Remember when your reading lists contained nothing but a school assignment, or a note to look for more books by an author you just loved reading? Well, forget all about that. This is the Internet era where reading online never seems to end – strangely, it seems like the more you read, the more links you find to still more articles. Sounds pessimistic? We’d rather call it fascinating.
Of course you can’t read every single post and article you find on line. You need to learn to be selective, especially since there’s a lot of content out there that gets reused and recycled on dozens of sites at once. But being picky with what you read might not seem enough, because even after a rigorous selection process there’s so much to read on the internet that you could spend years just going from site to site. Unless you have the reading speed of Howard Berge, who allegedly reads 25,000 words per minute, you obviously need a reading speed increase to handle this potentially overwhelming amount of information.
Multitasking and Distractions Begone!
When you’re reading, whether it’s a work report or an ebook, you need to do only that. In other words, shut down other computer windows, turn off your phone, and focus. It might feel weird, as if you might be missing out on something, since you won’t be allowed to read your email, or flip over to see what’s new on Pinterest (a never-ending source of distraction).
If you block distractions and focus on your reading, you’ll soon realize how much faster you can read.
Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone
Try increasing your reading pace. Consciously accelerate your pace and try maintaining it until you read through the whole thing. You can achieve this by:
- Using your computer cursor to direct your eyes at a faster-than-usual pace. Your brain can be trained into directing your eyes to the next chunk of words, while you’re still processing the previous sentence.
- Timing yourself. Measure how much content you can read under one minute. Now work towards increasing the word number as you practice more.
- Play it smart. Scan through the whole post checking for relevance or originality before settling down to read it top to bottom. You might only need to read a few paragraphs to get what you want, so why spend time to read it all?
People don’t seem to realize it, but you can instantly increase your reading speed simply by forcing yourself to.
Avoid Common Pitfalls
Naturally, to learn to speed read you first need to know what is stopping you from speed reading. Two of the biggest culprits are subvocalization and regression.
You know that habit you have mentally hearing the words you read, or silently enunciating them with your mouth or lips alone? That’s subvocalization.
You used subvocalization when you first started learning to read and it’s possible you never really stopped doing it. (Which is bad, since you limit yourself to reading as fast as you can pronounce a word.)
The other common hindrance to speed reading is regression. When you go back to read a word, or re-read a whole sentence, that’s regression – and it can as much as double your reading time when used repetitively.
The trick to improving reading speed is to consciously force yourself to go on reading, no matter what. Focus on what you’re reading and cut out any distractions before they even appear. And stay focused on what you need from the internet before allowing yourself to explore the fun-but-trivial parts – after all, that YouTube video will still be there after you’re done with your work!