How I Read Faster as a Slow Reader
I’ve always been a slow reader. One of the biggest reasons for this is I have trouble paying attention for long periods of time. My mind wanders and I have all of these other thoughts and ideas. Sometimes I go to write some of them down. But then I’m continually distracted by the book at hand.
The other thing is that I really focus on comprehension when I read. I’m really good at retaining information but the other side of that coin is that I struggle to get past sentences that I don’t completely understand. My inclination to ensure understanding before moving on, rather than focusing on getting the general idea of the text, simultaneously improves my comprehension and retention and decreases my reading speed.
Considering I’ve always struggled with reading quickly, I’ve developed some strategies for allowing myself to improve my speed. Below are my tips for picking up reading speed as a slow reader. If you’re a slow reader too I hope you find them useful.
Make Reading a Priority
Establish reading as a priority. If you don’t actually consider it that important than this won’t really be that effective. But if you do consider it important, then you must reiterate that to yourself that it’s a priority. Once it becomes a priority then you can work on fitting it into your schedule.
Set Reading Goals
Set reading goals for yourself. Monthly goals tend to be better than yearly goals for keeping on track. If you set both, focus more on hitting your monthly goal and your yearly goal will take care of itself.
Depending on how far you are along your reading advancement and how much time you’ll be able to dedicate to reading, you can set a goal of 1, 2, 4, or 8 books per month. Most people don’t even read a book a month so if you get to that point you’re already in good shape. Some more dedicated readers read 2-8 books per month (24-100 books per year), but it’s important to start small and build yourself up over time.
Make a Financial Reading Commitment
Make a financial commitment to reading books. Set your monthly reading goal and then set a budget based on that goal. If you can’t afford the budget for that goal then buy used books. If you’re using audiobooks get an audible subscription for one free credit per month and then buy the extra credits you’ll need for that month ahead of time to reduce friction.
Replace News with Books
Consciously decide to reduce your consumption of news and articles. Train yourself to pick up a book instead. News and articles are short form content that we can’t seem to get enough of. It gives us quick dopamine hits and we think we’re learning something new and we may even feel that we were productive. But rarely do we actually learn something. And that which we learn is usually just a shallow understanding.
Books convey true knowledge. They allow us to get deep into a subject and immerse ourselves enough that we can add a volume to the library that is our brain. One of the best ways to read more books is to recognize the ineffectiveness of articles for learning and consciously seek out long-form content instead of short-form content.
Cut Social Media
Heavily reduce or stop using social media, as these sites reduce your attention span and hamper your ability to sit for hours with a given book.
Stop watching television shows, as shows reduce your desire for and enjoyment for books and replace them with the lazy instinct of putting on the television
Think of Books Like TV Seasons
Think of each book like a television season. Seasons typically range from ten 30-minute episodes (5 hours) to about 15 hour-long episodes (15 hours). Audiobooks meanwhile are typically between 5 and 20 hours. If you can binge read a book instead of binge watching a season then you’ve got a great way to read books consistently.
Think of Both Reading Duration and Speed
When you think about reading books quickly, make sure you understand what quickly really means. It doesn’t simply mean the pure speed at which you read when you’re sitting down. If you read extremely fast for 5 minutes and then put the book down, you won’t get anywhere.
This may seem obvious, but the number of books you can finish in a month is dependent on not just your reading speed but also the duration of time in that month during which you read. You need to work on both in order for you to read many books in a month.
After a certain point, you’ll hit limits on how fast you can read. But it turns out that most people can greatly increase the amount of reading time they put in throughout a week. We all think we’re extremely busy, and we generally are right. But when we account for all the hours we spend commuting, watching TV, going on social media, and browsing the internet, our “free time” (that’s not very productive) adds up to quite a lot.
Designate Reading Days
Designate certain weekend days as reading days, then set aside 4-6 hours for uninterrupted reading. This is the sweet spot, as you’ll be able to get through the same number of pages in a day as you would if you read an hour each week day.
Drive with Audiobooks
Go on a 4-6 solo hour drive and put on an audiobook. Make sure you have nothing to do. You’ll be able to finish a 5-8 hour audiobook at 1.25x or 1.5x speed and you’ll be able to finish a 10-16 hour audiobook in just two drives.
Speed up Audiobooks
Speed up certain audiobooks to 1.25x or 1.5x, depending on reading speed and information density. Be ok with slowing back down to 1x and then picking the speed back up again to 1.5x. Be ok with going a bit too fast and then rewinding 30 seconds when you zoned out or missed details.
Read Along with Audiobooks
Sit in a quiet place with both a physical book and an audiobook and read along with the audiobook. You should be able to increase the audiobook speed if you concentrate on the words and read along. The audiobook will help you concentrate and provide some guardrails for your wandering mind.
Listen to Audiobooks While Commuting
Listen to audiobooks while commuting or traveling between meetings - put on noise cancelling headphones so you can deeper into the zone
Only Read Books You Enjoy
Only pick up books that you are super excited about reading. You need to reinforce your love of reading by continually reading great books and you need to avoid the feeling that reading is punishment by trying to get through unenjoyable books
Be Willing to Move On
Be willing to toss a book after reading 10%-25% of it. Move on to another book when you realize you don’t like the current one. Only focus on books you enjoy.
Talk About Books with Friends
Talk to your friends about books and cultivate a bookworm culture with them. Share book recommendations and give books as gifts. This will make you enjoy reading more and will motivate you to up your reading game.
Read with Family
Read with your family or your significant other and be ok with sitting in quiet with them for hours at a time. If they’re not immediately on board, have a conversation with them and communicate that reading is a priority for you, that you really enjoy reading with them and that it could be a great way to spend time together.
Practice being ok with sitting and walking with nothing to do, without picking up your phone or using social media, as this will increase your attention span and reduce your addition to short-form content.
Build Momentum with Quick Finishes
Focus on finishing books you love quickly, as it’s easier to get through them quickly, you’ll enjoy them more with more of the narrative fresh in your mind, you’ll get an entertainment hit from reading, and you’ll get an accomplishment hit from finishing the book - the more you do this successfully the more hungry you’ll be for the next book