Generating rhythm when speedreading

When teaching speedreading we often ask our students to use rhythm. In this post we describe the issue of rhythm in depth. A usual effect of lack of rhythm was summarized by on of our students “First 5 min are easy then getting harder, I slow down and I have to rest”. Usually this means that you are working wrong, and probably not keeping rhythm.

Rhythm generally means a “movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions”
Rhythmic breathing is an important health exercise. You can practice your breathing rhythm with visualization, improving your rhythm and your health. In other words better breathing leads to better thinking. Eventually you will need to apply this skills to superlearning and some prior experience is handy.

The first encounter of a student with rhythm is subvocalization suppression. We ask our students to count and move a card to control their reading speed. The independently moving card and progressing count forces our brains to process information FAST, overcoming the subvocalization. At this point counting and card are no more required and many students do not keep any rhythm. Interestingly, some of our students report great progress in further stages of our course by using a metronome. While this is a cool method, a simpler method would work. For example, most lines are made of 3 saccades. Counting 2-4-6 and breathing (inhale-hold-exhale) accordingly would introduce the rhythm. Then you could stop counting (once again) and use just your breath to control your speed.

If you read yet faster, do not hyperventilate. You can synchronize your breath with paragraphs. Take a deep inhale when prereading, keep air while reading, and exhale while creating markers.
Later on you can read sections of 2 paragraphs on one breath using the 8:4:8:4 breathing rhythm of yoga in the exercise above, since anaysis/marker generation and prereading should take together about 1/2 of the times it takes to read a paragraph. Notwithstanding your reading and breathing level, you should stop after each paragraph to create markers and you should breath properly.

The next level of rhythm applies to larger sections of several pages. When you read several pages you really need to pause and think about what you read. Remember the forgetting curve: you just dodged the 1-5 seconds limitation in when you stopped at the end of the paragraph, now you are getting the 5-15 min stage. Fortunately, Pomodoro timing dictates you to take ~5 min rest for every ~15 min of work. Rhythm up the pomodoro breaks with your necessity to analyze the document. Do not read during the break. Drinking, toilet, closing your eyes, staring mindlessly at the monitor (in office…) – give your brain a chance to process. After an hour of work, take even longer break. Recollect the markers (1 hour repetition) and switch activity. Talk to someone or watch cute cat videos. If you learn too long your brain will get more information than it can process and become inefficient. After the break try to do something entirely different for an hour – if you can – since this form of serial multitasking is extremely efficient.

Whatever you do, simply keeping a rhythm will do wonders to your endurance. You can superlearn without keeping a rhythm, but with rhythm superlearning is SO MUCH easier…

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