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