On Becoming Superhuman: How to Read Faster, Finish a Book in 4 Hours & Make Warren Buffett Jealous

A few years ago, I read somewhere that when Warren Buffet was asked which superpower he most wished he had, he responded: “Speed-reading”.

Not flying, not superhuman strength or even mind-reading, just the ability to read faster.

Interesting.

Why do you think that is?

It’s because Buffett, like many luminaries, believes that the key to success in any field is learning all you can about it.

But there’s one problem: learning enormous amounts on a topic takes a long time. Most of us can only read about 200-300 words/minute, so reading several books on a subject is an arduous task.

***

When I was younger, I used to think that speed-reading was a complex skill reserved to only a lucky few gifted individuals. But a few months ago, I came across this great article by Scott H Young and I realized that speed-reading is simply a set of techniques and that it’s possible for anyone to master them.

Since then, I’ve been able to triple my reading speed (from 250 words/minute to a top speed of 750) & it’s been a thrill to feel my powers increasing.

Today, I’m here to tell you that speed-reading is totally within your reach, and that it’s a much easier skill to acquire than you think.

With 3 simple techniques I’m going to share with you and a little bit of practice, I absolutely believe that you can double your reading speed within 1-2 weeks, triple it within a few months, and acquire this Superpower that even Warren Buffet wishes he had.

***

Technique #1: Use a Pointer

When we were first taught to read, our teacher showed us to use our finger to direct our eyes along each line. This helped us keep our focus on the words and was instrumental in our learning.

Along the way, we stopped doing that, but we shouldn’t have:  Eye tracking movements have shown that our eyes move around considerably when we read. These micro-movements force us to constantly readjust and diminish our reading speed.

By using a pointer (our index finger or a pen), we greatly improve our ability to focus on the words and reduce these micro-movements.

It also allows us to “set the pace”: by moving the pointer faster, we force our eyes to move faster as well and our reading speed increases.

Reading with a finger or pen can seem awkward at first, but you’ll get used to it very quickly and soon realise how beneficial it is.

Technique #2: Start & Stop Reading 3 Words from the Margin

By default, we always start reading the first word on the left of the page and go all the way to the last word on the right. But here’s the trick: you can start on the 3rd word from the left, and stop 3 words from the end, and your peripheral vision will pick up the first 2 and last 2 words automatically.

In a line of 10 words, this allows you to “read” only 6 words and save 40% of the effort & time.

To do so, it is imperative to use Technique #1 as without it, your eyes will automatically start on the first word and go to the end of the line.

Simply by using Techniques #1 & #2, I was able to increase my reading speed from 250 to 500 words/minute within a week and I absolutely believe you can do the same.

Technique #3: Stop Vocalizing

The first 2 techniques will help you reach great speed with ease, but eventually you will be capped off by the little voice in your head. If you vocalize (i.e., say in your head) each word you read, you can only go as fast as the speed you say it in your head (which I found to be ~500 words/minute for me).

To reach truly blazing-speed, you need to turn off that little voice, and simply scan the words with your eyes without vocalizing them. This may seem odd at first, but as you get better you’ll notice you can process the information just as well.

An Important Distinction

When I talk about speed-reading with people, the same question always comes up: do you still absorb/retain as much information while speed-reading? The answer is yes.

But the key to doing so is being able to recognize when you’re reading something important and slowing down at appropriate times.

For instance, on one page, there might be 300 words that are moderately important, and 50 that are critical. Read the 300 words at blazing-speed and slow down to “normal” speed for the 50 to make sure you fully grasp the concepts.

The Magic Ingredient: Practice

Just like any skill, the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it. That’s why I highly encourage you to start using the 3 techniques every time you read and make a habit of it.

The first month I started speed-reading, I made sure I practiced for at least 5 minutes every day with perfect technique and the improvement was drastic.

***

By now, I know all this intrigues you…

Imagine if 1 week from now you could read twice as fast… and 3 times as fast in a few months… How sweet would that be?

Mastering speed-reading is an extraordinary skill, and it will help you for the rest of your life.

Knowledge is power my friend... The only question is: how powerful do YOU want to be? 

Best of luck, have fun & don’t hesitate if you have any questions!

Phil

Check out the second part of this speed-reading series to find out I used these techniques to finish a book in 4 hours. 

Please share this post, because that’s how more people can learn this amazing skill!

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Posted on : 8, Feb 2012

30 Comments

  • Salut Phil, Il y a des références scientifiques aux faits que tu amènes ? Ex: Oui tu vas retenir autant d’informations…On a des ” preuves” de tout ca?
    thx !

  • Dude I totally thought this was a post by Tim that you linked to until I saw the end! Wow, good job!
    Ive been doing the indentation now since reading the 4hww but I can’t read without turining of the voice, its so hard!

    • Ahahah nice!!! I guess that’s a good sign :)

      Yeah the vocalisation is the hardest..but it’s also the key to blazing speed.. Keep at it buddy!!

    • “Practice Reading” (as talked about here and in Breakthrough Rapid Reading) helps train you how to eliminate sub-vocalizing. The key to practice reading is to move your finger across the page faster than you would ever be able to vocalize or sub-vocalize. Do this for 15 mins and you’ll train yourself not to sub-vocalize – You don’t have the time to say the word so you can’t! Your brain will learn how to see the word, understand it and internalize it before you can sub-vocalize it. It takes practice, for sure, and when speed reading I still sometimes catch myself sub-vocalizing. I’ll either move my finger faster (read quicker) or think about something else/engage my brain in another activity so that it can’t sub-vocalize. Your brain has seen letters on a page(/screen) for decades now and it knows what words are what without you saying it – the problem is, you’ve been doing it for decades so it takes a bit of rescripting!

  • Eliminating vocalization is the first and the most important step toward speed reading and I think that you should put that in the first place when starting to practice this skill. I heard that the great technique for eliminating sub-vocalization is that you chant while reading. In first you will understand nothing, but with practice you will understand better than you do now. Just my 2 cents :P

    And I think that you (and everybody else) should focus more on quality that quantity. You should take notes, ask questions (maybe implement blooms taxonomy?) and after you make those as a habit, you should focus on increasing speed. But this is more advanced stuff. For 90% of people, increasing speed will do the work.

    (Sorry for my bad English)

    Have a great day!

    • Hey Nik, thanks for the great input.

      I agree that vocalisation is very important, but I put it third because it’s the hardest one. The first 2 are much easier to implement (basically instantaneous) so it’s encouraging.

      Interesting point on quantity vs quality. I’ve been mind-mapping a lot lately as well as using Feynman’s method (explaining concepts out loud the same way I would to a 5 years old) and that’s really helped increase my retention rate, but I’m interested to find out more about Bloom’s Taxonomy. I just researched it briefly but I’m not sure I fully understand it.

      Can you explain it “Feynman” style to me? :)

  • Excellent article. I picked up Breakthrough Rapid Reading (http://www.amazon.com/Breakthrough-Rapid-Reading-Peter-Kump/dp/073520019X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1328800287&sr=8-2) a few months ago and started working through it. I got my reading rate up to ~750wpm before comprehension started to suffer. I didn’t finish the book since I was transitioning times in my life and it ‘just wasnt the right time’ but i still retained a lot of the core ideas. I recently read “The E-Myth Revisited” in under 6 hours (6pm-midnight) while still taking care of some other things. It was probably an honest 4 hours of reading time and it blew me away – I had never started and finished a book in a day, let alone 1/4 of a day.

    I’ve since been reading really hard stuff to comprehend (a 50 year old book on lincoln and a super heavy philosophy book), stuff that can’t be speed read so i’ve resorted to just regular reading. The next few books I’m reading are with material I’m familiar with and I’m definitely going to be using speed reading techniques. They help so much.

    Also, any and all high-achievers I’ve ever met want to learn how to speed read. It’s a great way to ‘add value’ and get on their good side if you’re at lunch or meeting with someone. “I’ve been learning how to speed read” hooks almost everyone. I’ve given away 2 copies of BRR and it’s always highly received. Thanks for the sweet article. I’m emailing it to the 2 people i gifted BRR to!

    • Hey Chris!

      Thanks for the awesome comment.

      I agree that SR is really hard for material we’ve never seen before. I tried to Speed Read through some Osho (first time I read him) a few weeks ago and I had to slow down quite a bit. I can’t imagine what it’d be like with “super heavy” philosophy haha.

      That being, I found that a lot of self-development material have recurring themes so it works very well in certain situations.

      Great point on sharing these tips face to face with people… I know for sure if someone had talked to me about this a few years ago I would have been super grateful!

      Cheers & thanks a lot for sharing the love!

  • [...] the first part of this series, I shared the 3 speed-reading techniques that have propelled my reading rate from 250 words/minute to up to 750 in the span of a few [...]

  • [...] you’ll remember, in the 1st part I explained the 3 techniques that have helped me triple my reading speed over the last 4 [...]

  • Great article dude!!!!

    With the finger and losing the 3 words from the beginning and end, I was already reading faster at the end of this article than I was at the beginning.

    Now, time to order some Alpha Brain to speed this up even more!

    Looking forward to the video…

    Peace!

  • [...] to speed-read New life [...]

  • Good article Phil!
    I wonder how can you apply those techniques to reading on a screen?
    Majority of reading that I do happens on laptop or Kindle. Pointing to a screen with sharp pencil is probably not the best idea.

    Thanks
    Rafal

    • Hey Rafal, sorry about the late reply brother!

      For Kindle, I still use my finger a splinter..

      And for the screen, check out this web app, it’s phenomenal: http://spreeder.com/app.php

      Cheers,
      Phil

      • I love you Dude!
        I didn’t see this link. Your site suggestion is so good. Thanks a lot.

  • Hi Phi

    First of all, Thanks for your amazing articles and so kind to share your knowledge. By the way, This site might be useful for improve reading speed. As you said, our eyes jump around when we read a text. This site advance fixation and cause read contiguously and smoothly.

    At the end, Thanks you again :-)

  • Hi Phi

    First of all, Thanks for your amazing articles and so kind to share your knowledge. By the way, This site might be useful for improve reading speed. As you said, our eyes jump around when we read a text. This site advance fixation and cause read contiguously and smoothly.

    At the end, Thanks you again :-)

    SO SORRY! I forgot to give site address :-P
    http://www.eyercize.com

    Best Wishes

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  • How do you stop vocalizing? I’ve gotten pretty decent with the first two techniques, but I can’t figure out how to stop subvocalization. No matter what, I’m always saying the words in my head. How do you get over this?

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