My previous post on doing the Hard Thing second, I talked about use reading as a mental warm-up. Reading is a great mental warm-up for the day, and it also builds your knowledge base for the rest of your life. It becomes a powerful resource within yourself.
Getting Ready to Read
Now I am going to talk about how to read a book and do it quickly and effectively.
First, you need a book, and I am going to focus on self-improvement books, books that you are reading to learn something and not just for fun.
Second, you need some good lighting, not enough or too much light will tire out your eyes. I find that 100-150W of light is comfortable for me. Less then 75W is not enough and full sunlight is too bright and I end up squinting and uncomfortable and ending my reading session sooner.
Third, a comfortable chair. I like a recliner or a rocking chair, my wife prefers laying on the bed, and I know people who like to stand. Whatever is most comfortable for you.
Fourth, you need to have 30-60 minutes of uninterrupted time. It will take 15 minutes just to get into flow so you can be reading at top speed, so the more time the better.
Reading for fun is very different from reading for content. Fun reading can be done most places and is a great way to practice speed reading, as the story is long enough to catch the pieces as they come up.
Content reading is active information hunting and you need the right tools.
Fifth, Read actively. Question and extend what the author has to say. You are likely to know something the author didn't when he wrote that. Many books I am reading now have "stood the test of time" so they have been around for 20+ years, so some things have been superseded by new technology and techniques. Look for them and fix them. Sometimes I argue with a book and I write a note about why I do. Sometimes I put in notes to google a subject for more depth later.
Get in there and wrestle with the book.
Sixth, have a side table or tray table for holding your content reading tools:
My reading tools are:
1) A Pentel 8 color pencil. I can color code the highlights for different topics. You can use a highlighter, but they sometimes leak through the page and that makes later scanning harder, or drylighters which don't leak through the page, or just any old colored pencil will work.
2) A mechanical pencil for making margin notes. You need to read actively as described in step 5.
3) Some large Post-its for making notes that are longer then will fit in a margin.
4) Some Post-it flags for quickly finding something again later. I used to flag many pages but now I limit myself to 10-12 flags to make them more meaningful, I occasionally move flags while reading to a better explanation he may have somewhere else or for something more important and sometimes remove flags if it seems less relevant later.
5a) I used to keep a clipboard handy to write down things I learned and wanted to know more about that I needed to do somewhere else. Now I have a wireless laptop and that is much more handy.
5b) I now like to keep a laptop handy to make doing a search easier for more information on something the author has brought up.
5c) Index cards are great for note-taking and you can stick them in the pages of interest without too much trouble.
Seventh, look through the table of contents to slap together a reading plan. See how the author has laid out the book and what is where. That way you have built a framework within your mind that makes the book more sticky within your mind. It is easier to remember things if they have lots of hooks that you can attach to other things that already exist in your mind.
Eighth, pick up the book and start reading.
Ninth, Keep a reading journal. When I finish the book and often just a chapter, I write down the things I have learned in a summary often with page numbers for easy reference. This reinforces what you have learned and improves retention. I keep these notes on my computer but a reading journal can be a notebook too. Also when I want to look for something I can find it in the reading journal faster then going through the whole book again.
How to Speed Read
Lots of people want to know how I read so fast, 2000 wpm, I never took a speed reading course. I didn't even know I read faster then most until college, when in a freshman class they tested our reading speed, the average person reads at 400-500 wpm, I tested twice because I was so much faster no one, even myself, could believe it.
All I ever did was read, but I read a lot I have over 7000 books on my shelves and then there are all the library books I have read, because buying them was too expensive.
Practice makes perfect.
If you want to really increase your rate of reading you need to practice. It takes 1000 hours of practice to become an expert in something and 5000 hours to master it.
To practice reading and to increase your reading speed set aside a 2 hour block of time, without interruption and without distraction. This is important because you are trying to learn how to get into flow while reading. It is just a skill but it is a skill worth learning.
It only takes 5 things to setup the conditions for a flow experience:
1) A challenge activity that requires skill.
2) An environment that allows us to concentrate on the activity.
3) Clear goals for completing the task.
4) Immediate feedback.
5) Concentration of the task at hand.
Then you see these results while you are in flow:
6) A feeling of control in doing the task.
7) Losing self-consciousness.
8) A lose of time sense.
Setup a quiet, comfortable place and read as fast as you can for those 2 hours. Sit in the garage in your car if you have to. Quiet is important to facilitate concentrate, no music which our minds will process in the background and slow us down.
Before you start figure out how many words are on a page in the book you are reading, just pick two pages and count the number of words and average them for a "good enough" estimate. Then put a bookmark in the page that has you read goal for that time period. Set a timer so you know when you are supposed to be done, an electronic one is better then a mechanical one as it doesn't tick.
For example, you have a book that has 250 words per page, and you are trying to read at 1000 word per minute, that will give you a reading speed of 1000wpm/250w = 4 pages per minute, so you need to put your bookmark on page 4ppm*120m = 480 to reach your goal. It is okay, and I would recommend, reading the same book over and over again at first, it builds your mind. Like any training you do the same thing over and over again to build reflexes and muscle memory in your eyes. Cycle through a handful of books, if it gets too boring.
You don't just start reading at full speed it takes some time to warm up and that is way you need to take so much time at first, eventually you will train yourself so you can start out quickly and then get into really high speed after just 15 minutes. At 2 hours a day it will take about a year and a half to be an expert but it is well worth it and you will see tremendous benefits when you get there.
Other Speed Techniques
*Scanning is another technique you can use to read a book faster. Rather then reading every word on every page, just read the first line in each paragraph, which usually contains most of the information anyway.
*Skimming is just flipping pages and reading what you can as they go by.
*Keywording is where you look for certain keywords as you are looking at each page. If you find one you are looking for you stop and read around it for more detail. This is great to use in when looking for something in a informational book, like a motivational, self-help or business book.
To read actively you need to do only a few things.
A quiet, comfortable, well-lit place to read, that is free from interruptions. Some note taking tools, and a good book.
Practice, practice, practice. Your eyes and brain need to learn the habits of reading well so they become ingrained and then the speed will come.