Archive for the ‘speed reading’ Category

Speed Reading: Session 4-6

After my first 3 sessions I already had a good understanding of the material. In the next sessions I was particularly interested in quarks and the string theory.

Session 4: reviewed my mind map, looked up the chapters about quarks and quantum theory

Time needed: 20 minutes 

I was interrupted and had to cut short the session. I learnt something new though and started to understand what the spin was all about. Even the quantum theory finally made sense.

Session 5: again, reviewed my mind map and looked up more about quarks

Time needed: 20 minutes

Interesting session but not in the spirit of speed reading. I was completely immersed and tried to memorize as much as possible. Quarks are fascinating.

Session 6: reviewed my mind map. My only open question was – again – the spin property of quarks.

Time needed: 30 minutes

I jumped more or less straight to chapter 5 and can now say what quarks, spin and the 4 forces are all abou. Yeah. 🙂


This finishes my reading of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. The overall topic wasn’t too difficult to understand but some of the concepts needed multiple re-reads. In total I spent 2:15h with the book and pretty much enjoyed every minute! With a normal approach I assume that 5-6 hours would have been the absolute minimum.

An interesting observation was that speed reading not only allowed me to go through the book rather quickly but it was also easier to see the big picture. Concepts are first introduced and then in later chapters used to explain more details. My mind was actively paying attention and could follow the train of thoughts pretty well.

I will review in 1 month how much I still remember. This will be the real test because reading alone isn’t worth much if you can’t recall or use the new knowledge. I will keep you up-to-date!

Here is my final mind map (click to enlarge):

Brief History of Time Stephen Hawkins


What’s next

I will try out the method with other books too and report my success. It won’t happen in such a detailed form (only on public demand) but it should give you an idea if it’s useful or not. If you have a book that we should read together then please leave a comment. Happy reading!


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Speed Reading: Session 3

I have already finished session 3 and I feel it coming together. Hawking’s book is surely no light literature so it’s the perfect object for the speed reading test. What I noticed last night was that my mind tried to make sense of what I have read, e.g. why Hawking describes gravity and light in such detail. That was an interesting experience.

Session 3 was similar to session 2.

Time needed: 30 minutes

My mind map now looks like this. You can find more details, new key words and more relationships. There might be some mistakes but that’s okay, the next sessions will complete the picture and add more layers of comprehension.

Brief History of Time Stephen Hawkins 2
(click to enlarge)

I am still not sure how the string theory fits in and why it’s necessary. On the other hand I found out about the quantum theory and quarks, which I completely missed in the first sessions.

I let the knowledge sink in for a while and might do my next session tonight.

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Speed Reading: Session 2

In my second session I had to

  • look at my notes
  • super read the text
  • dip into paragraphs that immediately looked interesting
  • review my key words
  • maximum allowed time: 30 minutes

Time needed: 30 minutes

After such a quick read through it’s impossible to comprehend or remember the contents. It’s important to understand this and stay relaxed. My list of key words got a bit longer, here is the mind map:

(click to enlarge image)

I probably wanted to remember too much, it might have been better to focus just on the key words and fill in the answers later. The main purpose of the first sessions is to guide the brain, identify the structure of the book and to raise the curiosity.

As a side note, I was a bit surprised that so much was written about Black Holes. Was it that revolutionary when the book was released? To me, as a vivid SF reader, this concept is already second nature. 🙂


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Speed Reading Journey: Session 1

The book that I use for this experiment (see previous post) is Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”.

In the first session my task is to

  • preview the book and
  • browse through it to find key words

Time needed: 15 minutes

The key words that I have identified mostly come from the table of contents. They are

  • Universe: shape, begin, end
  • Electrons
  • Spin
  • Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle
  • Black Hole
  • Time
  • Time Travel
  • Unified Theory

Based on these key words I can formulate a couple of questions that I want to get answered by the book. For now I simply let everything sink in and trust my mind that it will find the right clues very soon.

to be continued

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Speed Reading Journey (1)

What is the secret to comprehend a book or text better? There are very simple things that you can do to improve your experience.

1. Make it relevant

There is a common agreement that if you have a clear purpose your mind will try to fit in the new knowledge much easier. Without any purpose you are more likely to dismiss and forget what you read so ask yourself

  • what you want to get out of a book
  • how important are the things in 6 months
  • what will you be able to do
  • etc.

2. Make a plan

Your brain is able to accept new things easier when it knows what to expect. Before starting, look at the table of contents – learn it by heart if you want – and quickly take 1 minute or 2 to browse through the book. Are there any key words that might be relevant? What could the book be about? You don’t have to be right, these questions are there to make you more curious so that your unconscious mind will try to actively look for an answer while reading.

3. Always be in a relaxed state

When you are relaxed your brain will learn new things much easier. I found the following YouTube video very helpful, it keeps me relaxed the whole time and it runs exactly 30 minutes. After this time you should take a break and do something else. It helps to let your unconscious mind process what you have read.

The Reading Procedure

Okay, the next things are probably a bit harder to accept. I will only outline them and refer to the following books if you want to know more:

The secret is to read a book quickly multiple times. Comprehension is built in layers so each run will make you understand more. In addition, actively ask questions you want to get answered by the book and put the key words into a mind map. This helps to build strong synapses in your brain and you to move the knowledge into your long-term memory. And it takes less time than the traditional method of reading. 🙂

For each step, first state your purpose and get into a relaxed state. Now:

  1. Session 1Preview the book: what will it be about, what do I want to learn. Only take 1-2 min, then quickly browse through the book in no more than 15 min. Look for key words and decide what will be important for you. Don’t worry about comprehension!
  2. Put the key words and questions into a mind map. Keep it simple!
  3. Go away from the book. If possible wait one night, otherwise at least 20 minutes.
  4. Session 2Review your mind map, ask yourself what you want to know and then start super reading. Dip deeper into paragraphs that stimulate your interest but not too much. You don’t need to answer all your questions. Build your curiosity, identify the structure and find more key words. This should take no longer than 30 min
  5. Expand your mind map and review your key words.
  6. Let the book sink in (20 min to 24 hours). 
  7. Session 3Review your mind map. Super read and dip through the book in 30 minutes. You can also use the skittering technique. At the end of the session review your mind map.
  8. Let the book sink in (20 min to 24 hours)
  9.  Session 4Review your mind map. In addition to the super read and dip technique you can now also rapid read passages if you want more information but have no specific questions. Jump directly to the passages that interest you most. After 20 minutes start completing your mind map. Don’t worry if something is still unclear, knowledge will come in additional sessions. 
  10. do additional “session 3s” if you want to know more.

For 4 sessions you will need ~2 hours so I highly suggest to give it a try. If it doesn’t work for you then forget about it and just go back to your traditional method.

Self Test

Tomorrow I will show you how this works in practice. I have chosen Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. I have read the book years ago and can remember absolutely nothing. Nada. Rien.

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This is an early warning for my regular blog followers that the next posts won’t be about chess. I am still playing and giving my best but my interest is currently occupied by something else:

Speed Reading and Photoreading

There are actually two parts to it. The first and – in my opinion – less important is the technical ability to read faster. This includes faster eye movement, focus on whole word groups, avoiding going back in the text, improving the short-term memory, trusting your brain and other things. Different methods exist to train you in these areas, e.g. you can try this iPad app (works great) or buy a Windows program like this here.

More interesting and more exciting is the mental process that helps us to remember things better. What is it worth to be able to read faster if you can’t remember a thing 2 weeks later. The rather counter intuitive conclusion is that if you read faster you comprehend more because your mind is so busy making sense of the text that it has less time to roam around. I am sure that everyone has already made the experience that you read something but think about something else … and after a while you stop and re-read the passage because you lost track.

In the next posts I will summarize the things that I have learnt from different books and internet sources and tell you about my own experiences. My focus will be on eBooks that you can read on the screen or with an eBook reader. I invite you to accompany me on my journey and to try things for yourself. You will need:

  • 5-10 non fiction books in electronic format: books that you always wanted to read, or a couple of books on the same topic
  • a Mind Mapping program: I recommend XMind (the free version is sufficient). Alternatively you can also make drawings on paper, whatever you prefer.
  • 30 min per day for the exercises
  • headphones so that you can listen to special study-enhancing music

That’s it for now. Stay tuned!

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