Note: Denise and I recommend only products that we have tried and tested. These include the popular speed-reading software, 7 Speed Reading.*
Basic Principles of Speed Reading
The basic principle behind speed reading is to improve your words per minute read (WPM) while maintaining accuracy and retaining information.
There are many free websites and speed reading programs that will test your reading speed, giving you a baseline on which to improve. These can easily be found from search engines.
Before reading a text, it is important to have an idea of the content in the text. This will help your brain process the written information more effectively. For example, if you’re reading a practice exam paper from your university website, then the first thing would be to read the question. When reading a digital textbook, a good tip is to read the conclusion first, as this will provide a brief summary of the chapter.
An important process in speed reading is the use of "blocks". Rather than reading word by word, an experienced reader will interpret blocks of text as one. With practice, you can increase the size of these blocks from a few words up to whole sentences at a time.
Tools for Speed Reading
Now that you have an understanding of the basic principles of speed reading, you should ensure that your tools are in order.
The most important tool for the task is you, the reader. Reading is a visual exercise and therefore requires that you maintain your vision with regular eye tests. If you are apprehensive of wearing glasses, you could try contact lenses or even laser eye surgery. Keep yourself fresh and focused by being in a good environment. The best areas will be free from noise and distractions. If you are in a noisy area, such as a city, think about getting foam earplugs as a cheap and effective way to reduce noise. Proper lighting and ventilation is crucial to keeping you alert. If the room does not have windows, consider experimenting with "daylight spectrum" energy saving bulbs and lamps, which replicate the natural light that your eyes are accustomed to.
The other tool that you will be using is your digital device. This could be a computer, laptop, tablet, or e-reader, among others. In all cases, you should ensure that they are setup correctly:
- Computers. The most important aspect to speed reading is that the monitor is of adequate size and quality for the text to be legible without squinting. Experiment with different contrast and brightness settings until you find something that is comfortable to view. Remember that screen technology is constantly improving and becoming cheaper. If that dusty old monitor is not up to the job anymore, consider an upgrade.
- Tablets. The quality of screens vary considerably between devices. If you intend to use the tablet outside in sunny conditions, try to find a model without a glossy or reflective screen, as it can make reading extremely difficult.
- E-readers. Many of these devices, such as the Amazon Kindle, utilise "electronic ink". In contrast to a computer monitor, the screen is not back illuminated. Instead, the screen relies on ambient light for illumination. This provides a very comfortable and natural way to view text. Many models have attachable lights that are specially designed for optimum viewing.
Speed Reading Websites
When reading websites, the surrounding graphics, coloured backgrounds and adverts can become a distraction. One way to avoid this is to copy and paste the text in to a word processor. You will then be able to adjust the font and size. Sans-serif fonts (e.g. Verdana or Arial) are often recommended as the easiest fonts to view on a computer screen.
Speed Reading Emails
While you may be limited to a particular email system used by your workplace or institution, you can still usually adapt the workspace to something that is easier to read. For example, windows can be re-sized and fonts changed.
Practice Speed Reading and Enjoy
Just like learning to play a musical instrument, the key to success is practice, practice, practice! In time, your WPM reading speed, and therefore your productivity, will increase.
You can learn a lot more about speed reading and do speed reading tests and daily exercises to improve your reading speed with good speed-reading software, such as the popular 7 Speed Reading software.
*Denise and I have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of 7 Speed Reading software because we are happy to endorse that software.