Ever wished you could absorb a lengthy tome without actually having to read it?! Speed reading might be your answer. The world of performance management is packed to the gunnels with good books and research and it’s impossible (at least in my experience) to keep up with it all. But I wish I could because the wealth of content out there is a rich source of knowledge, ideas and inspiration! So, when I realized my background reading pile was getting the better of me, I decided it was time for action.
I’d always been intrigued by the potential for speed reading to boost my work rate and help with time management. I never saw it as the holy grail, but I am a great believer in small interventions as it’s often the little things that make a big difference. That’s why I turned to my colleague Noel for help.
Test your speed reading
A quick test established that my reading speed was around 330 words a minute. Not bad but room for improvement! You can easily check your reading speed using this online tool created by Staples.
Source: Staples eReader Department
(Two little speed reading facts: The world champion reads at 4500 words a minute. Noel speeds reads at 1900 words a minute. How does your speed compare?)
In a remarkably short space of time (only a couple of hours in fact), Noel taught me a technique that took my reading from 330 words a minute to 520 words a minute. With diligent practice of only 5 – 10 minutes a day, that increased quite soon to just over 600 words a minutes. More importantly, I’ve managed to maintain that speed, using the same techniques on a regular basis.
But it’s not just about speed. You need to find the optimum speed at which you can read, retain and understand the content. I particularly liked Noel’s strategic approach, which encourages you to consider why you’re reading and what you want to get out of it. After all, reading for pleasure has a different purpose to reading for work. So, why not handle them differently?
I was initially skeptical about the ability to get speed reading to work on a screen. In fact my ebook speed has gone up as much as my speed of reading text on traditional media.
Another development challenge for me is to adapt the way I write for work, to make it easier and faster for recipients of my work to read and absorb it. I’ll be going back to Noel for that in due course but for now, I’m enjoying my newly acquired reading speed and, more importantly, the diminishing pile of books, trade journals and research on my desk!