Speed Reading: A 7 Step System To Grasp Key Concepts Faster When Checking Emails Or Reading Articles
Hello and welcome to episode 146 of the productive insights podcast. This is your host Ash Roy the founder of productiveinsights.com
I’ve been MIA for the last couple of weeks because I’ve been agonising over whether or not to publish this episode. I face this challenge often because I’m always striving to deliver content that is interesting, actionable and useful to you as a listener.
So eventually I asked my team and they said they’d definitely find it useful. I think they’re biased but I’m going to go with their advice and publish this episode anyway.
So today we are going to be talking about speed reading while still being able to extract key concepts and ideas from a given body of text.
We look at how to develop your skills in speed reading, when to use speed reading, (more importantly) when not to use it.
Okay so let’s start by defining the term “speed reading” for the purposes of this podcast episode
I define speed reading is the process of rapidly absorbing the key principles, ideas, and actionable strategies presented in a written form (typically in the form of an email, an article or book)
In today’s information overloaded environment the amount of information we are required to process seems to be growing by the minute. We have a lot of emails coming in to our inbox, correspondence from various organizations arriving via snail mail, e-books that created an unprecedented access to information that has never existed in the history of humanity, and gazillions of online articles we tend to browse on the web as we educate ourselves in our business pursuits or chosen careers.
So clearly, it would be very beneficial to be able to extract the key ideas from a body of text in a shorter space of time.
And this is where speed-reading comes in. To me, being able to speed read is almost a superpower in today’s information overloaded environment.
But to be an effective speed reader I believe it is important to be discerning about when to speed read and when not to speed read. So let’s talk about that first:
In my experience, speed reading often means sacrificing access to detailed information that’s presented in a given body of text. The faster you read the less detail you tend to take in especially when it comes to remembering that detail.
So if you’re reading up technical document such as terms and conditions of an important agreement that is signing your name against, then speed reading is not the answer in that situation.
If you need to understand and absorb certain principles particularly when you’re learning them for the first time (for example when studying physics or learning calculus), speed-reading won’t work for you then either.
In other words when you’re consuming information that is conceptually heavy and has a lot of detail and related concepts packed into a small amount of text, then speed reading is not going to work for you. Think professional texts with a lot of jargon such as medical text books, accounting principles, legal judgments etc.
I used to read my legal judgements by reading facts of the case and then conclusion but don’t try this at home
How to speed read (Hint: It’s about breaking old habits & changing your mindset towards speed reading)
1. Prime your brain for the content by asking yourself what you already know about this topic and making predictions around what you think the key ideas are likely to be
2. Eliminate or minimise subvocalisation
3. Avoid regression
4. introduce soft focus so you can read multiple words (phrases) and take them in at a time. (useful to use your breath as an anchor to create a diffused focus)
5. Read the article actively by consciously looking for themes and key ideas
6. (optional) make notes on a piece of paper (keep the notes brief – mainly triggers)
7. Practice Practice Practice
8. Optional step – go back and re-read the article at your normal pace to see if you’ve grasped the key concepts (don’t worry about having missed out on detail because that’s expected). This will give you a sense of re-assurance around effectively you’re speed reading in terms of comprehension. Use the feedback to speed up or slow down your reading and then look to gain speed again.
- Takes a lot of practice so you need to persist
- Learning when to use SR and when not to use it takes effort and practice
- Don’t stop at the earliest sign of failure
- Don’t expect to speed read in a day. It takes practice and time to go from memory words to memory phrases (just like alphabet recognition to word recognition from memory took time when you started reading)
- Start with a simple piece of text which isn’t conceptually heavy
- Soften your focus (with breath as anchor)
- Try and read phrases rather than words
- Don’t subvocalise
- Avoid regression
- Write down the key concepts as you speed read
- Maybe go back and re-read slowly to see how much of the concepts you grasped
- Rinse repeat