Occasionally we try to understand why our method works better than reference methods. This and this and some other articles ask a funny question: is speedreading possible at all? The answer is: yes! I know it from my own experience and from experiences of thousands of students. To achieve this result, we do not apply brute force but read smarter!
Our approach is based on the following ideas which do not appear in Spritz and other similar methods:
- Make sure that the mind is prepared for reading.
- Adapt reading speed to content complexity.
- Prioritize reading to meaningful content.
- Use saccades with 5-12 words per eye focus point.
- Know when speedread and when read slowly.
In our method, we address each text many times. While regular speedreaders typically address the text once, we address it several times: when we scan entire text, when we preread each paragraph, when we read the paragraph, and when we generate markers at the end of paragraph. When finished reading we analyze what we read, and this is the last time we address the paragraph. I think that I spend almost as much time on the analysis as I spend on reading. This technique ensures that we are prepared when we approach reading the text and generate deep understanding after reading the text.
If we would read all the texts with the same speed and the same comprehension level we would get absolutely no control both over the speed and over the comprehension with highly unpredictable results. Instead we adapt our reading speed to the content complexity, manifested in the density of the markers we create. We slow down on dense markers and read faster on sparse markers.
More often than not the texts we read contain bad information. There is no reason to read something that does not add to our knowledge. Since I scan at 5000wpm, 70% of the material I will actually read with THAT speed. Many students occasionally ask for tips on how to remember something that is boring and not informative, the true question is: why bother? Find some other text that is better and read it instead.
It is very important that when we form saccades we do not focus on each word, we jump ~5-12 words at a time, collecting the other words with peripheral vision. If we focus on 400 locations per minute but our eye span is 12 words, we can achieve 5000 words per minute reading speed. The claims of people reading faster are pretty strange. We are not monsters and cannot trick the mechanics of the eye or the brain. We work smarter.
Do not try to speedread something that is just too dense, like series of numbers. If you are an accountant you cannot speedread the balance: you can scan for dependencies and skim to the bottom line, but you cannot speedread each number and number – at least I do not know how to do that.
Bonus idea: time management. We use Pomodoro time so that we do not get tired physically, intellectually and emotionally. When we do need to approach a longer task we make sure that we get into the “flow” state: we generate breathtaking visualizations and raise challenging questions, make effort to generate new understanding and make everything in our power to create a meaningful positive feedback.
In conclusion, if you do not want to add to the “speedreading does not work” myth, read smart and do not try to use “brute force”.
We are not monsters and cannot trick the mechanics of the eye or the brain. We work smarter.