7 Tips for How to Read Faster (and Still Understand What You Read)

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Whether you skim a blog post, peruse files for work, or browse through a book, you most likely do some type of reading every day. But slogging through dense passages of text can be time-consuming, mentally exhausting, and hard on your eyes. If you want to read faster while maintaining reading comprehension, check out these seven tips.

1. PREVIEW THE TEXT.

Viewing a film’s trailer before watching the movie gives you context and lets you know what to expect. Likewise, previewing a text before reading it prepares you to quickly gain an understanding of what you’re about to read. To preview a text, scan it from the beginning to the end, paying special attention to headings, subheadings, anything in bold or large font, and bullet points. To get a big picture understanding, skim the introductory and concluding paragraphs. Try to identify transition sentences, examine any images or graphs, and figure out how the author structured the text.

2. PLAN YOUR ATTACK.

Strategically approaching a text will make a big difference in how efficiently you can digest the material. First, think about your goals. What do you want to learn by reading the material? Jot down some questions you want to be able to answer by the end. Then, determine the author’s goal in writing the material, based on your preview. The author’s goal, for example, might be to describe the entire history of Ancient Rome, while your goal is simply to answer a question about Roman women’s role in politics. If your goal is more limited in scope than the author’s, plan to only find and read the pertinent sections.

Similarly, vary your plan of attack based on the type of material you’re about to read. If you’re going to read a dense legal or scientific text, you should probably plan to read certain passages more slowly and carefully than you’d read a novel or magazine.

3. BE MINDFUL.

Reading quickly with good comprehension requires focus and concentration. Minimize external noise, distractions, and interruptions, and be mindful when your thoughts wander as you read. If you notice that you’re fantasizing about your next meal rather than focusing on the text, gently bring your mind back to the material. Many readers read a few sentences passively, without focus, then spend time going back and re-reading to make sure they understand them. According to author Tim Ferriss, this habit, called regression, will significantly slow you down and make it harder to get a big picture view of the text. If you carefully and attentively approach a text, you'll quickly realize if you’re not understanding a section, saving you time in the long run.

4. DON’T READ EVERY WORD.

To increase your reading speed, pay attention to your eyes. Most people can scan in 1.5 inch chunks, which, depending on the font size and type of text, usually comprise three to five words each. Rather than reading each word individually, move your eyes in a scanning motion, jumping from a chunk (of three to five words) to the next chunk of words. Take advantage of your peripheral vision to speed up around the beginning and end of each line, focusing on blocks of words rather than the first and last words.

Pointing your finger or a pen at each chunk of words will help you learn to move your eyes quickly over the text. And it will encourage you not to subvocalize as you read. Subvocalization, or silently pronouncing each word in your head as you read, will slow you down and distract you from the author’s main point.

5. DON’T READ EVERY SECTION.

According to Dartmouth College’s Academic Skills Center, it’s an old-fashioned myth that students must read every section of a textbook or article. Unless you’re reading something extremely important, skip the sections that aren’t relevant to your purpose. Reading selectively will make it possible for you to digest the main points of many texts, rather than only having time to fully read a couple.

6. WRITE A SUMMARY. 

Your job shouldn’t end when you read the last word on the page. After you finish reading, write a few sentences to summarize what you read, and answer any questions you had before you started reading. Did you learn what you were hoping to learn? By spending a few minutes after reading to think, synthesize the information, and write what you learned, you’ll solidify the material in your mind and have better recall later. If you’re a more visual or verbal learner, draw a mind map summary or tell someone what you learned.

7. PRACTICE TIMED RUNS.

Approaching a text strategically, reading actively, and summarizing effectively takes practice. If you want to improve your reading speed, use a timer to test how many words (or pages) per minute you can read. As you’re able to read faster and faster, check in with yourself to make sure you’re happy with your level of comprehension.

Spending a Lot On Books? This Browser Extension Tells You if They’re Available at Your Local Library

artisteer/iStock via Getty Images
artisteer/iStock via Getty Images

If your battle-worn bookcase is groaning under the weight of all the books you've bought online, let us introduce you to a delightful browser extension that you didn’t know you needed.

As CNET reports, Library Extension is a free way to automatically see if the book you’re about to purchase can be checked out from a library (or libraries) near you. After you install it here—for either Chrome or Firefox—click on the tiny stack of books that appears next to your search bar, and choose your state and public libraries from the dropdown menu. Then, search for a book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Audible, or Google Books, and a box along the right side of your window will tell you how many copies are available. It also works on Goodreads, so you don’t even have to be committed to buying your next great read for it to come in handy.

If you’re not picky about book formats, you can add digital catalogs from platforms like OverDrive, Hoopla, and Cloud Library in your extension preferences, and your results will list e-book and audiobook copies among the physical ones. Once you’ve found something you’d like to check out, just click “borrow” and the extension will deliver you straight to its corresponding page on the library’s website.

For veteran library patrons, navigating various catalogs to find the perfect novel might seem simple—or even a little like hunting for treasure—but it can overwhelm a novice borrower and make them stick to one-click purchasing on familiar e-commerce sites. Library Extension takes the confusion out of the process, and gives you the opportunity to save some money, too.

Though the extension will only show you books, they’re not the only things you could be borrowing—here are 11 unexpected items you might be able to check out from your local library.

[h/t CNET]

The 20 Best States to Retire in 2020

Robert Clay Reed/iStock via Getty Images
Robert Clay Reed/iStock via Getty Images

Spending your workdays dreaming of retirement? It’s the ultimate goal of any longtime office-dweller, but figuring out when you’re ready to finally take the plunge is one of many questions aspiring retirees need to ask themselves before quitting the 9-to-5 grind for good. Determining where to retire is equally important, as you’ll need to think not just about affordability, but quality of life and health care as well.

Personal finance website WalletHub crunched the numbers on all 50 states to come up with an official ranking on the best (and worst) states to retire. Their experts looked at 47 different factors and enlisted the help of a panel of experts.

Ultimately, it turns out that the idea of retiring to Florida is still very much alive. The Sunshine State took the top spot in the poll, largely because of its affordability (it came in second in that category overall, with only Alabama besting it). But spending your golden years on a beach somewhere doesn’t seem to be for everyone; while Colorado and New Hampshire certainly have their warm-weather seasons, they also accumulate plenty of snow each year—which didn’t seem to matter as they clinched the second and third positions on the list, respectively. Here are the 20 best states to retire:

  1. Florida
  2. Colorado
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Utah
  5. Wyoming
  6. Delaware
  7. Virginia
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Idaho
  10. Iowa
  11. South Dakota
  12. Montana
  13. Pennsylvania
  14. Massachusetts
  15. Ohio
  16. Minnesota
  17. Texas
  18. South Carolina
  19. North Dakota
  20. Missouri

The news was far less happy for Kentucky, which claimed the last spot on the list (followed closely by New Mexico, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and West Virginia).

You can view an interactive version of the map below, and visit WalletHub to see more detailed information on each state’s ranking.

Source: WalletHub

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