These days, we’re inundated with more information than ever before. Blog posts, news articles and a never-ending stream of books “you just have to read!” In fact, it has been estimated that there is more information in just one day’s worth of theNew York Times than people 100 years ago encountered during their entire lives.
For this reason, being able to sift through, read and retain huge amounts of information has become a modern-day superpower, allowing you to leap tall mountains of books in a single bound.
Enter speed reading.
No, I’m not talking about the gimmicky, snake-oil oozing “read a page in a second” speed reading of the 70s or the one-day “triple your reading speed today” seminars you may have seen in college.
Unfortunately, most of that stuff is baloney.
There are, however, a few simple, proven steps you can take to dramatically increase your reading speed without sacrificing comprehension and retention.
1. Reduce unnecessary eye movement
Your eyes make erratic, jumpy movements known as “saccades,” and while they do that, the optic nerve is essentially turned off by a process known as “saccadic masking” or “saccadic blindness.” What this suggests for people interested in improving reading speed is simple: spend less time moving your eyes.
Instead of making the typical eight to 10 movements per line — one for every word — try to move your eyes only one or two times per line. This means you’ll take ingroups of words and spend less time in “saccadic blindness” than the average reader.
2. Expand your focal range and use it more effectively
In order to really take advantage of the first tip, you may find you need to train your eyes to recognize wider groups of words. The best way to do this is with a tool called a Schultz table. Stare into the middle of the table, then try to decipher the numbers to the left and right of where you’re focusing. With time, you’ll be able to read with more of your focal span.
But hang on a second, because if you’re not careful, this new focal eye span won’t be used to its full potential. Many readers waste time by reading margins. The fastest readers, however, understand their focal width and adjust accordingly, indenting the points where they focus at the beginning and end of each line.