BY SOFO ARCHON
For the most part of my life I’ve been enjoying reading books. And from my teenage years until today (currently, I’m 31 years old) I’ve been reading books nearly non-stop.
Why’s that, you might ask.
Because books have taught me so many important lessons that I’d have never learned if it hadn’t been for them. And those lessons have completely changed the direction of my life, in an unbelievably positive way.
Being aware of the importance of books, at some point in my very early adult years I wondered if there’s a way I could read books quicker. During that period of my life, I was obsessed with learning. Hence, I’d read a lot. In fact, I’d read so much that I’d finish an entire book nearly every other day.
But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to read even more. Yet a day wouldn’t offer me the time needed to do that. Or perhaps I wasn’t reading books the right way. If the latter was the case, I thought, maybe I could somehow learn how to read more books in less time.
Soon afterwards I did some research online about learning to read faster and it didn’t take me long until I bumped into several blogs that offered advice on how to master the art of “speed reading”, including that of the all-knowing productivity hacking God Tim Ferris.
The speed reading techniques that Ferris and most other bloggers suggested were more or less the following:
- Focus your attention on reading as fast as you possibly can.
- Zip your finger/pen across the lines as a tracking and pacing tool.
- Try your best not to speak in your head the words you’re reading.
- Don’t stop to reread what you didn’t fully comprehend.
So I tried those techniques. And guess what? They actually worked!
In only a few days of speed reading practice, I could read books way faster than I used to. But there was one problem I soon came to realize: reading wasn’t a joyful experience anymore. On the contrary, it had become soul-draining.
Every time I would hold a book in my hands, it felt like I was fighting a battle with each page I was reading. There was a voice in my head constantly yelling at me to read quicker. Naturally, being focused on finishing reading books faster, I couldn’t enjoy the process of reading.
Just do anything you enjoy but focus on getting a quick result out of it, and you’ll understand what I mean. For example, if you enjoy exercising, focus on losing weight or building a six-pack and soon you’ll likely find that you hate exercising. Or, if you enjoy painting, focus on finishing your paintings as fast as possible so that you can post pictures of them on social media and there are extreme chances that you’ll soon hate painting.
Sadly, from the very moment we were born society has been telling us to sacrifice the present moment for some future end. In school, for example, we were taught to study just to get good grades and not for the sheer joy of learning. Not surprisingly, by the time we finished school, most of us were programmed to see learning as something very unpleasant.
Now as adults we try hard to be highly efficient and productive in nearly anything we do. We’re so focused on our goals that we can’t pause for a second and relax in the here and now. Time feels never enough, and so we rush to do more and more. And although we might achieve many of our goals, the price we have to pay for that is a chronic state of stress and anxiety.
Realizing how speed reading stole the joy out of my reading experience, I stopped practicing it (except in rare occasions, as I’ll explain in a while). I thought: “I might be able to read more books in less time, but if that makes reading unpleasant, what’s the whole point of it? It’s a silly, even masochistic thing to do. In addition, If I like the content of a book, why would I want to rush through it? It makes absolutely no sense.”
When you enjoy doing something, you normally want to spend much of your time engaged in it, instead of trying to be done with it as quickly as possible. For example, if you enjoy having sex, would you try to make it last as less time as you can every time you sleep with someone? I bet not. And if you did, I’m pretty sure that sex would turn from an orgasmic play of love into dull, tedious, repetitive work.
Having said that, I don’t think that speed reading (or quick sex) is totally pointless and should be avoided altogether. Occasionally I might make use of the speed reading techniques I’ve learned. That’s when I happen to read books I don’t consider worth spending much of my time on (either because they aren’t good enough or because they don’t quite interest me in their entirety). Then, speed reading helps me to skim through those books and extract only the information that I find valuable, and this way I’m able to save a lot of otherwise wasted time and energy.
But when I read a book that I like, I make sure to get fully absorbed in it and enjoy the process, no matter how long it takes me to finish it.