There’s no better superfood for your brain than a book.
Reading is the best way to rapidly gain a deep, and broad understanding of a topic or discipline.
You can read an entire book every day, but it will cost you. It’s a massive goal and can be unreasonable, but it works for me.
I am selective about the books I choose to speed read. I look out for the most important ideas in each book. Ideas that can advance my long-term goals.
I don’t read when I am “in the mood” because that’s unpredictable. I read everywhere when I have even five minutes. It’s super convenient to pull out my phone (I keep it in airplane mode and avoid all notifications) and read a paragraph or two when I can.
Some books can be read just once, providing instant gratification, and then you feel you can pass them on to somebody else. Others will require more from you. The question is, how much are you willing to put into them?
Whether you are looking to improve yourself or learn something new, it’s possible to read a book in a single day.
Patrick Allan of Lifehacker explains why reading a book every day is a realistic goal, if you are prepared to put in the hours:
“Reading an entire book in a matter of hours may seem daunting, but it all comes down to simple math. The average adult reads around 200–400 words per minute. The average novel ranges between 60,000 and 100,000 words total. If your reading speed is right in the middle of the pack at 300 words per minute, and you’re reading a middle-of-the-pack novel at around 80,000 words, you’ll be able to knock it out in around five hours or less.”
If you like to read, odds are you’ve got a stack of books you’ve been meaning to get to, but haven’t been able to find the time. But, starting today, you can change your reading habit.
When you aim to understand an author, it won’t take you too long to read an entire book. Understanding a book is the best way to read it quickly.
Many nonfiction authors make a point and ask us to learn from them. Once you know and understand the author’s message, you will be able to read it faster, learn from it and move on to the next one.
Sir Francis Bacon once said, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”
Don’t read all your books with the same mindset
Choose books with purpose for speed reading. You can’t use any book for this purpose.
Enjoying books is no different than enjoying a TV show or a movie. If you don’t like a show, you won’t waste your time starting it in the first place. If you want to give it a chance, you will try watching the first episode. If you don’t really like a book, you will stop reading it and start read something else.
Reading a book should be an experience that provides you joy and value, not something to labor through. It’s important you select your book carefully.
Find a reason to read. It could be self-improvement, better utilization of time, learning things, improving your career etc.
Use your peripheral vision
Learn to speed read.
Using your peripheral vision allows you to read with fewer eye fixations because your vision span is wider and you can see, read, and process more words at a time.
When you use your peripheral vision to read, you look in the space between two words instead of looking the specific word, trying to read both words and then moving your eyes to the next pair of words.
Michael Benninger of Blinklist explains:
“To achieve true mastery of reading, make the most of your peripheral vision. Strengthen this skill by quickly glancing at phrases then attempting to recite them. The indenting method builds off this by suggesting readers aim their eyes on the center of a line of text, without focusing on words within a half inch of either margin.”
Read in clumps. A clump is a collection of four to 16 adjacent words that you read in a single glance. When you read in clumps, you naturally increase your speed because you can’t slow down to vocalize (speak or hear the words as you read them).
Location is everything
Once you’ve taught yourself to speed read at a decent pace, and have some books you want to work through, you need an ideal reading environment. Distraction is everywhere.
Separate yourself from everything that distracts you. Think of how much solitude you’ll need, then double it. Go somewhere that can guarantee the solitude you want, and use headphones, if you have to. Listen to white noise. It will help you keep focused, and read little faster.
If you’re really short on time, and sitting isn’t an option, you can choose an audiobook. You can read for a couple of hours, download the audiobook and listen to it while you drive, shop, on break, do house chores, or when exercising. You can always return to your book once you have everything done.
Use every moment
If you have a commute, use it. If you have a lunch break, use that.
Waiting in line? Read.
Eliminate one hour of television a day if you have to. The long-term benefits cannot be compared with the short-term pleasure of daily distractions.
This advice from Peter Bregman has made a lot of difference for me.
He originally shared it on HBR. The entire post is worth a read:
“Read the title and anywhere from the first few paragraphs to the first few pages of the chapter to figure out how the author is using this chapter and where it fits into the argument of the book. Then skim through the headings and subheadings (if there are any) to get a feel for the flow. Read the first sentence of each paragraph and the last. If you get the meaning, move on. Otherwise, you may want to read the whole paragraph. Once you’ve gotten an understanding of the chapter, you may be able to skim over whole pages, as the argument may be clear to you and also may repeat itself.”
This advice will not work for fiction books but for others that seek to get an idea or argument across to readers, you can apply it.
When you intend to burn through a book in a single day, you’ll naturally forget things. Have a way to take notes!
Taking notes along the way is very helpful, or alternatively stay active by highlighting passages.
You don’t have to finish a book every day, but if you are keen to significantly improve how you read, start slowly.
Don’t be too harsh on yourself if you can’t read an entire book in a single day. It takes practice. Pick up something you can relate to or enjoy, and then explore and experiment. That will motivate you to read tomorrow and beyond.
Now grab the book you want to read and go to town.
This post originally appeared at Medium.