Learn How to Read Better With These Five Steps

December 14, 2016

These five tips will empower you to read faster while comprehending more.

Most professional work today is written. Email, for example – something many professionals spend a lot of time on – is obviously written.

So imagine how much more efficient you would be at your job if you read faster, while also comprehending more. You’d get much more done, quicker, all while being smarter on a wide range of topics.

The good news? Learning how to read faster while comprehending more isn’t overly difficult. In his class on the subject, IrisReading.com Founder Paul Nowak gave five tips on how to do exactly that:

1. Use your hand as a guide.

“The simplest way to improve your reading speed is to use your hand as a guide,” Nowak said in his course.

The reason it helps? Your eyes are naturally attracted to motion, Nowak said. Additionally, using your finger or fingers as a guide will help your concentration, which will help you retain more information as well.

The result? People often read 15 to 20 percent faster just by using their hand as a guide, Nowak said.

2. When reading on the computer, use this handy website.

Using your hand as a guide is great, but few people are going to do that on a computer or tablet. So how do you read faster on a screen?

Nowak recommends using the free site AccelaReader.com. Here, you can cut-and-paste text and it’ll flash at you one word at a time. This should greatly increase your reading speed and help your retention as well.

3. Read topic sentences slower and the rest faster.

Generally, the first sentence of a paragraph is the topic sentence, which frames what the rest of the paragraph is about. So read that slightly slower, as that’s key to gain context, Nowak said.

From there, you can read the following sentences faster, as they’ll fit within that general context, he said. That’ll help your retention while still allowing you to read faster.

4. Employ the Multiple-Reading Process to increase speed and retention.

When reading something more in-depth, Nowak recommended using the three-step “multiple-reading process” to both increasing your speed and retention. The three steps are:

  • Preview: Before reading the material, read its introduction and the conclusion to give you context of what the piece is about.
  • Overview: Second, quickly read the headings, subheadings and bold-faced words in the material. If there are none of those things in the material, read the first sentence of each paragraph, as those are generally the topic sentences.
  • Reading: Now, you can just read. Inevitably, you will read significantly faster, while also having much better retention.

“This will help you remember your information a lot better,” Nowak said. “This process ties together the three areas of reading that are important to all of us.”

5. Finally, use this one drill to continue to accelerate your reading speed.

If you want to increase your reading speed beyond adopting the techniques already listed, you need to practice it, Nowak said. To help, he provided this drill:

Start by reading for a set amount of time, say 20 minutes. Then, go back and try to read that same amount of material in half the time (in this case, 10 minutes).

“The reason why we're doing this is we want to train our eyes to get used to seeing words at a much faster rate,” Nowak said in his course. “If you get used to reading at a speed that's double your regular rate, even if there's very little comprehension, when you slow it down to a speed that's just a little faster than your regular reading speed, it won't feel as fast.”

Nowak recommends doing this for 15 minutes a day for two weeks to get the full effect.

Click here to watch Nowak’s full course, Speed Reading Fundamentals. Or, check out the LinkedIn Learning library to learn the latest business, tech and creative skills.

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