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Speed Reading

Speed Reading Rocks, So Why Don’t We All Learn It?

Duncan Green's picture

The best day’s training I ever did was a speed reading course, offered by DFID (I had a short stint there about ten years ago). It helps me every day – when was the last time you could say that about a training course?

The first part of the course covered what you normally think of as speed reading – reading faster. When you read unaided, your eye jumps backwards and forwards, as well as up and down between the lines. By simply using a guide (a pencil, or one of those plastic coffee stirrers) and moving it under the line as you read, you can double your speed without missing content (we tested ourselves at the beginning and end of the day, and it was true).

But you have to concentrate really hard and take regular breaks, and you have to avoid saying the words aloud in your head (which slows you down). Since then, I have occasionally tried it, but it hasn’t stuck.

The second part of the training seemed less significant at the time, but has had a much bigger impact: how to approach a document. Unless you’re reading for pleasure, you should not just assume that you start at the beginning and read through to the end. The document has to earn your time.

That means: