If you can increase your reading speed, it follows then that you can learn just about anything faster. This is especially true if you’ve already laid the foundation for improving your long-term memory.In this article, I’ll share a few of the top speed reading techniques from my popular speed reading course. Let’s dive in.
1. Moving your eyes more efficiently
Before you learn how speed readers read, you must understand how the average person reads. Let’s start with the actual mechanics of reading: moving your eyes.
When most people read, they look at one word at a time. This means that they make one “saccade,” or movement of the eye, and one “fixation” for each word on the page.
There’s one big problem with this. When your eyes move, your optic nerve switches off for a split second. When your eyes fixate again, your brain stitches the pictures together. This is called “saccadic masking,” and it’s there to prevent us from getting disoriented every time we move our eyes.
To try this out, put your hands in front of your face a couple of feet apart. Now, shift your eyes in one saccade from one hand to the left. Did you actually see what was between your hands? Of course not.
When we learn speed reading techniques, one of the first things we learn is moving our eyes differently. We make larger saccades, taking in a larger number of words at a time. This generally means consuming the text as one or two “columns.”
By making fewer movements on the page, speed readers spend less time in saccadic blindness. More time taking in information means a faster reading speed.
But that’s only one step.
2. Harnessing your peripheral vision
You cannot actually expand your peripheral vision. The area in focus, known as the fovea, is physiologically fixed by the structure of our eyes.
With that said, research has shown that the best speed readers make extensive use of the area outside of focus, the parafovea. (Ishida Ikeda, 1989)
I won’t go too deep into the science behind speed reading here, as I’ve already covered it in my YouTube video. However, it turns out that to take in numerous words at once, speed readers train their brains to pay attention to the “fuzzy” stuff in the parafovea.
The best way to do this is by doing an exercise called the Schultz Table.
Schultz Tables train your brain to look at the center, and without moving your eyes, pay attention to the numbers in your peripheral vision. Over time, you’ll discover that you can make out the fuzzy numbers. This, in turn, means that you can take in a larger number of words in one fixation while speed reading.
3. Taming the voices in your head
You may have heard speed reading experts talk about “eliminating” the voice in your head. While research has shown that you can never completely eliminate the “voices in your head,” there is truth to the idea.
When we read by processing the information as auditory information, we are limited in speed. This is because we can only process as fast as our brain can process the sounds. If you’ve ever tried to listen to a podcast or video at 3x speed, you know that there’s a limit to how fast you can process sound! That limit is around 450 words per minute — roughly twice the speed of an average reader.
Research has also shown time and again that we can process visual information much, much faster. If you’ve ever stepped out of the way of a moving object, you know this to be true.
By reducing the number of words we read using the voices in our heads, we increase our reading speed. Of course, this doesn’t come easily. Learning to do this while you simultaneously pay attention is tricky and takes time. At first, your comprehension will suffer. You may only pick up the key points. As you practice, though, you’ll find that you’re eventually able to read quickly without much of a loss in comprehension.
In my bestselling speed reading course, Become a SuperLearner, I call this “breaking the sound barrier.” It’s tricky to do, but once you have, you will unlock a new level of speed!
4. Optimize how you use peripheral vision
Once you’ve mastered the technique of taking in larger “fixations,” it’s time to make them more efficient.
When most people read, they unwittingly waste time reading the margins. If you start reading on the first word of each line and end on the last, you are reading the margins.
In our speed reading course, one of the final adjustments we make is teaching people to optimize their fixations.
You do this by fixating on the middle of each column, as opposed to the beginning.
If you’re reading a text that you need to break into three columns, it might look like this.
Of course, this is really a refinement, but don’t be surprised if it increases your speed by an extra 10 or 20%.