* Mind Wandering
Reducing these three is proven to improve speed, and a lot of that increase comes from the dramatic increase in focus required to counteract those habits. You cannot use eye discipline or any hand or card technique mindlessly; you must be conscious.
Doesn't it stand to reason that the same increased focus that boosted your speed should also help your comprehension? This is borne out in our workshops, where it's very common for our students to see comprehension and speed rise together, up to a point. True, sometimes comprehension dips a little at first. This is because the new technique is a little uncomfortable at first, so sometimes your brain gets a little thrown off.
Notice, however, that I said speed and comprehension rise together up to a point. Wherever you are in your progress, there is that line between reading and just looking. Your job is to find where that line is for you, and keep pushing it up. What we know is true, however, is that the increase in speed always precedes the increase in comprehension. So in improving your overall effectiveness as a reader, you'll be well served to temporarily let go of comprehension. Focus on speed first, let your comprehension catch up, and settle in at a higher level; then repeat that cycle.
To set yourself up for success, here are three smart questions to ask yourself before you read anything.
1. Why am I reading this?
2. What do I need this information for?
3. How much time do I have?
Asking these three questions before you read anything is powerful. The answers are nothing to get hung up on—it's the questions themselves that will supercharge your overall effectiveness. By asking these questions, you just engage your brain in a way that it's ready to go—it's warmed up! These questions also add focus and context to what you're reading. When you add focus and context to anything, you will definitely perform better. Most importantly, they will prime your reticular activating system (RAS). Remember that part of your brain that makes you see the car you decided to buy? Asking yourself these questions is actually asking your brain, “What am I looking for here?” As we know from the introduction to this book, you will see what you look for, even on a level as micro as reading material.
If the only thing you did differently with reading was to ask these questions before diving into what you read, you would have a major impact on your reading effectiveness. The real beauty is that it takes about 10 seconds to ask the questions—10 seconds really well invested.
Why and How to “Smart Read”
The single biggest thing that will quantum leap your reading speed and comprehension is background knowledge. If you have a lot of background knowledge of what you're reading, your brain will naturally predict what's going to be said next. This allows you to fill in the gaps accurately even when moving at a high rate of speed. Background knowledge also allows you to instinctively know when you can just skim over a section or when you should really dig in, maybe even take some notes. Background knowledge is the nuclear bomb for boosting comprehension and speed together. Nothing is more powerful.
So how do you gain background knowledge about a new piece of reading material if you don't already have it? Learn to Smart Read!
Smart Reading (formerly known as “cheat reading”) is a simple process of deliberately overviewing a piece of reading material before reading it. You can Smart Read any piece of nonfiction—a book like this one, a newspaper, a magazine—anything that is not a story or a work of fiction. Here's why:
Every work of nonfiction is started with a writer's outline. The writer's outline is essentially the skeleton of the work. The writer creates the outline of main ideas first, then fleshes it out to make it interesting. The main ideas of any work of nonfiction are found in the outline. If you could read the writer's outline before you read the whole chapter/article/whatever, you'd develop a ton of background knowledge about that work. You'd literally find the road map, and you'd do it in very short order.
The good news is that you can read the outline first—it's just a little hidden! To overview a chapter or article, try this three-step process:
Step 1. Read the first paragraph. This is where you'll learn the overarching theme or purpose of the piece.
Step 2. Read the last paragraph. This usually ties the piece together or moves you on to what's next.
Step 3. Read the first sentence or two of each paragraph in between. This is where the main idea of that paragraph will be found. If you really want to be sure, you can also read the last sentence of the paragraph as a tie-down.
That's Smart Reading in a nutshell. You'll be blown away by how much you can prime your mind for what you read by doing a Smart Read first. Here are the three best ways to use Smart Reading:
1. As a weeding tool. Often the overview will teach you everything you want or need to know. Maybe you actually know more than the author does, maybe you just don't need the information right now; maybe you don't need it ever. In that case you can just skip the whole thing before you even get started. What a relief!
2. As an overview. Assuming that you do want to continue after your Smart Read overview, you now know all the main ideas you'll be learning. You've jacked up your background knowledge and gotten your brain ready to absorb at a very high level.
3. As a review. Even after you've read something, you may want to go back to it and review or refresh your memory. Maybe you're prepping for a test, maybe you want to fold the material into a presentation, and so on. A quick overview is just the ticket to bring it back to your mind.
So when you add up what you've learned in this section, you've got a very powerful way of both priming your brain to see what you need it to see and then giving it the road map for what you're about to read. When you combine the three Reading Smart questions with a Smart Read overview of your reading material, you'll be amazed at just how quickly you can digest information, with the highest levels of comprehension.
If you haven't done so already, I'd recommend that before each subsequent chapter in Train Your Brain For Success you ask the questions and then Smart Read it before diving in. You'll absorb more and internalize more quickly.
Read more > Reading faster does not hurt your comprehension