I first came across speed reading many years ago while browsing for books at the library. Work Smarter with Speed Reading: A Teach Yourself Guide by Tina Konstant was one of the books that I came across that had the most comprehensive information on speed reading. Every speed reading resource that I have come across since then offers the same advice found in this book, which are found in the summary below.
Speed reading is a skill that you develop and requires practice. This book outlines techniques for improving the speed at which you read, as well as strategies for optimizing your reading and how to approach different types of text.
Do not vocalize words in your mind as you read them.
Use a pointer to guide your eyes as you are reading.
Utilize your peripheral vision to read multiple words on a line or even multiple lines at the same time.
The purpose of this system is to allow you to highlight what you need to read and eliminate what you need to ignore. It is a way to quickly process reading material and gain a high-level understanding or framework before investing more time reading certain sections and filling in this framework as you read the important parts.
What is the purpose of what you are reading? What do you need to know, and how do you intend to use the new information? What do you already know about the subject that you are reading about?
Acquaint yourself with the structure of what you are reading by reading the book covers, table of contents, chapter headings, subheadings, any summaries or conclusions, as well as scanning the index, bibliography, and any diagrams or graphs. Highlight the parts that you think are important, and make note of the parts you do not need.
Quickly scan what you are reading looking for words that stand out - any technical language, jargon, acronyms, or anything that is in bold or italics - and ensure you are familiar with the meaning of the language. Recognize any recurring themes and concepts, and familiarize yourself with their meaning.
Read the first paragraph of each section, and the first sentence of every paragraph. If the paragraph is long, then read the last sentence as well. During this time, highlight any parts you think are important, or parts that you do not understand, and take any notes needed, creating a mind map if possible.
Once you have a good framework for what you are reading, selectively read the parts that you need in whatever order makes the most sense to you. You do not need to read in chronological order from beginning to end, or even finish the reading material if it does not provide you with value.
When reading, you should strive to develop interest and motivation for what you are reading. Consider setting up rewards for yourself if needed. Ensure that you have a goal and purpose for reading, as well as a plan to utilize what you learn from reading. This will help to improve your memory and concentration, without which speed reading techniques would be useless.
Ensure that you are eating healthily, getting enough rest, exercising, and are managing your stress properly. Consider doing breathing exercises and meditation. All of this contributes to your ability to concentrate and remember what you read.
Before reading, try to find and understand any unknown terminology that appears throughout the text (see step 3. Passive Reading). The larger your vocabulary, the greater your comprehension will be, and the faster you will be able to read.
Take frequent breaks when reading to ensure peak concentration. Avoid multitasking and reduce distractions to improve your reading speed. In addition to your health and fitness, other factors such as how present and focused you are in-the-moment, how deliberate you are with your action, as well as how much attention you are paying, affect your ability to concentrate and your reading speed.
The more connections you make between new information and what you already know, the stronger your memory will be. In addition to traditional memory techniques and note-taking strategies - such as regular revision, highlighting keywords or passages, writing your comments in the margins, and taking notes on key concepts - consider organizing what you learn into a mind map to build further associations. Try and involve as many of your senses as possible in imagining what you are reading. Concentration and comprehension also have a big impact on your memory.
Taking care of your eyes and reducing eye strain will increase your reading speed. Ensure you have good lighting in your environment, and that you have a comfortable desk and chair. During your breaks, try to look at something far away, preferably outside. Avoid reading on monitors or screens for too long. If possible, increasing the font size of your reading material will help reduce eye strain.
Organize and reduce the clutter in your immediate surroundings. Reduce distractions such as stress, hunger, dehydration, tiredness, external noise, and any distractions from people. Concentration plays a big role in reducing internal distractions.
Scanning is when you are looking for specific information within a text. Skimming is getting the general idea of what the text is about - who, what, when, where, why, and how. The goal is to get the message that the author is trying to convey, which does not depend on individual words. Speed reading is essentially glorified skimming, allowing you to efficiently capture the information in a text.
A good strategy is to read the first sentence of a paragraph, skim the body of the paragraph to get a general impression of what the paragraph is about, and read the last sentence of the paragraph if it is long.
What is the purpose of reading what you are reading? This motivates the approach you should take, as you may not want to speed read all the time. For example, you can easily apply the Five-Step System and speed read non-fiction books on subjects you are familiar with, whereas you may not want to take this same approach for reading fiction, poetry, or instruction manuals. Generally, you should prioritize memory over reading as fast as possible.