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How to Speed Read a Business Book in 90 Minutes

THE AVERAGE READER can read a book at 200 words per minute (WPM). That’s about 4.5 hours to read a 200-page book (55,000 words).

By increasing your reading speed to 600 words/ minute, you could read a 200-page book in 90 minutes. The best speed readers can reach 1000 words per minute which equates to approximately 55 minutes to read a 200-page book.

I could try to teach you all to read at 1000 words per minute. However, there are two reasons it’s not the best idea:

  1. I myself can’t read at 1000 words per minute
  2. It’s easier to get from 200 WPM to 600 WPM than it is to get from 600 to 1000 words per minute.

So, let’s focus on getting from 200 to 600 words per minute. When following the methods described in this article, you could easily increase your reading efficiency by 300%.

Getting started

First thing’s first. You need to be pot-committed to pushing your speed-reading skills forward. It sounds like a trivial improvement to your life but let’s look at the stats

If you read 1 book at 4.5 hours per month but could read that book in 90 minutes, this equates to a 3-hour opportunity cost.

Extrapolated over a single year, that’s 36 hours of saved time; and in the average lifetime (86 years), that’s 3096 hours or 129 days. You’re saving one-third of a year! In monetary terms, assuming the average wage is $20 per hour, you’d be saving $61,920. The time that you save could be spent on further reading, traveling or spending time with your family!

When increasing your reading speed from 200 WPM to 600 WPM, you could read approximately 2064 more books with 129 days left to spare!

But one question remains unanswered – why do we read so slowly in the first place? A study was held over the past few decades called “The PX Project”. The research aimed to answer this exact question. The results of the study are summarized below.

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Why do we read slowly?

1. Fixation

From a young age, we’ve been taught to read using a “Fixation” technique which makes us read in fixations series of sporadic movements where each movement ends with a fixation. These fixations happen two, three or even four times per line! Overall, this adds up and causes a huge decrease in reading time.

2. Regression

Everyone has read a paragraph and then had to go back to read it again. In fact, 30% of us do this! By practicing the technique detailed below, you won’t regress. It’s about establishing a rhythm and maintaining that rhythm throughout your reading. While practicing the techniques detailed below, you won’t have to focus on comprehension at the beginning. However, over time, you will learn to instantly comprehend what you’re reading.

3. Conditioning

Our minds are tailored to read in a specific manner. This could be due to genetics, education or habit. So one reason that we can’t read fast is because we aren’t conditioned to!

Conditioning means practicing all of the techniques detailed below. It’s about conditioning your mind to eliminate marginal reading, maintaining a rhythm and reducing regression. It will take practice and perseverance but as an entrepreneurial reader, you’ll surely smash it.

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Learning to read faster

Let’s start by setting a baseline, then we’ll explore the speed reading techniques, and we’ll move on to measuring your progress and offering a few interesting alternatives.

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Step 1: Setting the baseline

Setting a baseline is super important to understand your progress and keep you motivated on improving that WPM score! Let’s go through the steps…

  1. Pick up a book and mark a word on a specific page with a pencil. This mark indicates where you’ll start reading.
  2. Start a 1-minute countdown timer on your phone.
  3. Start reading.
  4. Once the time is up, mark the last word you read.
  5. Count the number of words between the two pencil marks.
  6. Now, you have your current word-per-minute reading speed.

After you’ve set the baseline, it’s time to move on to improving the reading speed.

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Technique 1: perceptual expansion

Perceptual expansion means training our peripheral vision to consolidate and digest information as we already do with our central vision. This allows us to process more words without having to look directly at them.

Expanding perception may seem counter-intuitive to start with. You may start to think that with perceptual expansion comes a lack of understanding. However, that’s not the case.

Perceptual expansion enables you to utilize peripheral vision to broaden the content that you can consume. This is probably the most important habit to develop for speed reading, allowing you to increase your reading by up to 300%.

The majority of readers read from the first word to the last one, which causes margin-reading. The best readers only pick up the third and third-to-last words.

By training your peripheral vision, you’ll improve your peripheral reflexes, helping you to comprehend the content you read.

Ok, so let’s go through the steps of practicing perceptual expansion. There are two techniques that I’ve listed sequentially.

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Technique 2: Pacing

This method will create a consistent rhythm for your reading and prevent fixation.

  1. Pick up a pencil.
  2. Put your pen below the first word in a line.
  3. Draw an imaginary line down the page while reading only the first words in line.
  4. Make sure you don’t spend more than 1 second per line. Don’t focus on comprehension but the rhythm (i.e. maintaining the same underlining pace).
  5. Next, reduce your reading speed to ½ seconds per line.
  6. Continue reading using this technique for a few chapters until you feel comfortable with the rhythm.

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Technique 3: skipping

Skipping is another technique used to prevent fixation and improve the reading rhythm. Furthermore, this also improves your perceptual expansion.

  1. Pick up a pen.
  2. Put the pen on top of the first word in a line, and then move to the last word in a line. Repeat the method, going down the page.
  3. Repeat this until you’ve read a paragraph and don’t focus on comprehension,
  4. Put the pen on top of the second word in a line and then move to the second-to-last word in a line and repeat, going down the page.
  5. Repeat this until you’ve read a paragraph and don’t focus on comprehension.
  6. Finally, put the pen on top of the third word in a line and then move to the third-to-last word in a line and repeat, going down the page.
  7. Repeat this until you feel comfortable with the habit and structure of peripheral reading.

Over time, your peripheral reflexes will start to work harder. Here are a few additional tips for mastering both techniques:

  1. Don’t focus on comprehension
  2. Avoid daydreaming
  3. Do not focus on speed, focus on rhythm
  4. Read the same book/chapters over-and-over again using the above-mentioned techniques.

This will help you increase comprehension and improve your peripheral reflexes.

Now, you have your baseline and the techniques nailed down. Up next, you need to set goals for improving your reading speed.

Set goals for learning to speed read

1. Aim for a 50% increase on reading speed after 200 pages, e.g. if you have a reading speed of 200 WPM, aim to reach 300 WPM after 200 pages of reading.

2. Aim for another 50% increase after a further 150 pages of reading, e.g. from a reading speed of 300 WPM, aim to reach 450 WPM.

3. Finally, aim for another 33% increase in reading speed after 100 pages. The reason we aim for 33% is due to the diminishing returns over time. This will get you to a reading speed of 600 WPM.

Voilà! As you master the speed-reading techniques, you’ll soon be able to read a business book in 90 minutes. I’m sure Mark Zuckerberg would have found this useful when he did his book reading challenge last year.

Complementary tools

Although speed reading has massive benefits, including increasing the reading efficiency, increasing the plethora of words you know, and aiding the brain development, you may prefer other ways of learning fast.

Personally, I both speed-read and use the online tools below because I just digest a ridiculous amount of content. Anyway, here are some other tools that help to learn more efficiently.

The Skimm

This is an awesome tool that summarizes current affairs into a simple daily newsletter that is short and easy to read. I never used to read the news, but this tool really gets you into the habit.

Book: The First 20 Hours

A book that details how to learn anything on a basic level within 20 hours. This is one of the best productivity books I’ve read as it teaches you how to segment learning and pick up new skills super quickly.

Please leave your comments below and tell about your speed reading techniques, experiences, achievements & tools.

Adios and happy speed-reading!