Bothered by insatiable desire to read with speed my books of latest action films, popular novelists, a number of e-books, and the lopsided pile of magazines stacked next to my bed, sometimes I just wish I could absorb and enjoy them sooner. Even the daily quantity of emails gets a bit overwhelming and consumes more time than can be justified. Yet, being an info junkie, I do not unsubscribe because reading gives me the edge in my businesses. A solution to this quandary was presented by Illumine Training, a UK based company that has made its claim “better brains for better business®” through various courses that run the gamut from writing, speaking, managing, and creative thinking training. Now they have tackled the bane of students who want to improve their study skills with their Advanced Study Skills for Students-Halve your study time AND learn more too! e-course.
For years, I’d attended seminars that tried to upsell me on additional self improvement programs, including speed reading, but they were costly and I hesitated to take the chance at making a wasteful decision. I just knew that compared to most people, I already read at a fairly speedy rate, and I thought, “How could those speed readers genuinely enjoy a book?” When I want to snuggle in my pajamas and robe to read, I didn’t match my fantasy to the site of myself speed reading. Therefore, many potentially enjoyable readings went unread for so very long.
Illumine Training has combined their speed reading and mind mapping programs into a hybrid study skills course designed for students. It is very reasonably priced and can be done in 1 ½ hours, perfect for students and others like me who are overly committed and have a bustling life.
Introducing the online course was Clive Lewis, author of The Extraordinary Reader. Objectives were presented, such as, “Double or treble your reading speed,” “Dramatically improve the effectiveness of your study,” and I felt a magnetic draw to the final claim, “Stop wasting your time.” Distractions and time suckers are my nemesis. I calculated that this was worth investigating.
Pleasantly, Clive Lewis presents a logical case for students to understand the research base for the program. Initially, prior to commencing, my reading speed was 364 words per minute, and according to the course material, that placed me around the upper 20% of readers. Comprehension was clocked at 80% on a trial reading that I deliberately raced through.
Upon immediate completion of the program and utilizing the tactics prescribed, my reading speed rose to 516 words per minute—putting me in the upper 4% of readers, but comprehension dropped to 60%. Not to be dissuaded, Lewis presented graphs explaining this to be a normal phenomenon initially. What happens is that while one is focused on reading rapidly, it is normal for the brain to not absorb content as effectively because one is thinking about reading faster. However, when the habits inherent to speed reading become commonplace, through regular skill development and practice, comprehension will rise. Also, since focus is trained to be laser-like when reading, comprehension and recall are likely to exceed performance levels prior to taking the course.
Another intriguing strategy presented in the Illumine course that facilitates recall and expedites the ability to devour a book in less time, is mind mapping. I admit that I have dabbled a bit in doing some of these in the past, and as an educator have used graphic organizers. As I was trained to be linear in my formative years, it was stretching my comfort zone and I judge myself to be a bit clumsy in mapping 2D, 360° content from informational text. Yet, knowing that the brain seeks to organize, it made sense to follow Lewis’ prescription to preview and map a 200 page book within 20 minutes. I did it! And I found that I understood and was able to document the key nuggets found in an education themed book, ironically titled, “Checking for Understanding.”
Illumine offers the student insight to how we tend to read, that alpha brain waves are best for relaxed study and that baroque music elicits them, how our eyes tend to skip and back track, and that surprisingly if we can discipline ourselves to simply focus forward and not re-read what we just read, we likely comprehend just as well as if we hadn’t backskipped. All that is required though to be successful in speed reading is to understand what Lewis presents and then implement it in a mere 5 minutes, twice a day, for about 21 days.
Embedding effective reading habits is the key to success in acquiring superior speed and comprehension.
This is where most people fall short. For like any professional development, it is only as good as its faithful implementation. Yet, as the sun sets earlier, and my robe and slippers look inviting and comfortable, I’m ready to tie the habit to my morning and evening coffee routine. The best way to succeed in maintaining a new commitment is to hook it on to an existing one. As part of this course, I have been given access for one month to replay, and I have one more practice reading that I can use to clock my speed and comprehension rates.
This might be the year I finally get to the bottom of my magazine pile and read several of those young adult books I once bought for my kids and somehow didn’t get to enjoy for myself. If I am lucky, winter might not seem as long and cold this time, and I might teach another critical life enhancing skill to my brood.
Always finding something new to explore, all this has whet my curiosity about how video games develop cognition and can be used therapeutically. Lumos Labs has amazing work and a massive research database from their Lumosity site. Akili Interactive Labs’ co-founder Adam Gazzaley has worked with subjects 60-85 years of age to improve plasticity, even to the point where their performance in multitasking exceeded 20-year-olds who were thought to be more proficient.
I thought I’d start video games in my 70’s, but maybe I should begin as soon as I catch up on my reading?