Reading is at the core of most activities in our post-modern societies, including reading emails and reports at work, scanning the internet for any specific information we might require at the moment, and interacting with friends on social media. With so much reading to do on a daily basis, a particularly useful skill to master is speed-reading. Would you like to learn how to read a thousand words per minute – the equivalent of reading one book per hour? Then you have come to the right place!
Surprisingly simple yet effective techniques
Jim Kwik is known as the world’s #1 brain coach. He works with Hollywood celebrities and large brands on improving memory and focus, speed-reading, and other techniques that boost brain performance. He’s the author of “Limitless” (2020).
After 20+ years of teaching techniques of speed-reading, and even longer practicing these techniques himself, Kwik has reached the impressive reading speed of a thousand words per minute. In the Mindvalley Quest ”Super reading” he shares some of these techniques.
First up is the surprisingly simple yet effective technique of following the text you read with your finger, which acts as a visual pacer. Kwik explains that when the movement of the eyes is accompanied by the movement of the hand, speed improves significantly.
It’s a good idea to follow the text with your left hand to stimulate your right brain and thereby increase comprehension. This is so because the mind-body connection goes both ways, so by using your body you stimulate certain parts of your brain.
While reading is habitually thought of as a left brain-activity (logic, language…), your understanding of the content deepens when both hemispheres are active. And because the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body, it’s convenient to use your left hand rather than your right hand in order to engage the right hemisphere in your reading.
Another technique consists of using your peripheral vision to read what’s at the beginning and the end of each line, having the eyes focus on the middle part.
What it really comes down to is optimizing the functioning of the tools we have already been given. In truth, the human body is so cleverly designed that we just need to learn how to optimize it.
Warm-up and brain breaks
Would you ever go for a long run without warming up your muscles first? Probably not. However, most people start their reading or study sessions without warming up their eyes first. Getting into the habit of always doing a warm-up before starting your reading session will greatly enhance your speed. The easiest way of doing this is to draw the infinity symbol (”lazy eight”) in the air with your finger, very slowly, and follow it with your eyes without moving your head. A couple of minutes is usually enough.
It’s also important to give your brain regular breaks, especially if you intend to read or study for several hours. Jim Kwik recommends using the ”Pomodoro technique” which consists of taking a five-minute break for every 25 minutes of focus. During this break, the following activities can further enhance brain performance:
Deep breathing to get oxygen.
Structured water to get hydrated.
As to the third point, the primary function of your brain is to control your movement. Therefore the brain thrives when the body is moving. Again, as stated above, the mind-body connection goes both ways.
”If knowledge is power, then learning is your superpower”
The following saying characterizes Jim Kwik’s teachings: ”If knowledge is power, then learning is your superpower”. Indeed, being able to absorb knowledge more efficiently gives an edge in business and in life.
What I appreciate most in this quest is the parallel made between the world of sports and the exercise of reading. We have already seen that warm-up is crucial before a reading session, just like it is to an athlete preparing him/herself for a race. Now let’s go on to look at a speed exercise called ”speed drill”. Kwik compares this to a mental gym, where your personal trainer pushes you to go further than you would normally do in the “real world”.
A speed drill consists of reading the same text over and over but with less and less time at your disposal. This pushes you to increase your speed to cross the finishing line on time.
More specifically, you start with reading as far as you can in your practice book for four minutes. Make a mark in the margin so that you know where the finishing line is. Read the same text in three minutes. Then in two minutes. And finally, read the text in… one minute!
This kind of training increases your reading speed really fast, especially if you practice it every day. Just like practicing for a race, where you strengthen your muscles and thus your performance, over time.
The question is the answer
Let’s not neglect the comprehension part of reading. Even though the goal is increased speed, we also want to understand what we read, right? The most important aspect is to prepare our reading session properly. When we are clear on what we are looking for, i.e. when we have prepared questions ahead of time, we get out much more of what we read.
This approach also allows us to adapt our reading speed since we can just skim through parts of the text that don’t answer our questions and concentrate more on the parts that do. When it comes to comprehension, it boils down to this: The question is the answer. What we focus on we get more of.
Speed-reading is not just about speed, but also about flexibility. Being able to adjust reading speed to the kind of material we read (fiction or technical information), and to whether it responds to our questions or not, is just as valuable.
About the author
Susanna is a Highly Sensitive Writer, Energy Worker, and Psychologist on a mission to help raise Human Consciousness. She offers 1:1 sessions as a certified Emotion Code and Body Code Practitioner, as well as group workshops about Conscious Manifestation.