Case Study – 10 Days to Faster Reading: Jump-Start Your Reading Skills with Speed reading

As part of my reading for my Personal MBA, I am documenting my key learnings from 10 Days to Faster Reading: Jump-Start Your Reading Skills with Speed reading. It is not intended to be a summary or review, rather a reflection of how the book has influenced my thinking. Please note, that a few references to formatting were not in the Kindle version, I’d recommend trying to get a paperback copy for this particular book.

I looked at my reading list, a book a week (not including fiction and other interests). Completing my Personal MBA, working, consultancy, coaching, exercise, socialising and so on…. I knew it was a big year ahead. I knew time would be at a premium, being clear on my priorities is key, being focused a necessity. I felt the pressure, I was at risk of losing my balance. I was looking for the Goldilocks zone.

It was time to question my assumption on the right way to read. To figure out how to get the best ROI on my reading time. Josh Kaufman recommended this book, I added it to my reading list and decided it was time for another life experiment.

The result – a change in perspective more than a change in reading skill (that will take practice).

The Context

I have previously had a couple of attempts at learning to speed read, having completed a speed reading course at university and played around with a Tim Ferriss method. The difference between this book and those is that it gave me a wide spectrum of options or tools, which can be used depending on my preferences and the context. More importantly, it not only told me how, but why, challenging my previous assumptions. We tend to be trained to read every word, this is a bit like looking at every brick in a building. It is often better to take it all in, even as some of the detail (and fluff) may be lost.

I felt that I was naturally a pretty fast reader naturally. I wasn’t.

(Note, reading fiction and even certain non-fiction is different, where it is the detail that creates the beauty and for these, I ascribe to Ryan Holiday’s perspective.)

The Experiment – I did it over 24 days

Each chapter is generally split between explaining why the reader should use a speed reading technique and when it makes sense to use it, it then gives guidance on reading style, a time trial, a technique and closes off with a mindset check-n.

The book quickly appealed to me, as it explained to experiment with the techniques and ideas, stating there is no one way. It is a pet peeve on mine when people say this is “the way”.

Day 1 – 31/12/17 – 

Key takeaways:

  • Reading is a key lever to success.
  • We are taught to read words, not how to read sentences, paragraphs and books. Unlike almost any other skill, we don’t match training with practice.
  • It got me thinking, I don’t listen to each word when someone speaks.
  • When using a card to read, place it on top, not below the sentence. Why hide what you haven’t seen? – Hide what you have already seen.

Time Trial:

  • 1:50min. 80% for comprehension. 220 words per minute, an average reader. So much for thinking I was fast (Lake Wobegon 😀).

Day 2 – 01/01/18 –

Key takeaways:

  • Reading, as if talking, limits us to 150 words (does language also then impede thought? Certainly in some instances, increased vocabulary could help?).
  • Wide eye span and reading in “thought units” are important (when writing I do this, I bold important parts in emails).
  • Use a varied reading rate, dependent on knowledge and importance.
  • Three bad habits –
    1. Mind wandering – Worse when slower?
    2. Regression – Going back
    3. Subvocalisation – Using the voice in the back of my head.

Time Trial:

  • 1:20min. 90% comprehension. 300 words per minute

Day 3 – 03/01/18 – Concentration – Also see Deep Work

Key Takeaways –

Why concentrate and block out distractions:

  1. Function more productively
  2. Emulate successful people (focus)
  3. Improve quality of life
  4. Accomplish more
  5. Tap into energy

Then explains the how:

  1. Choosing what to read – Why and What for – different approaches
  2. Where – identify distractions and mitigate

Other Key Takeaways:

  • I would have to get worse at comprehension, before getting better, like changing a golf swing.
  • Highlighting is normally done badly. It should be key words, not key sentences. Margin notes are often more effective.
  • Careful of distractions, we are not good multi-taskers. I think we use distractions to block out other distractions.

Time Trial:

  • 0:58 seconds. – Comprehension 60%, mostly not discussed, where I said false. My mind was filling in the blanks. 400 words per minute.

Day 4 – 04/01/18 –

Key Takeaways:

  • Don’t worry too much, if comprehension lags.
  • We learnt to read when we were learning the words at the same time. Most people’s technique is then based on this restrictive basis.
  • Need to push at first, get used to it.

Time Trial was bit different. So I won’t include it here, without sufficient context.

Day 5 – 08/01/18 –

Key Takeaways:

  • I don’t get in a car without checking route and destination, or I already know. It is similarly worth cluing my brain where it’s going, so I can go faster.
  • It is worth previewing (skimming) first – Not everything is worth my full attention, as it is taking time away from something else.
  • Good writing often facilitates skimming.

Time Trial:

Time trial for skimming 3:50 – 1,285 wpm. 70% for comprehension.

Day 6 – 09/01/18 – 

Key Takeaways:

  • Engage a dialogue with the author. Be aware of their background and motivations. This leads to critical reading and less mind wandering.
  • There are far more opinions than facts in the world.

Time Trial:

Time trial with previewing, 1:10 total. 40% comprehension. 345 wpm.

Day 7 – 16/01/2018 – 

Reasons why readings pile up:

  • I’ll do it later
  • If I am reading, then I am not working – why I am a fan of research Friday, multi or even cross discipline approach.  
  • I need to read everything I receive
  • I need to remember everything I read – rather have a better retrieval system, likely to forget most anyway.
  • I need this for my development

Time Trial:

1:20 – 50% comprehension. 300 wpm. I was frustrated with the lack of comprehension, so reviewed the ones I got wrong. I disagreed with 1 answer. Then some minor details.

Day 8 – 17/01/2018 –

Key Takeaways:

  • If you skim or read every word but get distracted – which is more likely to result in understanding?
  • Remember purpose of the reading.

Time Trial:

1:06 – Including skimming – Est 8/10. Got 7/10, 3 Not discussed vs true, which doesn’t mean they weren’t true. 345 wpm.

Day 9 – 19/01/2018

Time trial:

1:06 – 50%. Distracted? Not doing the exercises? Not working?

Day 10 – 24/01/18

Key Takeaways:

  • It doesn’t take a lot of reading time to get a working understanding. As long as you are not arrogant and open to being challenged.
  • We are at risk of becoming unemployable if we stop learning. It only takes 20hrs to competently learn a new skill. So the challenge to everyone is learn 2 things a year. That’s less than an hour a week.

Time trial:

1:20 –  60% comprehension – 300 wpm

I had slowed down to aim for a higher comprehension. I was once again frustrated, so I carefully reviewed the answers. I quickly realised that I didn’t like not discussed versus false, for instance on April fools colouring contest, I had false, they said not discussed. Mexico celebrates on 28, I said false, the said not discussed. Sweden, has two, it said not discussed, it did discuss Scotland having 2, I said false. Leaves me with 60% agreed, 30% misaligned and 10% wrong. I’ll take that.

Conclusion on the Book and Experiment:

  • It is as much as about selling the why of reading, as doing it quickly.
  • Avoid sub vocalisation.
  • Realise that when we learnt to read, we didn’t no the words, phrases or concepts. It’s time to challenge that.

Overall the book and experiment was brilliant. I highly recommend it to everyone, it is time to challenge your innate beliefs and skills in regard to reading. Get the hard copy and realise the comprehension tests are a temperature check, open to context and interpretation. Anything more comprehensive would perhaps take to long

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