If you’re like me, you're probably ashamed to admit how slow you read...
...years of lackluster reading rates have likely prevented you from cultivating the reading habits you know you NEED to thrive in our increasingly competitive world.
In my case, crappy reading speeds have even created periodic, negative emotional feedback loops of mental overwhelm that lead to me avoiding books instead of jumping into them with excitement each day.
After getting the results, it was hard for me to believe how mediocre I could be at such an important skill, used daily, for all but the first few years of my life…
But honestly, I wasn’t that surprised to see the data showing me I had an average to somewhat below average reading speed (242 words per minute with an 82% reading comprehension rate).
I don’t know about you, but for me, average just isn't good enough when it comes to learning! In order to continually self-educate myself to improve my life, I require reading speeds that will allow me to consume valuable books, reports and websites as fast as my mouth currently harfs down triple Belgian chocolate tubs of ice cream on my carb cheat day!
And, just to give you an idea of what poor to awesome reading speeds look like, the Wall Street Journal shows the following, simple distribution for reading speeds on their website:
Fifth-graders: read around 173 words per minute.
Average adults: read around 250 words per minute.
Average speed readers: read around 650 words per minute.
What’s Your Reading Speed And Comprehension Score?
You can see where you fall by taking the WSJ’s reading speed test here.
After testing your speed and comprehension, the WSJ will show you three useful ways to increase your reading speed...perhaps significantly...but with A LOT of effort!
Their tips are definitely helpful and worth sharing, but will take a lot of awareness and effort to instill in yourself. They include:
Eliminate subvocalization (voice in your head).
Use a finger to help your eyes track words faster on the page or computer screen.
Use your peripheral vision to physically limit the movement of your eyes.
Now, these tips are great and should help you improve instantly from say, 250 wpm to a more respectable (but still lagging) 350 wpm…
...but I can almost guarantee you that you’ll soon lose focus and flip back to your more natural, slower reading speed.
I found similar tips being touted about a year ago from a YouTube video posted by Tim Ferriss (author, blogger and productivity guru), but struggled to effectively implement his strategies to experience any real improvement...because, well, they take effort and I’m innately lazy!
In fact, if you already read my recent blog post (Wedging Your Way To Big Wins), you’ll remember that I admitted (for the both of us) how we naturally list towards laziness as an evolutionary survival strategy and will opt for easy outs instead of pain-in-the-ass daily practices.
Now, most of the time, you’ll hear me say that silver bullets and magic pills don’t exist for hard to acquire skills…
...but in the case of modern day speed reading, you’re in luck!
Let me now share with you the effortless, technology based approaches I recently discovered, that more than doubled my lackluster 242 wpm reading speed, instantly!
The technology is called RSVP (Rapid Speed Visual Presentation)...
...and it simply takes electronic text, and displays it in the following way:
RSVP technology has been around for a few decades now, but was recently upgraded with a feature termed either “Smart Slowing” or "Dynamic Pacing” (depending on which company it was developed from) to slow down the pace around punctuated as well as long, complicated and uncommon words.
In my own case, I started out setting my RSVP pace at 500 wpm and was instantly amazed at how effortless it became to consume novels, websites and even physics lectures at more than double my natural reading speed!
Before long, after I became comfortable with the new reading format, I found myself cranking up the dial to 650 wpm...yes, the lofty realm of accomplished speed readers!
No peripheral vision techniques, no annoying finger tracking, and no master-level zen awareness was required to stay on pace with the sudden, accelerated speeds…
...you just keep your eyes open, focused and centered on the middle of the screen to read!
I even realized that subvocalization (voice in your head) seems to disappear automatically while at high RSVP reading speeds...something I've always struggled to do during conventional reading.
So where can you find these life changing speed reading apps...and how much will they cost you?
Well, you can find them on the internet and they’re FREE!
For desktops: To access RSVP technology on my Macbook, I use a Google Chrome extension called Reedy. This one’s my favorite!
What I find especially cool about Reedy is how it highlights one character of each word, in red, to help you keep your eyes focused exactly where they need to be when each word appears on the screen.
For iPhones: I use a FREE app called Flash Reader.
It’s not quite as nice as Reedy since it doesn’t use the red highlighted center character feature, but it still offers a great user experience and integrates well with loading various file types as well as importing selected websites.
For Kindle eBooks: Amazon released their own RSVP application called Word Runner.
Word Runner does the same as the apps above, but unfortunately, is only available on Kindle Fire eReaders and Kindle apps for Android.
There’s no information I could find yet about when (or even if) Word Runner will be released for Kindle apps on the iPhone.
Finally, I want to share with you an effortless speed reading method I serendipitously stumbled across while finishing the second Game Of Thrones novel (A CLash of Kings).
Like many of you productivity geeks out there, I like to cut the time it takes me to listen to audiobooks or podcasts by increasing the playback speed...
...effortless audio speed reading if you will.
But as you may already know, there's a playback speed sound barrier at which spoken words become too difficult to comprehend or require too much effort to understand.
For me, 1.5 times the normal playback rate is my max, effortless listening comprehension speed.
However, I found that if you visually read along while listening to the audiobook, you'll find that you can effortlessly comprehend at playback speeds up to 2.5 or even 3 times the normal recording.
As a quick side note, I found that listening to the audiobook any faster than 3 times the normal playback speed just makes the spoken words sound incomprehensible, starting to hinder comprehension, even while visually reading along with a book or eReader.
I hope these game changing, electronic reading tips will instantly have you reading faster and acquiring knowledge in volumes you’ve always aspired to achieve...
...and all by simply embracing your inner lazy!
Please let me know if the RSVP technology speed reading apps proved helpful for you or not. I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
I look forward to hearing about your experiences with them!
P.S. If you found this post useful, please consider sharing it with someone you think might benefit from the content!
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Matt's a geologist turned online marketer and digital minimalist. He's a Modern Manimal on a mission to cultivate a high-tech, hunter-gatherer lifestyle within our exceedingly domesticated world. When away from his tech, you can find him studying complex human movement through random play or practices like Aikido, AcroYoga and Barefoot Running.
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