Reading is not a human ability hardwired into our brains.

It’s a skill that takes practice. But rapid reading is not a difficult skill to learn, says Peter Kump, author of Breakthrough Rapid Reading.

Reading can transform your health, wealth, and productivity.

Comprehension has always been more important than just reading.

Without comprehension, reading is a wasted effort.

You read because you want to learn something new, improve a specific skill or enjoy a great narrative or novel.

Comprehension is the core of reading any material. It’s also the reason many people spend a lot of time on a single book.

The one habit that may be hindering your progress when you choose to read is regression. But you can eliminate your reading inefficiencies and increase your reading speed while improving retention.

Regression (backtracking)

One of the biggest obstacles to speed reading is regression.

It’s the habit of re-reading something you have already read in order to be sure you really understood the message you read.

When regression is compulsive, the habit can be harder to break.

“When you regress like this, you lose the flow and structure of the text, and your overall understanding of the subject can decrease. Be very conscious of regression, and don’t allow yourself to re-read material unless you absolutely have to”, says April Troester, PhD.

Lack of confidence in your reading skills can cause regression.

If you don’t trust yourself to have fully understood what you’ve just read, you will regress all the time.

For many readers, this can happen over and over and over again.

Instead of improving their reading habits, many people use this habit to refocus when they feel they are being distracted.

In as much as you think regression is helping you, it actually slows you down more than you think.

Regression probably wastes about a third of every hour you spend reading.

It’s like taking two steps forward with your eyes and one step back, and for many people, a lot more than one step back.

Sometimes — but not very often — regression necessary, especially if you are reading about a technical subject and want to understand better.

Or when the author is not engaging better and you have to figure out the message yourself.

But more often than not, people regress because it’s a habit they’ve developed over time.

If you are aiming to read faster and get the most important ideas in any book you pick up, you have to quit the habit of going back to chapters you’ve already read.

Instead of revisiting pages, what you could do is to focus better, remove distractions and aim to read a particular number of pages every time you start reading again.

Improve your concentration habit, and you won’t have to regress so many times before you actually finish that book.

When your brain develops the habit of re-reading at any time, it relaxes and does not concentrate properly because it knows it will go back at some point.

It stops you from immersing yourself deeply in any book.

When that happens, you won’t fully grasp all the ideas in the book.

How to quit regressing

The simplest approach to stop re-reading over and over again is to choose books or topics you deeply care about.

“Reading a book should be an experience that provides you joy and value, not something to labor through,” says Patrick Allen of Lifehacker.

If reading takes more effort and it’s a struggle, you’re going to want to do less of it.

Before you even start reading any book, ask yourself if you are curious enough about the topic to give it your full attention or concentration.

Passive readers hardly finish any book because they are not curious enough.

They read because they have time to spend instead of investing in a topic.

Get curious before you even start reading.

What do you look for in any book you choose? Let that be your guide and you will focus better when you read.

Schedule you reading and stick to your allocated time.

Example, you can set aside half an hour of your time to read your favourite book without distraction.

Start by eliminating all the distractions that may prevent you from reading (social media, email notifications, news notifications, background music, etc.).

You could disable all notifications on your phone.

You will be more focused when it’s only you and book you are reading.

Aim to concentrate the whole half an hour.

Don’t hurry the process.

Just enjoy the book and the ideas the author is conveying during that time.

To retain the information better, you can take notes after every reading sprint.

Use the 50/50 principle to retain better and remember the core ideas of any book. You won’t have to regress if you are not distracted.

To reduce the number of times you backtrack, Troester recommends you run a pointer (a finger, a pen, or the cursor) along the line as you read.

“Your eyes will follow the tip of your pointer, helping you avoid skipping back. The speed at which you read using this method will largely depend on the speed at which you move the pointer,” she says.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to finish every book to fully embrace better reading habits.

I tend to have at least 5 books in my “active” pile of books I’m currently reading, but I try not to regress to make real progress as I focus on comprehending the ideas in each book.

Closing thoughts

Regression seriously slows your reading speed.

The good news is, you can easily replace it with a better habit, but it takes concentration and practice.

Start slow and aim to make progress instead of trying to change the habit as soon as possible, especially if your brain is already used to re-reading all the time.

Quitting regression can increase your reading speed and help you read more books every months or year.

As you invest more time reading, it will get easier and you know what habits are helping you read more books.

Originally published on Medium.

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