There’s nothing quite as tantalizing as instant gratification. Whether by self-help books or weight-loss programs, we’re easily drawn into the elusive promise of big results from little effort. But we’ve come to dismiss those toothy-covered tomes and magic slimming pills as hype with no delivery. It was with that learned skepticism in mind that I approached Tim Ferriss’ article “How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes.” Grad school looming, a potential boost in reading speed seemed well worth a few lost minutes.
Indeed, it turned out that the tremor-inducing stack of papers eying me from my desk–and, I suppose, the infallible hope of immediate happiness–was what urged me on as I sat submerged in instructions with the likelihood of my gullibility crashing into and washing over me. My doubts be damned, I pulled out my trusty BIC pen and an undergraduate political science book, downloaded this neat timer app, and set to it. A half hour later, I emerged, results in hand.
My initial words-read-per-minute came in at an underwhelming 221, putting me squarely in that familiar range of the average American. After completing the drills (it took me more than twenty minutes since I repeated a couple tasks to get their timing right), I tested myself again and clocked in at 442 words-per-minute–a 100% increase! On top of that, I sufficiently retained what I read even though my speed had significantly increased. I didn’t achieve the 300% improvement heralded by the author, but I won’t turn my nose up at the doubling of my initial speed. I will readily admit, however, that I have doubts about the effectiveness of this approach when absorption, deep thinking and attention to detail are required. But, for now, I’m impressed and hope the change sticks as I tackle my coursework.
If you want to try this yourself, I’ll offer one piece of advice: Heed the big, capitalized reminders about ignoring comprehension. That uncomfortable feeling in your stomach will go away once you realize your newfound ability to re-read the same content multiple times in the same amount of time it took you to read it once before (repetition, repetition, repetition!).
Let me know if it works for you. I’d like more than just my results to validate this approach.