“Don’t look back, Ashley, don’t look back. It’ll drag at your heart until you can’t do anything but look back.” – Scarlett O’Hara, in the 1939 film version of “Gone With The Wind”
That’s sound advice for many aspects of life, but particularly applicable to practicing your speed reading skills. One of the bad reading habits that many people develop is regression, or “looking back” at text that they’ve already gone over, whether they need to or not. There are several reasons for this habit:
– Their early reading teachers stressed the importance of making sure they read all the text.
– They aren’t focused , so they forget the text at top of the page by the time they reach the bottom.
– They don’t trust their reading skills, so re-read “just to make sure.”
When you first learned to read, you probably were reading words one at a time, but even then your eyes and brain were processing the text on the page more quickly than you realized. If you’re even an average reader, you’re unconsciously taking in more information that you’re consciously aware of. Take advantage of the power of your brain and relax – you don’t have to work as hard as you think you do to be a fast reader.
You do, however, need to stay focused. Developing your power of concentration and attention will help you in more than your speed reading practice. Another way to keep your focus on the text is to “look ahead” before you start reading, and take a few minutes to think about why you’re going to read that particular document. Are you looking for something specific, a fact or set of figures, or just overall general information on a topic? If you keep the goal of reading in mind while you read, you’ll find it easier to focus on the text.
As Scarlett O’Hara said, when you spend too much time looking back you’ll forget how to move forward. If you catch yourself re-reading text automatically, work on breaking the habit by covering the text or pages you’ve already read, or keeping your hand off the “back” button or scroll bar. Don’t let the habits of the past keep you from the speed reading future you deserve!