A few years ago I attended a course about speed reading. It was during my years at CJD, Centre des Jeunes Dirigeants, an organisation in which I did a lot of training.
I am a reader. And when we measured our speed I was one of the fasted. No big surprise, book publishers read a lot and they have to be able to read fast. No big deal. I remember being fascinated by my father when I was a kid, his ability to read a letter just by ‘taking a photo’ with his eyes and returning the document to me and saying: you’ve made a mistake…
So I was happy to measure myself, to compare and see how the others were reading. We were a group of entrepreneurs and managing directors but there was a good variety in the background: logistics, distribution, IT, construction, etc.
Speed reading techniques
The first techniques are about the physics of reading.
Eyes movements, how to photograph more words at a time, how to anticipate the words and how to avoid wandering inside the text. I remember that I forgot some points about how the brain is supposed to process information, left brain vs right brain…
All these techniques can be useful and can really help to improve some readers confidence in their reading technique. They should be taught at school.
The second part is about the text himself. Reading is about processing information and the first thing to do with a text is to look at the document and its structure. We all do that when we look at magazines and news paper, we don’t read the pages but we do an aerial reconnaissance before diving into the part we find interesting. That’s where titles, headings, subheadings… are so important (long live the editors!).
What not to read
For me, the biggest takeaway was this last bit: it is ok not to read something if I don’t find it meaningful.
The easiest way to improve our speed in reading is to decide what not to read. It frees us to take the time to read the parts we like.