Why Speed Reading is My New Obsession

productivity Aug 19, 2021

In honor of joining a new book club, I'm digging this post out of the archives from January 2020 and publishing it here.

"I am part of everything that I have read." Theodore Roosevelt

Last year my goal was to read one book a month. I just tallied my results:

  • 23 Audible Books
  • 15 Kindle or Traditional Books

Thirty-eight books, I blew my goal out of the water. And the truth is, my list of books I would like to read grows bigger each day. If you throw in all the articles I would like to get to from my favorite writers and bloggers, I could spend all of 2020 cozied up with a book.

Although that sounds amazing, real-life would set in fast. Is there a way to consume all the content that piques my interest and still participate in real life? Let’s dive into speed reading and find out.

Business or Pleasure

There’s a special kind of joy that comes from curling up with a good book. Taking your time to follow along with each word as the author weaves their story. Speed reading has no business here. Unless, of course, you need to power through that novel for tomorrow’s book club.

But wouldn’t you like to power through your required reading faster than the speed of light?

Increase your authority on your chosen subject by staying on top of every new report that is released?

Plow through that recommended reading list on leadership?

Let’s review some techniques on how to harness this superpower in the different mediums we consume.

Old Fashioned Books

Everyone is familiar with the method of skimming or scanning a text to get the main points quickly. The problem is not much is maintained.

A better method developed by Tim Ferris claims to increase your reading speed by 300% in 20 minutes. WOW! His approach has three parts:

  1. Decreasing the number of times your eyes jump or stop on the page
  2. Eliminating rereading
  3. Building up horizontal peripheral vision span

His method seems to work, but you have to take the time to do the exercises. My problem with his technique is I do very little reading in traditional books. It requires reading with a pacer (either your pen or finger). This works fine with a pen, but it’s a little awkward when you have to turn the page. Also, it just doesn’t work for me for online reading. I’ve tried using the mouse as a tracker, but it’s too jumpy and doesn’t transition well between lines of text.

A Love Affair with Audible

Lots of us use audible to fill our time behind the wheel or stuck doing household chores. Here’s a hack to get through more of those books you love.

You can change the narration speed by tapping in the lower-left corner. I start all of my books at 1.25x, and once I’m comfortable with the narrator’s voice, I will bump it up.

Also, if there’s something you want to bookmark while listening, hit the clip button in the lower right corner. You can make a note on why you made the clip (use the voice to text feature, of course, if you’re driving).

These two little tricks have dramatically increased my speed and comprehension while listening to audiobooks.

Online Obstacles

A majority of research and reading is online. I’ve found a few websites such as Spreeder that claim to save time while reading online, but I’m not ready to invest. One trick that has been working for me (at least with organizing my notes and increasing comprehension is Evernote). I will clip articles to Evernote that I want to read without distraction. Then I will save them as a PDF within Evernote, and this will allow me to take notes while reading.

Speed Versus Comprehension

So if you Google speed reading, there are a lot of naysayers and inconclusive research. Why waste my time? I’m a productivity junkie and what the heck…none of this stuff will hurt. In the end, I’m just hoping to come out a bigger, better version of me.

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