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Speed Reading

Slow readerReading is a skill you will have generally honed by the age of 12, but rapid, effective and efficient reading is a skill we need to work at all of our lives, especially with the exponential growth of information available to each successive generation. Given that reading could be the most often used work-related skill, it is critical that we improve our reading skills. It also helps us better comprehend the overall structure of an article.

Correct speed reading allows us to at least double our reading speed while still understanding and retaining what we have read.

Many people read at about 250 words per minute. This means that an average page in a book or document would take you 1-2 minutes to read.

It is important to be selective as to the material you choose to speed read – it’s often best to read important or challenging documents slowly, so that you can fully understand them in detail. Legal documents, for example, are better read thoroughly and in their entirety, as are many technical documents. Poetry would be another area where utilising speed reading would not make sense!

Practice expanding the number of words that you read at a time.

Fatser readingSlow readers tend to focus on each word as they work their way across each line. When you concentrate on separate words, you often miss the overall concept of what’s being said. The eye can actually span about 4 cm at a time, which, for an average page, encompasses four or five words (it would be slightly less on a computer screen due its lower resolution).

Use the following techniques to read whole blocks of words:

  • Hold the text a little further from your eyes and soften your focus by relaxing your face and expanding your gaze.The more words you can read in each block, the faster you’ll read.
  • Use your peripheral vision to see words at the ends of each line. This way, you can quickly scan across and down to the next line.
  • Use your index finger, a pencil or other object and run it down the middle of the page (or your iPad!) at a constant and steady pace. Keep your head still as you follow the tip of your finger, for example, while flicking your gaze to the left of your finger, taking in the entire left half of the sentence, then right to read the remainder of the sentence. The speed at which you read using this method will largely depend on the speed at which your finger moves.
    This also helps prevent regression – the unnecessary re-reading of material. Sometimes people get into the habit of skipping back to words they have just read, or even back a few paragraphs, to ensure that they have read something correctly. This can result in losing the flow and structure of the text, and your overall understanding of a subject can decrease.

Read selectively rather than linearly

  • Scan the page first for signs of important information; this includes headings, bullet points and highlighted text, such as items colourised or in bold. This key information gives the material context and assists you in choosing what material needs or ‘deserves’ to be read. After all, you wouldn’t enter a library and start reading each book on the shelf until you came to the one you wanted.
  • While rereading and ‘slow’ reading should be avoided, it’s far better to read one critical paragraph twice than to read a whole lot of extraneous or irrelevant text once.

Avoid subvocalising and maximise your concentration

  • Pronouncing each word in your head as you read it limits you to reading at the same pace as talking, which is about 250-350 words per minute
  • Using the techniques mentioned above and reading in a distraction free environment help eliminate this habit. This includes buffering yourself from interuptions which are all too frequent in today’s hyperconnected world.
  • Stop multitasking while reading, and avoid “internal distractions’ such as playing back an argument you may have recently had in your head.

General tips

  • Practice speed reading on light, unimportant material such as newspapers, magazines and fictional novels. Ensure that the material you are reading is of no great consequence so that you do not feel that you are “missing out”.
  • Constantly work at improving your speed while retaining comprehension – you don’t climb Mount Everest in a single day! There are many speed reading assessments online where you can benchmark your progress.

So, in summary, speed read what you ought and for sport, slow read the technical and lyrical!

Speed reading can improve many facets of your working life; relevant courses and services we offer include Time and Stress Management , Communications, and Effective Management Skills.

Filed under: Management Training


The perfect score!

Is the pursuit of perfection a good thing?

It depends on how you approach it, but understand that you are essentially trying to achieve unrealistically high goals.

Clearly if you are attempting to develop your skills and improve your standards while being aware that perfection will not and cannot be achieved, then aiming for perfection can be a healthy approach.

However, if you are never satisfied with your achievements, you may experience fear of failure, unhappiness and other emotions that are associated with the ‘glass half full’ mentality.

The key to making positive improvements is to accept and learn from your mistakes and use them as an opportunity to grow rather than beating yourself up over them and fearing that others will perceive you as incompetent.

So, how can we overcome excessive perfectionism?

  • Firstly, when the consequences of doing less than a perfect job are small, don’t sweat it. “Near enough” can be genuinely good enough. Divert some of that time and energy that you would otherwise have spent polishing the last 20% of a task onto more important and productive endeavours.
  • Make a list of all the things that you overdo or don’t do because of your perfectionist traits. Be aware that procrastinators more often than not have perfectionist tendencies. Now come up with one specific step to overcome each unwanted behavior; for example, restricting yourself to rereading written correspondence you have produced no more than once and letting at least a couple of hours elapse before doing so.

Tip: Try out these steps one at a time rather than all at once, otherwise it could lead to anxiety attacks!

  • Set realistic goals, and break these down to yearly, monthly and weekly subgoals. Reward yourself with the attainment of each subgoal. Ensure that these goals are designed to achieve your own dreams and not the real or imagined expectations of others.
  • Use positive statement (affirmations) to raise your self-esteem and to reprogram your negative ‘not good enough’ thinking.
  • Ditch rigid rules you create for yourself and see the opportunity in every failure. Remember, life’s not about how far you fall but how high you bounce. Take “must”, “should” and “shouldn’t” out of your vocabulary.
  • Learn to look at the bigger picture instead of unduly focusing on one or two areas.

One final suggestion to letting go of perfectionism is:- relax your attitude, take plenty of breaks, begin a new hobby and start enjoying life.

You can learn more about managing your time by taking our 3 hour Time and Stress course.

Filed under: Management Training

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Jeanette Richardson - Managing Director

Jeanette Richardson - Managing Director