You’re Reading Too Fast

by Randy Murray on September 12, 2011

There’s so much to read.

Those stacks of books and magazines. RSS feeds and blogs, like this one, that produce a never ending stream of words. Emails, tweets, messages of all sorts. Sometimes I find them all a blur, like a billboard fleetingly glanced at when you whizz by at seventy miles an hour.

And every so often I snap out of the fog of words and say, “Wait. What?”

Yes, there may be too much to read, but that’s no excuse to waste your time rushing through things. You’re missing the point, your missing the pleasure, and you’re probably missing out on what’s important.

Just slow down. You know your own perfect pace for reading and comprehending what you read. I’ve said before that multitasking is a myth. Now I tell you this: speed reading is a crock. Getting the “gist” of a piece isn’t good enough. If something is important enough for you to read, you should make an effort to understand it to the best of your ability.

That book you’ve been looking forward to — don’t rush through it, gulping it down to “find out what happens next.” In that rush you rob yourself of the pleasures of reading. You’re brushing off the author’s hard work in painting pictures, creating characters, and carefully shaping the language.

If you’re reading non-fiction, a report, an essay, or anything else that you feel will interest or benefit you, flying through it, skimming, “pulling out the important bits,” is a cheat against your own claimed interests. You can skim through dozens of pages on online, spend hours everyday “reading”, but walk away with nothing.

All because of being in such a god damned hurry.

You’ll benefit more, enjoy it, and actually learn, if you choose fewer things to read, then actually read them. Slow the frack down. Comprehend. Experience.

There’s a difference between a walk in Central Park and zipping through it cab. You might see it, but you don’t experience it, understand it. Yes, you get from point A to point B, but what you missed, well, you missed the point of the park being there in the first place.

So let the stacks set there. Let the RSS feeds backup. Pick out a few good things, slow down, and savor them.

You might be surprised at what you learn.

The You’re Reading Too Fast by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Luis September 16, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Excellent post! I have to do take time to really READ those things that really matters.


KjM September 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm

When I was much younger, my father suggested I read poetry - for I had developed the habit of racing through anything I read. Poetry helped put a stop to that. Each word, its shape, sound, position, they all had meaning.

You can’t race through that and get anything.

I still have to slow myself down sometimes when reading prose - but never poetry. Still a work in progress, I guess.


Randy Murray September 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm

That is an excellent suggestion.


Jane Penson September 27, 2011 at 9:37 am

Ideally, surely, we learn to get into different gears. For example: fast for documents where we just need to get facts out of what we are reading; slow for enjoyment when we want to taste every word, and dead slow for proofreading, poetry and particularly gorgeous prose.


Randy Murray September 27, 2011 at 9:58 am

I don’t disagree, but I’ve spent too long in the business world to ignore the fact that too many business managers skim documents and memos to “just get the facts” and miss the point - or make the wrong conclusions - all by not reading carefully. I’ve learned to structure my business documents so that the first paragraph is a clear summary and vital information is highlighted.


Jarod Online October 25, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I have to agree. I’ve done this quite often and have found myself uninspired to write anything or have either found myself somehow bored because of this (because if I’m not inspired to do anything I become bored pretty quick).


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  • Links: College Night 2011 Edition September 16, 2011
  • Discussion: Speed Reading « The Lewis Lit Journal's Blog September 20, 2011

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