Speed-reading: skim your way to higher productivity

Increasing your reading speed is easy. These top tips will advise you on how to skim paragraphs, pick out themes, scan and guide your way to improving speed and comprehension.

Why Skim-reading is More Productive

Sifting through papers and websites at twice your normal speed can make your productivity soar. Skimming gives you the gist of the text, scanning helps you find the specific nugget you need, and together they can increase your rate to 700 words a minute. There are many techniques you can adopt to increase your average words per minute many of which involve silencing your inner voice as you read. The inner voice, or subvocalisation, generally sets the reading pace making average words per minute the same as if you were to read out loud. There are skills, techniques and tools that can aid you in increasing your reading speed and thus increasing your productivity. Here is our top advice to improving your average words per minute.

  • To skim, home in on headings, key words, illustrations, and the first and last sentences of each paragraph, focusing on the meaning of the text as you go.
    • Top Tip: Look for clues in the text and stay focussed in order to add the pieces together and find over all meaning
  • To scan, flick through the categories—alphabetical, timed, or Google rankings—until you find the details you want.
    • Top Tip: Enter the text knowing what it is you are looking for; this way themes and details will become immediately apparent. 
  • Meta Guiding, is simply the use your finger or a pen to guider eye you through the length of the page, the pace is then set by your guide and not your inner voice. 
    • Top Tip: for this method to be entirely effective, there must be an emphasis on visualising each word, although it may be for a very brief moment.
  • Using web tools, Spreeder is a web based application that teaches you to gradually increase your speed through silencing your inner voice, little by little you'll be scraping seconds, minutes, maybe even hours off your reading speed.
    • Top Tip: Find your base rate, which is your normal speed with full comprehension of the text, and then aim to double it.
  • For maximum acceleration, try hypnotist Paul McKenna’s photoreading technique, covering a page in two seconds and letting your subconscious absorb the meaning. This technique involves visualising the structure of the page and being aware of details and themes. 
    • Top Tip: Photoreading is about bypassing your conscious mind, so try asking yourself questions afterwards to ensure the information has been absorbed 

If you’re worried about missing vital info, take the quiz on the BBC’s Skillswise site (bbc.co.uk/skillswise) and see how you can improve. But if you want to find out about changes to, say, your ISA, go through the document word by word. Speed-reading gives you an overview, but it’s all too easy to ignore a vital “not”.



Now you've learned some productive methods of reading, it's time to test out your new skill. Browse our book shop and get started.