times every time you read one short line of text.  Multiply that by several lines and it doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that’s quite a bit of eye jumping and stopping!

Breaking it down a little differently, most readers fixate about 4 times each second, which means the eyes stop every quarter of a second.  If you’re a typical reader, that means you’re reading only 4 words per second!  I realize 4 words per second sounds impressive, but as you’ll see later on, it’s not.  It’s actually pretty slow and you definitely have a lot of room to improve.

Up until about a century ago, it was commonly believed that everyone read one word at a time.  Until then, fluctuations in reading speed were attributed to how quickly readers comprehended what they read; the more comprehension, the quicker the read.

At the time, this sounded like a good theory.  But like any good theory, it was soon challenged.  Researchers wanted to find out whether something else was happening during reading, so they initiated experiments to find out.  And it’s a good thing they did because those experiments are what led to the detection of eye fixations.

Researchers realized that rather than a steady pace, reading consisted of a series of “fits and starts” or fixations and saccades.   Along with this discovery came the realization that, rather than quicker word identification and comprehension, fewer fixations actually led to faster reading.

Further experiments lead researchers to the other realization that a single fixation point didn’t always consist of a single word.  Their experiments showed that oftentimes, a single fixation point included several words.  They also realized that because we have peripheral vision, many readers could also see some of the words and letters on both sides of a fixation point.  They called this expanded view the “vision span” and determined that it can be either narrow or wide.

Today, anyone who reads word-for-word is considered as having a narrow span and anyone capable of reading more words during a single fixation is considered to have a wide eye span.

The reason I bring up vision span now is because it also has an effect on reading speed.  Fewer eye fixations combined with an increased vision span and multiple-word fixation points all add up to faster reading speeds.

So, if you want to be a faster reader, you’ll have to take off your blinders and expand your vision span.  You’ll also have to break the old habit you learned long ago of fixating on individual words and develop the new habit of including multiple words in a single fixation point.

Later in the post, I’ll teach you specific activities to help expand your vision and develop multiple word fixation points.  But right now, there are other two things I want you to know about fixation.

First, the more familiar you are with the words you’re reading, the fewer fixations you’ll make.  When you read words or a writing style you’re unfamiliar with, your eyes tend to stop more often because your brain hasn’t created the necessary associations.

Think back to any time you tried interpreting a difficult text.  It took you a long time, didn’t it?  Because we don’t talk like that anymore, you didn’t understand the words and the increased fixations slowed your reading.

The point I’m trying to make is that the larger your vocabulary, the more words your brain recognizes right away.  And when you recognize more words right away, you’re able to take in more words with each eye fixation.  So, the more you expand your vocabulary, the more effective you’ll be at speed reading.

My second point has to do with familiarity.  If the topic you’re reading is familiar to you, you naturally have more confidence in what you’re reading.  When you’re more confident, you’re less likely to doubt yourself and regress.  As a result, you can take in more words with each eye fixation.

I realize it’s not possible to be an expert in every field.  But without a doubt, the more you do know, whether from your education or your life experience or otherwise, the faster you’ll read because you’re more familiar with the material.  And when you increase your reading speed you’ll read more, you’ll enjoy reading more, and gain more knowledge as a result!

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