The Simplest Way To Read Faster
One of the most fundamental principles of speed reading involves the use of your hand as a guide while reading (or using your pen or finger as guide).
Although many speed reading programs will tell you to use your hand as a guide, not many explain why, but has to do with your eyes.
There are two basic types of eye movement: saccadic and smooth pursuit. Let’s take a moment to discuss each of these eye movements in detail and how important they are to the way you read.
We’ll start with a basic fact. The human eye is naturally attracted to motion. If you hold a pen out in front of your eyes and then proceed to follow it at a few different points, holding it steady for a second or two at each point over the span of a few feet, your eye will have made a few, albeit brief, staggered motions also known as fixations (this can be observed by others or even by yourself using a mirror). This observed, discontinuous small eye movement is called saccadic eye movement.
Now repeat the same motion holding your pen, but this time, instead of a few stop and pauses along the way, guide the pen from one side to the other with one smooth motion (with no stops), and follow it with your eyes. Your eyes, upon observation, will not have the individual staggered motion anymore while following the pen. They will be smoothly fixated on the pen over the course of the movement in a single unbroken gaze. This is called a smooth pursuit eye movement.
When one is reading typically, our eyes are doing what was observed in the initial example; moving in a staggered fashion while fixating on each word along the way. All the small, discontinuous individual movements add to tiny fixations which in aggregate slow our reading. If we could somehow apply the smooth pursuit movement to our reading, we could then eliminate these multiple fixations. We can do this by simply using our finger (or a pen) to read.
Take your finger (usually your pointer, but use whichever one feels the most natural), and use it as a guide. Place it slightly below the text on a page, and underline the words from left to right in one continuous motion. Do not actually look at your finger, but instead let it guide you from left to right “through” the line of text. Your eye, being naturally attracted to motion, will then follow your finger through the text, and thus switch to a smooth pursuit motion. This motion will economize the movement thus eliminating the multiple individual motions your eyes were doing before. By using your finger for all of your reading from here on out you will always be eliminating the regular fixations and have your eyes conducting a smooth pursuit motion. This simple, yet effective technique is a great way to almost effortlessly and immediately increase your reading speed.
Before proceeding to the next tip, try reading for one minute using your hand, finger, or pen as a guide. You might be surprised to find that your reading speed has already increased just by using your hand as a guide. Using your hand to read is the easiest way to immediately boost your reading speed.
Going forward, you’ll want to continue using your hand as a guide. And don’t worry if you read a lot of material online. We’ll discuss techniques to read faster on the computer screen as well (you won’t have to use your hand and drag it across your screen).
Paul is the founder of Iris Reading, the largest provider of speed-reading courses in North America. His workshops have been taught to thousands of students and professionals throughout the U.S. and Canada.