How much more would you learn, if you could read more in less time? If you’re able to read something just once, read it quickly, and comprehend what you’ve read, you being efficient.
The problem is, we have passive reading habits that prevent us from reading efficiently. Worse yet, we can’t get rid of these habits completely – we can only reduce their impact.
Becoming aware of them is the first step to reading faster. As such, here are the three most common passive reading habits.
This is also known as daydreaming. We all do it, but active readers do it less than passive ones. Mind wandering is effective only if you’re mentally applying what you’re reading to something you already know.
For instance, if you took a trip to Brazil a few years ago, and now you’re reading an article about Brazilian food, your mind will likely wander to your trip. You’re mentally relating what you personally experienced with the information in the article. This is known as active mind wandering, because it’s how you learn.
The opposite of this is passive mind wandering, which is thinking about dozens of other unrelated things. It could be remembering to pay your credit card bill, or thinking about an upcoming deadline at work. This type of wandering slows you down, prevents you from improving your comprehension, and wastes your time. If you want to read faster, then you need to reduce passive mind wandering.
How to Reduce Mind Wandering
One of the best ways to reduce mind wandering is to be engaged in your reading, and just read faster. By increasing your speed, your brain has less time to daydream.
Remember, the average person speaks 150 words per minute, while you can think over 400 words per minute. That leaves you with 250 words per minute looking for something to do. So if you’re not mentally engaged in what you’re reading, you’ll daydream . . . a lot!
This is flicking your eyes back to words you’ve already read. If you’ve ever arrived at the bottom of a page and wondered what you’ve just read, you’ll probably regress back to the top.
As with mind wandering, there’s also active and passive regression. Active regression is intentionally going back to look for what you’ve missed. You’re reading consciously, but you don’t get the meaning. So you go back with a purpose.
Passive regression is when you reread words because your mind is wandering. If you don’t trust your brain when reading, this insecurity will lead you to regress in order to make sure you understand the content.
How to Reduce Regression
To reduce passive regression, use the white card method. Take an index card, and place it above the line you’re about to read. As you read, move the card down the page, covering the line you’ve just read. As you learn other speed techniques, you’ll be able to move the card even faster.
This means reading word for word, or moving your lips while reading. Although you can’t get rid of this voice, you can reduce it. Faster readers have learned to subvocalize less than others.
There are times when this talking is active and helpful. For instance, hearing your voice repeat information while you’re studying is active. It may also be wise to read the fine print in legal and insurance documents word for word, unless you’re already familiar with the jargon.
So although you may have a good reason to subvocalize, remember that it slows you down. Keep this in mind when planning your reading time.
4 Ways to Reduce Subvocalization
- Catch yourself doing it. You can’t do something about the talking until you realize you’re doing it.
- Read faster. The faster you read, the less you can talk word for word.
- Read keywords. This helps reduce the talking, since you’re only speaking the keywords.
- Use a pacer. A pacer technique like the white card method will help you read faster and reduce the talking.
For more tips on how to read faster, check out 10 Days to Faster Reading by Abby Marks-Beale.
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