Hack on Speed Reading

Today, I just got back after giving a video interview to a friend of mine, Rishi who stays in Mumbai at his place and another friend of mine to whom I told about a speed reading online tool that I use regularly. I was talking about my journey and how I am currently practicing Behavior Design Consulting as a freelance consulting gig. I call it my night job. 🙂

I told him about how I used behavior design, psychology, cross platform learning to learn to speed read, getting fit, forming my own diet plan, accelerated learning etc he asked me a question on speed reading to which I didn’t have the time to explain properly. Well, now I decided to write it as a blog post.

What is Speed Reading?

That might seem obvious – of course speed reading is reading very quickly! But most people don’t know that there’s a simple way to go from being a slow reader to a lightning fast speed-reader: just force yourself to start reading faster.

Fact: You read slower than you actually can

Using behavior design, I managed to amp up my reading speed to 800 wpm. The average human can read comfortably at 125-250 wpm. I am still persisting to push it higher to get to 1200 wpm.

Kind of funny that way we treat learning a new skill isn’t it? First of all, many of us don’t want to learn a new skill at all & when we do we create all these barriers in our head.

Oh! What if it doesn’t work?

What if I look stupid?

I am 22 years old, I should know how to cook (-_-!)  And, yet once we commit to learning a new skill. What do we tend to do?

We tend to read a little bit, learn it on our own, maybe buy a 350 Rs. book and go through it all over by ourselves. I used to be this way too for sometime. I want to share a hack that I started practicing a year ago which maddeningly accelerated the way I learn new skills.

Any new skill that I pick, at first I do the basic research by myself. So, if I have to learn how to speed-read right? I start with a simple “Google Search” to get all the different models that are available out there and see what works best for me. Then, I’d find one expert in the field and ask how he learnt it and what did he use that I can replicate. Remember an expert can be any person whom you know through friends of friends or even through Facebook. People often get confused when we hear the term expert.

Most of my friends I speak too, they often remark: Man! I just don’t know any cool people like the ones that you do.

To this, I often tell them why don’t you just ask the person who is a bit better than you in the skill you wish to learn. Often, what I do is catch hold of the person who is a bit better at the skill I’d like to learn then get to this level and find the next expert who knows a little bit more.

So, when I did the basic research I found a lot of models that I tried then I heard about a tool called spreeder. Check it out. But, before you start using it. Read on ahead.

Speed Reading Let me explain the above diagram with a simple example. When you look at a fish. Unconsciously, what happens is before the image of the fish is formed in the head to recognize it as a fish. Our larynx in the throat processes that sound (FISH) even if you don’t speak it out loud and then the information is transformed into meaning in the brain.

So, lets take this below paragraph.


Now, if you are able to read this whole sentence in a second while forming the mental picture. You are able to read at a speed of 1200 wpm. That means you can finish “The Catcher & The Rye” in 10 minutes. A normal person would be reading the above paragraph and form the image in 9-10 seconds.

By using the spreeder tool above. One can ask what about assimilation? At first, through the use of tool, one must remember that the focus of the task is not to understand what you have stuck in the tool. As you initially see at what pace you are comfortable with then set the speed at a speed that causes a slight strain for you to keep up.

As the brain is challenged to follow the words being flashed on the screen, you slowly begin to gain the ability to assimilate the information as well over time. Try it using my 1 month habit hack.

Once you have got over the step of following the paragraph and also forming the image rather than trying to keep up with the words. In time, you will notice that your reading for pleasure will be much more enjoyable because you are reading at an accelerated rate and as the tool challenges you consistently, you won’t notice any dazing off or slipping off.  😀

If you don’t like to use the spreeder tool. Then pick any paragraph in a book that you are reading or a book that you read already. Preferably which explains something visual and that’s easy to follow. Then while you are reading that paragraph just say to yourself these phrases – A-E-I-O-U or 1-2-3-4 (repeatedly) while reading it. Again, the goal here isn’t to comprehend but to read the words while training yourself to bypass the larynx.

Tips for Offline Speed Reading Practice

  • When reading chunks of words, note that the eye can actually span about four or five words on an average page. However, most readers don’t use their peripheral vision to see words at the ends of each line. To overcome this, “soften” your gaze when you read – by relaxing your face and expanding your gaze, you’ll begin to see blocks of words instead of seeing each word as distinct unit. As you get good at this, your eyes will skip faster and faster across the page. When you get close to the end of the line, let your peripheral vision take over to see the last set of words. This way you can quickly scan across and down to the next line.
  • When using your hand or finger to guide your eyes, start slowly, but at a challenging pace. Even if you don’t think you’re keeping up with your hand, keep going for a page or two and then test your comprehension. With practice, you’ll be able to move your hand and read faster that way.
  • The simpler the book/passage/letter is, the quicker it will be to comprehend. Start with simple ones, then move on to harder ones.
  • Take frequent breaks. Your comprehension and focus will be better if you take a five-minute break every hour or half-hour. Taking breaks is also important to keep your eyes healthy and avoid eye strain.
  • You may not want to read some things quickly, even if you can. Fiction for example, is usually relatively easy to read quickly, but you can miss out on a lot of the nuance and beauty of the fiction writer’s craft, even if you understand everything that’s going on in a story. The same is doubly true for poetry. If you’re reading for enjoyment, it may be best to savor the words.
  • An index card, bookmark, or other page-width item might help increase speed more than a finger. By obscuring surrounding text, a card prevents your eyes from wandering.
  • A great trick while using an index card is to put caret symbols (^) every inch along your index card. This helps to read groups of words rather than individual words. As you improve use a new card with the carets further apart so you read more words in each burst.
  • Start by reading a book or article that you have already read. It will be easier to skip words and keep up a smooth flow if you’re familiar with the material.

Let me know how it worked for you or if you used another hack that improved your learning to progress faster. I’m always on the lookout for boosters – the term I came up with for any activity that can further accelerate any skill that I have learnt until now or see how can I combine a new booster with another skill.