speed readingIt has become abundantly clear that I must improve my reading speed and comprehension so I can learn as fast as I can. I was taught to read by reading out loud. So these days when I read quietly to myself I internally read out each word or whisper the words and freak out anyone near me. Add to this, my eyes lose track of which sentence line I’m reading. Sometimes I read the same line twice, other times I skip a line or two and then have to track back to find the correct line. Sound familiar to you?

My friend and teacher Marshall Thurber told me that he reads around 5 books, in the first three hours of a morning! So, if he can do it then so can I. The Question is, how?

1. Understand the theory

Dissipative structureFirst thing is to learn the theory. Marshall says that most people like to start with the process but if you understand the theory then the process makes sense and you’ll stay with it. So here we go…

Effort + Correct Theory = Profound Results

Marshall studied something called dissipative structures, a term coined by Russian-Belgian physical chemist Ilya Prigogine, who was awarded the Nobel Price in Chemistry in 1977 for his pioneering work on these structures. Prigogine pointed out that anything that is an open system, and almost everything is open, for example the stars, our cells, you and I, takes in energy and it dissipates energy. So anything alive has energy coming in and energy going out. However, if you start to overload the open system and too much energy comes into the system this is what is known as Perturbing the system.

What you want to do is overload the system with too much energy coming into the open system then one of two things can happen:

  1. it can die or
  2. just when it is about to die it all of a sudden relaxes to a much higher order and it takes in the energy easily.

What’s really interesting is that when you stop pushing  energy through an open system that has perturbed and relaxed to a much higher order the system does not go back to its previous structure. It is structurally changed to what is known as a whole new entity. If you look at the brain which weighs two percent of the body weight but it takes in 20% of the oxygen and blood flow, so you overload your brain which consists of many open systems, to the point of perturbation, to a much higher order.

So Marshall’s thought was if you want to read really fast then you have to consciously perturb your system and constantly and consistently overload your system. It took Marshall about an hour a day for eight months to perturb his system to the point where he could read as fast as he could turn the pages of the book. Although other people have reported to increase their reading speed within an hour. I’m going to do follow these steps, just trust that will work and perturb my system long enough and increase my reading speed and comprehension.

2. Comfortable place, time and focus

Find a place where you are going to be able to follow these steps in comfort and at a time of the day that will help you focus and concentrate. Make sure there is enough light so your eyes are able to see the text on the pages well. Marshall prefers to read early in the morning for about three to four hours.

3. Break the book’s binding

An optional step to your speed reading exercise is to break the book’s binding because the binding will slow you down.

4. Mindmap title, author, chapter, time and date

Get a clear A3 paper and create a mindmap with the title of the book, the author, new chapter, current time and date in the centre of the sheet.

5. Don’t read across, read down, guide with hands

At the beginning it may seem strange to read down. Use your hands to guide your eyes to read down each page.

6. Turn page, repeat step 5 till end of chapter

Just keep going like a speed reader that you are till you reach the end of the chapter.

7. Mindmap what you can remember

Now put the book aside and expand on the mind map everything you can remember.

8. Continue steps 4 to 7 for next chapter till end of book

Then you have finished mindmapping the last chapter it is time to pick up your book and repeat steps 4 to 7 with the next chapter. Repeat these steps till you have reached the end of the book and hopefully exploded, I mean, perturbed your system and reached ninja level.

9 Scan book, highlight key points

Finally, pick up your book and scan the entire book, from start to end, page by page, and highlight any key points that stand out to you. You could optionally read sections of the book where you want deeper comprehension. So that’s it so far. At the time of writing this article I had completed one session last night. My eyes found headings, key words and lists relevant to the chapter. Although I must admit that I had read the book previously. Next time I’ll speed read a new book and I might write about my experience.

Leave a Reply