Empowerment Toolset: Speed Reading

So I’ve watched a few YouTube videos of Jim Kwik explaining ideas about memory/retention and learning.

Then I watched a free Intro video from Mind Valley.
[I’m a hound for free information]

There’s a very long introduction and it’s a bit of an infomercial for the 21 Day Speed Reading Program but thankfully there’s plenty of ‘info’ among the ‘mercial’.


  1. There are several Environmental things that cam impact reading speed and comprehension. These include: difficulty of the material; tiredness; presence of distractions
    I take this to mean we need to gear up to read fast.
  2. The mind likes to be stimulated and so giving it more information (reading faster) rather than less (slower) increases the chances of retaining/comprehending/understanding what we’ve read
  3. Subverbalisation is a hindrance.
    Stop the inner monologue – the practice of actually mentally reading each word as we go slows us down immensely and increases the chances of having the mind wander on us.
  4. Use a visual pacer
    Trace your finger underneath each line to help the eye stay focused because it’s natural tendency is to flit and jump. Apparently there is a strong tendency to flit back over words / passages that we’ve already read, slowing us down. We should trust the mind to comprehend what it’s just taken in.
    Also, there’s the whole physical action to mental reception thing.

My Findings

From a couple of quick 1 minute tests, I improved my reading speed considerably by trying the visual pacer thing just using my finger.

I needed to trust my brain to catch up as my finger went considerably faster than my ‘normal’ reading speed.

  • Normal reading speed for 1 minute: 23 lines of printed A4 containing 329 words
  • 1st test with finger: 503 words per minute
  • 2nd test with finger: 445 words per minute

I’m not sure how to test comprehension but there was certainly enough improvement to continuing experimenting.

Apparently there are a bunch more techniques / tools / tricks that are only revealed in the 21 day (paid for) program so I signed off and went to Google to see what similarities and differences were out there.

Tim Ferriss’ video below was one of the first items that came up.

Tim Ferriss on Speed Reading

Summary of Ferriss’ points

  1. Take a Baseline
    Calculate your Words Per Minute (WPM)
  2. Decrease the margins
    Use a ruler and pencil to draw lines about one inch inside the left and right margins and don’t read those words – leave them up to your peripheral vision to pick up
  3. Use a (finger) pacer
    To help focus your eyes on the line rather than flit about and retrace words already read
  4. Read slightly faster than your ‘normal’ comprehension

No voodoo, no magic involved.

It’s just understanding the mechanics of the eye, a little bit about optical perception and then recognising how you can optimize that for the printed page.

Tim Ferriss

Ferriss’ post on speed reading describes in detail the techniques and how to apply them.

Other techniques I came across

Cover lines already read

Part of the reason why we read slower than we need to is that we often return to words already read and go over them again. The eye naturally flits around.

Covering passages already read helps to avoid this and focus attention.

I suspect this is an either/or thing with tracing with a finger as it would take 2 hands to cover read lines AND follow under the current one.

But definitely something to try out to see which worked best.

Target your eye placements

To help focus where your eyes flit to – to take in the optimal number of words at the same time – give yourself targets along a line of test to focus on.

Apparently the eye can take in more letters to the right of your peripheral vision than they can on the left so use this to target your focus.

Scan first

Prime yourself with the concepts that are covered in a book before reading the whole thing.

Read all of the chapter headings in a and all of the first paragraphs to give yourself the general gist of the book.

Then go back and speed read the whole thing.

This post from a teacher writing in the Huffington Post Blog offers an excellent range of views from an educational perspective. On speed reading he says

It’s based on the concept that the more information you can get in within a short period of time the more you will have the basis for better comprehension.

Robert Rose

And to balance things out, here’s one on enjoying reading (over speed reading) from the Huffington Post.

Next step(s) for me

  • (Speed) Read a long form article/blog post and take notes afterwards to assess how well I can recall the content
  • (Speed) Read a whole book on speed reading
  • (Speed) Read more books from the library and attempt to retell the main learnings in a drawing

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