Some of the contributors featured in this article are members of Seminal, a selective, dues-based council that distills research-backed, actionable insights from entrepreneurs.
Along with sleep, what do you spend most of your day doing? The answer is most likely consuming media -- everything from reading emails, articles and books to listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos. Indeed, the average person spends more than eight hours consuming media online.
If you found a way to increase your reading (or viewing) speed, you could add extra hours to every day for the rest of your life. That’s tens of thousands of hours you can use to develop new skills, deepen your relationships with close family or friends, or just get an extra edge in your career.
Through research and talking to a few people, I have discovered a few ways to increase the speed in which you consume media:
1. Use a visual pacer when reading.
According to Jim Kwik, the founder of Kwik Learning and a speedreading and memory expert, you should use a visual pacer (your finger, a pen, the computer mouse) to underline every single word as you read it. Accodring to him, this approach immediately increases your reading speed by 25 to 50 percent by focusing your attention and reducing regression (where your eyes automatically reread words as you go along).
To see the power for yourself, do this simple before and after experiment:
Before: Time yourself for a minute and read a book the way you normally do. Once you’re finished, count the number of lines you read and the average number of words in each line (generally about 10). Now multiply those two numbers. So if there were 10 words per line and you read 40 lines, your reading speed is 400 words per minute.
After: Time yourself for a minute using a visual pacer and count the words per minute again.
2. Expand your perceptual awareness.
In a blog post, author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss says training your vision to register your periphery more effectively can increase reading speed by more than 300 percent.
To get better at reading in your periphery, Ferriss suggests that instead of starting with the visual pacer at the first word of each line and ending with the last one, start one word in and end one word from the last word.
Next, move two words in, then three words in, and so on while keeping your speed the same.
3. Eliminate micro-distractions with a white noise app.
Emerson Spartz, the founder and CEO of Spartz Inc. spoke to us about what helps him. He points out that research finds that interruptions consume 28 percent of the average knowledge worker's day and dramatically slow down learning.
"The easiest and fastest way that I’ve found to eliminate these interruptions is with white noise (sounds like an air conditioner), he says. "I listen to white noise via the White Noise IOS app, and it helps me get in and stay in a state of flow." He says this tip has helped him increase his reading speed by at least 30 percent.
4. Skim before you read.
Most people were taught to read by reading fiction, as there is a beginning, middle and end. But with non-fiction, you don't have to read everything.
You can follow the 80/20 rule and focus on the parts of the book that are most relevant before you dive in deep. One academic study found that skimming first can improve the overall speed of normal reading.
Mortimer Adler’s classic 1972 book How to Read a Book shares exactly how to skim:
- Read the title page and preface to understand what the book is about.
- Look at the table of contents to get a sense of how the book is organized.
- Go to the index to see the topics in the book and the types of publications the writer cites.
- Flip through the book, reading a few paragraphs, sentences and passages to understand the main themes of the book.
- If provided, examine the writer's summary of the book (often found in the back).
5. Use the right tools for all forms of media
Spreed (desktop only): Instead of moving your eyes to read, you simply look at one area of the screen that feeds you words at a pre-determined words per minute. (max speed: 1600 words per minute)
Velocity (iOS) / Speed Reader (Android): Read any content online on your mobile phone in the same way as Spreed (see above).
Audible (desktop and mobile): The largest audiobook store in the world. Their mobile app has a feature that allows you to triple the reading speed.
YouTube: Many people aren’t aware that you can double your video watching speed on Youtube. On the bottom of the video players, click on the icon and then select the speed you want from the ‘Speed’ dropdown menu.
Enounce (desktop): Speed up video without getting the "chipmunk" effect.
Listening and watching
Podcast (mobile): The default podcast app for iOS allows you to double your listening speed. If you have an Android device, you have plenty of options as well.
Swift (mobile): Speed up video and audio from your favorite websites including Youtube. (Mobile, video and audio)