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Speed Reading 101: How to Read Faster and Retain More

A man holding a book and learning how to read faster

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Summary: Learning how to read faster has a vast amount of benefits. Discover how you can cultivate this skill and retain more from everything you read.

Reading is a skill we learn very early, but reading fast is another story. Learning how to read faster can become a whole other ability that you integrate into your life.

Maximizing your reading speed and retaining more from what you’re reading can contribute to your overall learning of new skills, studying for academic purposes, or even enjoying a good book in your free time.

“Give a person an idea, and you enrich their day. Teach a person how to learn, and they can enrich their entire life,” explains brain expert Jim Kwik, who’s also the trainer of Mindvalley’s Super Reading Quest. The same goes for reading, and here’s where you can take the first step.

What Is Speed Reading?

Speed reading is a trained ability that allows you to process the information you read faster. As you apply this skill, you can take in larger quantities of information and truly grasp its meaning.

The fact of the matter is, in today’s day and age, we’re overloaded with data and information that we have to process on a daily basis. Learning how to speed read can support various facets of your life, as Jim explains in his Mindvalley Quest.

For example, think about all the emails you need to respond to, the research you have to do, and maybe the pile of personal development books you have on your desk. Learning speed reading contributes to spending your time more efficiently and overall gathering more knowledge that can support your life transformation.

Why Is It Important to Read Faster?

Leaders are readers.

— Jim Kwik, trainer of Mindvalley’s Super Reading Quest

Here are a few valuable benefits:

  • Improves your memory. Reading quickly isn’t just about skimming the page. It’s also about retaining the information your brain is processing. The brain is a muscle—the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. The parts of the brain that light up when you read are closely associated with those parts of the brain that process memory.
  • Improves your focus. One of the reasons people have difficulty reading is a lack of focus. Especially today, with the integration of digital technology across all spectrums of our lives, it’s more challenging than ever to stay dedicated to a singular task. You can learn to retrain your mind and focus your energy and attention on reading.
  • Saves time. If you could read an email or a document or a letter in half the time it would normally take you, you just saved yourself the time that you can now use to do something else. Your productivity will increase two-fold, and you’ll get more done in less time.
  • Challenges your brain. Every new skill you acquire will challenge your brainpower in the process of doing so. Additionally, as you expand your capacity to retain more information, your brain gets activated and worked up (in the best possible way.)

Statistics show that the average silent reading speed for an adult is 238 words per minute. But with the right training to learn how to read faster, you can double or triple your reading speed. Mindvalley students engaged in the Super Reading Quest have sworn by this fact.

You can read more of their inspiring stories where they shared how speed reading improved their life.

A woman reading a book in a library

10 Tips on How to Read Faster and Retain More

There’s little doubt that learning to speed read benefits us in several influential ways, but how do you actually go about doing it?

Learning to speed up your reading is a skill, which means it’s something that can be taught, practiced, and improved. You can improve the rate at which you read by using a few of these handy speed reading techniques recommended by Jim Kwik.

1. Don’t subvocalize when you read

Subvocalization is the act of silently pronouncing each word in your head as you read. It’s something many people unconsciously do when they read, but it only hampers your reading speed and distracts you from the inherent meaning of the text. So if you want to learn how to read faster, you’ll need to nip this habit in the bud.

One trick that may help is to focus on one word on the page and stare at it in silence for as long as you’re able to. There will definitely be some form of subvocalization at first, but see if you can sit and wait for it to subside. Eventually, you’ll be able to see the word without saying it aloud in your head.

2. Preview what you’re about to read

It’s more challenging to comprehend what you’re reading when you have little to no idea what it’s about. So before you sit down to read something, especially if it’s a challenging text, preview the document first. 

What are you about to read? Who wrote it, and why? What do you think the text will entail?

3. Track your reading progress

You won’t know if you’ve improved unless you know where you started. Take a short reading speed and comprehension test to find out what your baseline reading rate is.

From there, you’ll have a better idea of how you’ll be able to improve. Practice reading and see if you’re able to pick up the pace. Remember to give yourself time to develop this skill—it is a skill, after all!

In a week or two, check your reading comprehension again (be sure it’s the same test for consistent results).

4. Skip the small words when you read

To be clear, skipping small words isn’t quite the same thing as skimming what you’re reading.

When you skim, you’re not retaining the words or ideas that you’re consuming. You may have a general sense of the work, but the fine details will likely be lost.

Skimming is a great skill to cultivate, as it can be immensely useful under certain circumstances. However, learning to fully comprehend and retain what you read at a quick pace is even more beneficial.

Learning how to read faster is all about eliminating the small, unnecessary words that fill up a page. These words certainly have their place, of course, and we need them to construct sentences and ideas.

Although, when we’re trying to read quickly, we can often skip these words with no ill effects: “if,” “is,” “to,” “the,” and “and.”

5. Use a visual pacer

Remember when you were a kid and used a pencil to follow the words that you were reading? Jim advises you to take up this habit again and see how your attention and concentration improve.

The eyes are naturally attracted to motion, so this is why your reading ability will be enhanced when you integrate a visual pacer. You can make sure to use your left hand as the instrument, as it activates the right side of your brain which has everything to do with your ability to read smarter, be more engaged, and improve your comprehension.

6. Activate your peripheral vision

This technique is based on the human ability to see things outside your main object of focus. So instead of focusing on one word at a time, you can actually take in groups of words. 

This will make you have fewer “stops” along your reading process as you move your visual pacer on the page.

7. Read, write, relate

Jim recommends doing this practice for 15–20 minutes each day. It goes as follows:

  • You read something for 10 minutes.
  • You write down what you remember.
  • Then, speak out loud in your own words.

What this does is help you process information and personalize it so that it sticks in your mind.

8. Train your eye muscles with the Infinity Technique

As you’re learning, you should keep in mind that you’re absorbing information through your eyes. And oftentimes. staring at a singular point, such as the screen of your phone or computer, is only making your eyes weaker.

Jim suggests incorporating an eye exercise into your routine, especially before reading. All you have to do is take a pen and move it in front of you, making an infinity shape. As you move the pen with your hand, you follow it with your eyes.

After practicing this exercise for a few minutes, you may notice that your eyes feel more relaxed and your peripheral vision might be clearer.

9. Take breaks

Jim highlights the importance of “brain breaks.” He recommends that after focusing for approximately 25 minutes of reading, you can take a break for a few minutes, giving your brain some time to process the information it just read.

During this break, you can move your body, do an eye exercise, or simply breathe in deeply for a few minutes.

10. Take good care of your brain

Lifestyle plays a huge role when trying to develop any cognitive skills. And that happens because your brain needs nourishment and care to function properly.

Make sure you focus on getting enough sleep, having regular movement, and incorporating good brain foods into your diet, such as nuts, blueberries, avocados, eggs, and wild salmon.

Unleash Your Brain Potential

When you master the skill of fast reading, you’re not just more productive, but you strengthen your mind. You’re better focused, more alert, and more mindful. Your knowledge and your vocabulary increase. And you become more confident in your abilities to process and comprehend new and challenging ideas.

Like Jim and many others who’ve mastered this skill, you, too, have the potential to be able to speed read. If you’d like to learn more, Mindvalley’s Super Reading Quest with Jim Kwik can help you discover how to:

  • Develop your speed reading skills,
  • Retain more from the information that you process,
  • Use efficient brain exercises to maximize your reading time,
  • Replan your learning schedule so you make the most out of your time, and
  • Choose the most valuable resources to upgrade your comprehension abilities.

By unlocking your free access, you can sample the first few lessons from this program. What’s more, you’ll also have access to meditations that can help bolster your speed reading skills. 

Welcome in.

Images generated on Midjourney.

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Written by

Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor is a former content writer for Mindvalley and a psychology enthusiast. From clinical experience working with both children and adults, she's now in the process of becoming a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in the IFS method and family constellation therapy.
Picture of Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor is a former content writer for Mindvalley and a psychology enthusiast. From clinical experience working with both children and adults, she's now in the process of becoming a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in the IFS method and family constellation therapy.
Jim Kwik, brain performance coach
Expertise by

Jim Kwik is a brain coach and a world expert in speed reading, memory improvement, and optimal brain performance. Known as the “boy with the broken brain” due to a childhood injury, Jim discovered strategies to dramatically enhance his mental performance. He is now committed to helping people improve their memory, learn to speed-read, increase their decision-making skills, and turn on their superbrain.

He has shared his techniques with Hollywood actors, Fortune 500 companies, and trailblazing entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Richard Branson to reach their highest level of mental performance. He is also one of the most sought-after trainers for top organizations like Harvard University, Nike, Virgin, and GE.

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