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Speed it up! Cut drastically your reading time

It is yet another great day commencing: we just finished our emails and we are ready to face the flood of articles and blogposts that we opened for reading.

But the new ones are adding up to those we are dragging from a few weeks ago…

Sounds familiar?

That’s maybe because this is a typical situation in most of jobs, and is specially critical in the User Experience disciplines

Given that tech and conceptual advancements are presented daily, the amount of interesting and valuable information that appears relentlessly can be overwhelming.

And situation worsen when we need to separate the weeds from the wheat.

So the question is: how can we get the most value of that information in the less time possible?

First of all, you don’t need to understand every word to get value

Following the Power Law, we know that it is feasible to assimilate the most important concepts of an article without understanding every single word of it.

So the idea is to have the quickest read possible first, that will give us the 20% of the information that makes 80% of the value.

For that, we can rely in Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) tools.

RSVP readers work by helping you focus all your attention in one place, avoiding unnecessary eye movements.


And this has nice secondary effects, like helping you to avoid subvocalisation and minimize the possibility of getting distracted.

The downside is that you’ll probably not get full comprehension of the text.

But as I stated, that is almost never needed when you want a general idea of what the article is about.

After finishing the first pass, If we feel that the contents need a deeper read we can go with a second RSVP cycle.

And if you discover that there are too many numbers or graphics, you can do a second round with traditional reading.

The tool: Reedy

To implement this, I currently use Reedy, a Chrome extension, that has also an app available in the Google Play Store.

(Full disclosure: I love Reedy, but be aware that they ask to get access to all your info when installing.)

How to use Reedy is quite simple: highlight the text you want to read, right click to open menu and then Launch Reedy. Then, you can use the spacebar to play and pause the process at will.

My suggestion is that you start with low speeds (somewhere in between 300-400 wpm), and get used to this new way of reading first.

When you notice that you can easily read the text, speed it up in 50 wpm increments.

It is somewhat important that you can go into settings first, given that it has a lot of options that can change your experience quite drastically.

Per example, I use the dark theme to lower the visual fatigue. I also recently enabled “Text Continuation” option, which seems to help me to better get context.

Wrapping it up

This system maybe not perfect for every situation (specially when we need to have a really comprehensive reading) but I can assure you that is a great way of improving your time to consume information.

(If you are interested in getting a way to manage your daily routine, I’ve written about it here: How I automated my daily routine to avoid action paralysis)


Find below additional recommendations from the guys at Reedy:

Recommendations for beginners

Start reading at a speed of 300 words per minute or less. Read in a quiet atmosphere. Read simple texts – fiction, articles on general subjects, or even texts that you have read before. After a while (maybe an hour, or maybe a day) you’ll notice that you perceive the text at the current speed quite easily, and you rarely stop the reader to re-read a previous passage. Now you can increase the speed of 50 words per minute.

Recommendations for everyone

1. Configure the program to make your reading most convenient. Choose comfortable font size and text position on the page. By day, in the sun, or when using a glossy display, it’s better to use the light theme. In the evening the dark theme is preferable, as it creates less eye strain.

2. Don’t forget to blink. This recommendation can be applied not only to reading. You should never let your eye surface get dry. Those who read at high and ultra-high speeds are recommended to stop at least twice a minute and shut their eyes tight for a few seconds. You can also try blinking alternately 🙂

3. Make progress. Don’t stay for months at the same speed. Increase speed! Overclock your brain!

Having troubles with the perception of the text?

If you stop the reader to reread a previous passage too often, try and follow these advices:

1. Ensure that you don’t have articulation – involuntary movements of the lips and tongue while reading. Try to perceive the text by your eyes, not pronouncing it to yourself. By the way, this technology automatically teaches you that. Surely, the higher speed is, the more difficult it becomes to keep up pronouncing every single word. S o, with time you’ll stop articulating anyway, even if you don’t make efforts on purpose.

2. At first choose simple texts. Don’t start with articles on physics or law. Read fiction, articles on general subjects, texts which content you’re familiar with. When your eyes get slightly adapted, you can try and read more complex materials.

3. Choose the correct speed. It shouldn’t be neither too high nor too low. Define your own speed. Note that texts of different complexity may require the adjustment of the speed. The more complicated materials are, the more time you need to understand it, the lower speed should be chosen.

4. Try various program settings. For example, beginners may find it convenient to read with the continuation of the text enabled (Settings › Appearance › Text continuation).

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