How to learn more and better by reading faster

How to learn more and better by reading faster

We all know the importance of reading. It definitely helps our personal and professional growth. But in our hectic lives, we rarely have time to read. That was always my excuse.

The truth is that we regularly have moments we are not doing much.

When we are in a waiting room, waiting for someone late, on the train going to meet friends, commuting, etc.

If we add up all those idle moments, we realize that we have some free time that we can use to read instead of browsing social networks, gaming or complaining about life 🙂

In recent years, I have tried various techniques to optimize my reading to achieve the following goals: 

  • read faster, 
  • understand what I’ve read, 
  • remember all the essential information,
  • and read more.

“There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.”

Socrates

1. Have a dedicated place to reading

The first thing I have done was picking a site in my house dedicated to reading. This means that when I go to that particular part of the house, my brain knows it is time to read.

In the book “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business,” Charles Duhigg calls this a “Cue.”

Visual cues are one of the most powerful ways to trigger habits. We can train our brains to take action when we look at an object or place. 

My desk reminds me of working, my bed – sleeping, and seeing my running shoes makes me feel like running.

If you don’t have a quiet and comfortable place at home, consider going to a library.

2. Build a reading routine

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned we all have some idle time during the day. Although you should indeed use these loitered periods to do something useful, I don’t recommend to read new content.

Reading is an activity that must be performed with full attention. While we are on a train or in a waiting room, we can undoubtedly get distracted. I would instead use those moments to review content.

How to learn more and better by reading faster

I got better results when I started reading every day at the same time and place. Every day right after waking up, I make a good cup of coffee, open a book, and trigger a timer for one and a half hours.

Try to read at least 3 times per week for at least 1 hour. Choose a time when you are relaxed and least likely to be interrupted, and as tip number 1 says, try to always do this activity in the same place.

3. Reading preparation

Before I start reading a new book, I try to extract the maximum information from its table of contents. This simple action has dramatically changed my understanding and speed of reading.

The more familiar you are with the content of a book, the easier and faster it will be to absorb its content.

I also search for the book summary on the internet. This way, I don’t go into it totally unprepared.

4. Use multiple senses to learn better

Researches in the field of learning revealed that some people are more visual, others more auditory, while others are more kinesthetic. This means that some people learn better using different faculties. The more senses we employ in the learning process, the better results we get.

When I started reading books coupled with their audio versions, my learning process accelerated. This way, I use 2 different senses: visual and auditory.

In my humble opinion, this tip is the most important one. I use the audiobook at 2x speed, while I follow the physical book.

This method forces me to stay focused. When I’m just reading, it’s easy to get distracted with outside noises, or with my own thoughts. But when I put these 2 senses to work together, I completely isolate myself from the outside world and the inside world as well.

6 tips for how to read faster and remember everything - Audiobook
Audiobooks can help you read faster

Books have an average of 300 pages. Many of us are intimidated by its size. But if we use the audiobook, at 1x speed, we notice that the same book can be read in 9 hours. It doesn’t seem so hard anymore.

What if we use the audiobook at 2x speed? The book can be read in 4.5 hours, meaning you can finish a book per day! Fantastic, isn’t it? This simple fact significantly stimulates our willingness to get started.

And if you want to have a paperless life, buy the ebook and use the iOS / Android app called Voice Dream. It converts the text into speech, allowing you to read while listening to the audio.

5. Make strategic pauses

Every time you come across information that you consider essential, take a break and reflect. Think about the possibilities of applying it to your life, try connecting this new learning with some information you already have.

And in those “AHA” moments, it’s even more crucial to take a break. Maybe you should take a walk or do something else. Because those are the points that will really resonate in your head and make you evolve.

If you need to read for more than one and a half hours per day, it is also recommended to make pauses. You can try using the Pomodoro Technique.

6. Organize the information

The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.

Mortimer J. Adler

So that you don’t forget what you have read, it is vital to organize the new content before the end of a reading cycle.

While I’m reading, I underline the things I want to remember.

Then, in my notebook, I summarize the essential parts I have just read.

Finally, at the end of each chapter, I make a mind map, where I simplify all the critical information, forcing me to link one theme to another. 

The Power of Habits - Mind Map
Book: The Power of Habit – Mind Map

Mind maps make it easy to review the book later. Plus, as a designer, it’s the kind of task I happily perform.

7. Articulate what you’ve learned

Review your notes and mind maps regularly until you can effortlessly articulate what you’ve learned.

Docendo discimus.

Seneca The Younger

You probably heard that: by teaching, we learn. Try to explain what you have learned to a friend, and you will notice that complimentary ideas will naturally pop up in your mind. Also, this content will be recorded faster to your long-term memory.

Because in the end, it doesn’t matter how many books you have on your shelf. What really matters is the knowledge you have turned into wisdom through reflection and action.

Good reading!

Read More!

I never allow myself to hold an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.

Charlie Munger

Do you have more tips on how to read better? Share with us.

And I also would like to share the books that changed the way I think, live, and work. Please share with us yours.


Want to get smarter? You have to read more. Learn 7 ways to read faster, understand what you've read, and to remember everything forever.