In the age of information overload, our ability to quickly and effectively extract valuable insights is more crucial than ever. One concept that beautifully captures this skill is “thin-slicing,” a term popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Blink.’ Thin-slicing refers to the art of obtaining as much information as possible with minimal input, and it’s a strategy that can revolutionise the way we read books and approach various aspects of life.
Thin-Slicing and Books
When we pick up a book to gain factual information, our goal should be to minimise the time and effort required to extract the key insights. This is where thin-slicing comes into play. Instead of diving headfirst into every word, we should start by previewing the book. Much like slicing a cake vertically to get a taste without consuming the entire thing, previewing allows us to grasp the essence of a book quickly.
Imagine you’re cutting a cake to discover its flavour. Naturally, you’d opt for a thin, vertical slice. In the same way, when we thin-slice a book, we’re effectively cutting through layers of information to get to the core. This approach not only saves time but also enhances our comprehension.
The term ‘Speed Reading’ means ‘reading fast’, and it can encompass various techniques people use in order to read faster than traditional slow reading. We (Susan and Jan) have developed a system which includes many additional strategies and techniques, specifically for focusing on getting the information you need from a text. Often the person who knows all the shortcuts will reach the destination before the person who has the fastest car. We call our system SpdRdng, and that’s what we’re sharing with you in this book. For ease of reading, however, we refer to ‘speed reading’ throughout.
This book gives you lots of speed reading techniques, strategies, and tips, and shows you how to use them individually – and in combination – for stress-free, successful studies. If you follow the instructions, you should at least double your reading speed and be getting 10 times more information from your reading, thereby saving lots of time which you can use for relaxing, or for working more to get higher grades. The speed reading techniques will help you remember more too – so you’ll be learning quickly and easily.
You’ll learn the techniques more quickly if you try them out as soon as possible – with either digital or paper texts. We show you immediately how to apply them to study more effectively (because the techniques work) and more efficiently (so you save time).
We’d like you to put our first tip into practice right away. The tip is: Overview before detail – see the big picture
“Great study guide for students and anyone who needs to pass exams, etc
I am a student mentor and I’ve used successfully the workbook The Speed Reading Bible by the same authors. Speed Reading for Study is a shorter ebook and therefore quicker to use. It took me less than 15 minutes to go through this ebook and get lots of very useful and practical tips for studying faster, writing essays, preparing for lectures, background reading and preparing for exams and passing them successfully. (actually, you can get through this ebook in 5 minutes just by reading the top tips). The syntopic processing technique for gathering info for essays is just brilliant. Highly recommended and very good value for money.” Bozena Latek, Five star review from Amazon Kindle
Bill Gates reads about 50 books a year, which comes to about one book a week. That makes him a very good reader compared to other readers (but not speed readers). People in the UK read an average of 10 books/year (with women reading about 12 books/year, and men reading an average of 8 books/year).
With spd rdng you can easily speed read a book a day which will amount to 365 books a year – and will make you a good speed reader.
Watch Bill Gates talking about his four (speed) reading strategies. Most of his reading tips are good and speed reading-compliant.
#1 Take notes in the margins
Top speed readers work actively with books or texts by taking notes, highlighting and making mindmaps or rhizomaps (spd rdng technique #17). If it’s not your book, post-it notes where invented for this reason.
#2 Don’t start what you can’t finish
This one is not exactly a good reading or speed reading strategy. It sounds (I hope I’m not right) like ‘all-or-nothing’ perfectionist mindset, where if he can’t dedicate enough time to make it perfect, he’s not interested. Top speed readers follow 80/20, Pareto principle (spd rdng technique #5). If you can extract 80% of good quality info from 20% of keywords, you don’t have to read everything and definitely you don’t have to finish a book that is not good. And of course, preview books for about 2-5 minutes (spd rdng technique #2) before you commit to working with them (I think, that’s what Bill Gates had in mind). Speed reading is like eating. Sometimes, it’s like having a snack, sometimes like a meal and sometimes like a banquet. And sometimes it’s like eating a slice of cake (thin-slicing principle/technique).
#2 Paper books vs ebooks
It’s up to you and whatever preferences you have. There are pros and cons for paperbacks and ebooks (read about digital speed reading techniques). Three advantages of ebooks are: 1) search function, 2) popular highlights which give you good overviews and key insights and 3) portability – as a speed reader you don’t want to carry 5-10 books per train journey.
#4 Block out an hour
Top speed readers actually work in 20-minutes work sessions (spd rdng technique #18). Most adults can focus easily for 20-minutes and having frequent breaks (spd rdng technique #27) boosts dopamine levels which are important for memory, motivation and concentration as well as success. Parkinson’s law states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” so setting timeframes and sticking to them (spd rdng technique #23) is highly productive.
Speed reading technique 28 – Download books into your non-conscious mind
Download or photoread books
SUMMARY Download the book into your non-conscious mind by looking quickly at each double page without making any conscious effort to see or understand the text. Trust that the information has gone into your non-conscious mind. Use the other conscious spd rdng techniques as before and gradually notice how much more information you know as the downloaded knowledge comes to conscious awareness.
“We have 300 million pattern recognisers in the neocortex.” Ray Kurzweil, Futurist
This is the easiest technique in the book to do – and possibly the hardest to understand. It is different from all the other techniques and strategies in that you rely on your non-conscious mind. You do not consciously have to ‘read’ anything.
The purpose of downloading is to expose your non-conscious mind to all the information in the book so that it can go directly into your long-term memory. It ‘primes’ your brain with the information in the text.
‘Priming’ refers to the passive, subtle, and unobtrusive activation of relevant mental representations by external, environmental stimuli. Priming research has shown that the mere, passive perception of environmental events, inputs and cues directly trigger higher mental processes in the absence of any involvement by conscious, intentional processes.
“Over 200 studies have shown such priming effects on impression formation as well as on social behaviour. An extraordinarily wide range of behaviours can be affected by subtle environmental stimuli, such as walking speed, speech volume, academic performance, economic decisions.” John Bargh, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Yale University
Rapid reading: speed reading technique 14. Rapid reading from cover to cover.
Summary Look quickly (2-10 seconds per page) at every page, searching for ‘hot spots’ of key information. Do this after a work session to collect any final bits of information.
Reading from cover to cover means going quickly through the book sequentially looking at every page for key information. This is what most people think speed reading is (whereas it is just as valid to go backwards and forwards through the book or only go to specific sections to look for relevant information.)
HOW TO rapid read
Look quickly through the book, looking consciously at every page (2-10 seconds per page). Use the speed-reading patterns (speed reading technique 15) to look for hot spots (speed reading technique11) of key information. Any time you find key information you can slow down and read around it (dip) until you have grasped the point, and then resume rapid reading.
Set High Expectations and Push yourself Beyond your Comfort Zone – Speed Reading Technique #34
Summary Expectations (what you want) usually exceed your actual results – which tends to lead people to reduce their expectations. But then results go down again – until you’re back to old, slow traditional reading habits. Increase your expectations, set tighter time limits, strive for more, read faster – and see your results improve.
A woman went up to Gary Player, the golfer, after he’d just played a particularly difficult shot very successfully. “You were lucky there,” she said. Gary Player looked at her thoughtfully and replied, “You know, it’s a funny thing. I find that the more I practise, the luckier I get.”
“If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.”
As you put the techniques in this book into practice, make sure you raise your expectations about what you can achieve in a limited amount of time. If you have already experienced how much you can achieve in a 20-minute session (speed reading technique >18) working with a book or in a 75-minute syntopic processing session (speed reading technique >22) working with several books, you will also have noticed how much more you achieve in the last third of the time compared to the first two-thirds.
Speed Reading Technique 10 – Take your awareness to your concentration point
SUMMARY:Focus on a point about 15 cms above and slightly behind the top of your head (your concentration point) – take a deep breath in and relax your eyes as you breathe out. Then start reading.
Many people can increase their reading speed simply by taking their attention to the concentration point about 15 cms above and slightly behind the top of the head. Many notice a different quality to their reading, saying the text is ‘clearer’ and ‘easier to understand’. Their ability to concentrate is also enhanced.
TEST YOURSELF … … before and after doing this technique to see the difference it makes to you – see QUICK TEST
Get in a good state for reading and learning – Speed Reading Technique #14
Micro-summary: Having a relaxed, alert, questioning, purposeful mind is the ideal state for reading if you want to understand and remember information. Many of the other spd rdng techniques are also designed to get your mind and body in an optimal state for reading.
Get into a good state for reading and get engaged in it
The optimal state for understanding and taking in information is to be alert, relaxed, positive, purposeful and questioning and many of the techniques in our 200-page speed reading book are about getting into a good state for reading: Continue reading →
Get the overview before the details – with timelines – Speed Reading Technique number 25
When learning a new subject, make sure you understand the overview, the big picture, before you look at the details. Since most books are written sequentially (ie detail following detail), this usually means starting by previewing and looking at chapter and section headings and first and last chapters for a general understanding. Syntopic processing is excellent for getting an overview of a new subject.
This technique is the key to getting a good purpose (spd rdng tech 4) and can make the difference between success and failure when putting other techniques into practice. When you are learning something new, the brain learns most easily if it starts by getting an overall picture of what the subject is about before you go into detail.
Set your purpose for speed reading this article Before you start reading the article, think what sort of information you would expect to find in this article. Then spend two minutes previewing the article and setting your purpose. After getting into a good state, set your timer for 20 minutes and jot down information from the article which fulfils your purpose.
Sample purposes Choose only one, or something better of your own.
1 Write a timeline of 6 key developments in spd rdng
2 Find 6 spd rdng techniques I will definitely use
3 Identify 6 spd rdng techniques and the names (and approximate dates) of the 6 different people who originally developed them
Ever since people have been reading, many of them have been trying to read faster and more effectively. Oddly, though, apart from some early exploration by the US Air Force who held the first formal speed reading course at Syracuse University in 1925, there has been little or no support from educational establishments or governments. Even though you would think there were academic plaudits or increased educational attainments to be gained by the first organization or country to implement a reading programme which could take students beyond the basics, all advances seem to have been made by committed individuals who have remained outside the formal education system, and that is still the situation today.
In an interview with Bill Gates he was asked, “If you could have one superpower what would it be?” He responded with, “The ability to read super fast.”
>7 Smile – enjoy what you’re reading
Summary: Being in a happy, positive frame of mind makes it easier to take in information. Even faking a smile can have a similar effect.
Your state can strongly affect how well you read at any given moment – and therefore there are several techniques designed to get you into the best state for reading. The first is simply to smile. And even when you relax your face, keep the smile in your eyes. Feel your inner smile.
Research has shown that people understand better and take in more information when they’re happy. So the happier you are, the better reader you become.
Further research has shown that the physical effect of smiling can affect our mood positively (it releases endorphins, the happy hormones) and make us feel even more like smiling. So if you don’t initially feel like smiling, ‘fake it till you make it!’
And yet more research indicated that seeing someone else smile, or even just looking at the picture of a smile, can cause you to smile.
DO IT NOW… Smile
Watch this informative talk about the benefits of smiling
Preview before you start reading. Speed reading technique #2
Summary Spend 2 to 5 minutes looking through the book, finding out what it’s about before you start reading. Just this one technique can save you hours of time and money (by identifying books you don’t have to read or buy).
“You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
It’s amazing how many people decide to buy or read a book based simply on its title, cover or subject matter. They buy it without even opening it. Then once they’ve started reading, they somehow feel obliged (to whom?) to continue reading to the end.
You no longer need to waste time like that. Just because a book’s on your subject, it doesn’t mean it’s a good book. Previewing helps you recognise the difference between good and bad books before you’ve spent time reading them all the way through.
The purpose of previewing is to find out what the book is about and to enable you to decide:
in general what this book is about
whether or not to buy/borrow/read it
what you think you can get from it that’s useful to you (your purpose)
how long it’s worth spending on it (or whether it’s a book of reference that you’ll want to go back to several times)
HOW TO preview
open the book and flick backwards and forwards through it two or three times to get a feel for it, noticing the layout, size of the font, any graphs, pictures, illustrations, captions, etc
quickly read the cover blurb front and back (but be aware that this is written by the publishers to try to sell the book and it is not always accurate)
check the date of publication (this is crucial for subjects which go out of date very quickly, such as computing or quantum physics)
read the contents list, and look through the book at chapter titles and headings
look through the index for key terms and ideas which are relevant to you (notice how many entries there are for relevant terms)
search for something you know should be covered about this subject
evaluate the credibility of the author and the dependability of the information – and, if relevant, the people who recommended it to you
check the bibliography and references for credibility and for possible sources of further information
check for chapter summaries (a quick source of key information) – in particular, check the first and last chapters and the beginnings and ends of chapters
open the book at random and read a couple of paragraphs to judge the style of writing
Spd Rdng (speed reading) technique 37: read beginnings and endings – validated by new research. Knowing the ending of the book is good for your learning.
We’ve pointed out from the brain’s point of view that an ideal way to read a book is to start with the first chapter (which tells you what it’s going to be about) and the last chapter (which tells you the conclusions). The only downside when it comes to novels might be that it spoils the ending for you. However, new research undertaken by Nicholas Christenfeld (Professor of social psychology at the University of California, San Diego) and Jonathan Leavitt (PhD candidate at UC San Diego studying psychology) shows that people typically enjoy a book more when they know the ending in advance – even when the story has an unexpected twist at the end. (Which explains why we’re happy to go to the the same film or to reread a book again and again.) So now there’s even more reason to use the technique with factual material – knowing the conclusion means that you know which information is important as you go along. If you don’t know the end then everything is of equal value. They always said that hindsight is 20/20! Read more about this speed reading technique.
New idea for book reading: just add ambient and contextual soundtracks to books. Booktract – with it’s soundtracks for books is trying to enrich people’s experience with books by filling them with appropriate background sounds, sound effects, etc synchronised with your reading speed. Yes, sounds interesting so I’ve downloaded a free Booktrack soundtrack book/app – Sherlock Holmes. There are a few functions that speed readers might want but they’re actually counter intuitive. For example, there is a reading indicator which is there to help you pace yourself and you can adjust it but it is all too mechanical and works only at the regular limited speeds. And what’s worse is that if you choose the underline or ball indicator it jumps under or over each word respectively. There is a slider indicator on the right hand side that points only at the line but again the problem is the speed. As all speed readers know, in order to read fast and with comprehension, we need to read meaningful chunks of words, not individual words (speed reading principle number 6: read the message not the words – and principle number 11: focus on hot spots of information, in our Speed Reading Bible). This reading indicator can potentially harm your reading by instilling in you a bad habit for reading ie reading word by word (as opposed to speed reading principle number 8: take fewer steps per line). There is an on/off button. However, the soundtrack won’t be synchronised with the speed of reading. There is a speed reading test where you can check how fast you’re reading though and then use that to set the reading indicator speed. There is a slider to adjust the reading indicator which limits your reading speed to 700wpm (word per minute) which might be slow for some speed readers. But the major problem it that it is designed for novels and to read them for pleasure you need to read them at different speeds in whatever way pleases you.
I’m sure people will try it a few times and time will tell if it will take off in a big way beyond the novelty factor (although they have big companies such as Sony and HarperCollins backing them). It might take some time to get used to the whole idea. Interactive books are the future though – for example Vooks. It should work for children’s books. I’ve looked at some kids books (for example on iPad: The Fantastic Flying Books ) and they’re amazing and very cheap. I wonder what kind of soundtrack they would add for summaries of books such as Passing Time in The Loo – Book Summaries. Read more about Booktracks – soundtracks for books and immersive reading