I’m sitting in the nook of my comfiest chair, desperately trying to finish a book before going home to see family for the weekend. I’ve got my feet up, I’m enjoying myself but, ultimately, I’m aware of the time. I had to get this novel done and dusted by half twelve, or else I’d be lugging yet another book with me, despite only needing it for 30-or-so pages.
That would be unacceptable. I worked out the science of it: at a reading pace of 50 pages per half hour or so, I’d get it done – but only just in the nick of time.
It was at this moment that I had a true revelation: I’m not actually a slow reader. Having spent half of my degree reading English Literature, I lamented being such a slow reader due to the sheer amount of texts I had to consume in such a short space of time. Everybody else seemed to get through everything with ease, and it was pretty demoralising knowing just how much I would still need to gleam over before a lecture or seminar.
That all changed when I got through the remaining 30-or-so pages of today’s book in much less time than I thought it would take. What was going on? Did I suddenly speed up?
Nah, I’m not a slow reader and I never have been, I’m just lazy. Here’s why:
The importance of speed reading
This year, I set out to train myself to speed read. I thought that my slow pace was getting just a touch dull, since it meant I’d be spending months reading one novel. Since then, I’ve tried to get by through skimming across certain descriptions, or reading through the middle of the book and absorbing the rest of the book by employing my periphery vision.
I’d initially resisted trying this, thinking it would spoil the books or be too difficult, but it wasn’t really. I adapted to the change quite well. Yet, it was still taking a while to get through books. Why was I still such a slow reader?
Fast forward to my comfy chair today, and my tight deadline, and I realised that I’m not a slow reader, I’m just a lazy one. I’d have the best intentions to sit down and read for however long every day, but found it so hard when something like a video game, or a Netflix show, was right there, so much easier to consume without doing much effort myself. Why would I read when I could just sit and watch?
That’s why it would take me so long to read something. It wasn’t because I was slow at reading, I just couldn’t be bothered to give it a go.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Yawn. You’re probably sick to death of reading this, and I get it: the advice is everywhere. Working out and getting sick of seeing no progress while every around you looks like an absolute unit? Don’t compare yourself to others! Learning a new instrument and can’t get past the C chord? Don’t compare yourself to others! Staling on an average salary while your friends become millionaires?
Well, you get the message.
I’m repeating it here because it is such important advice, and not something I really, truly took on board until my reading revelation. I’d be comparing my reading speed to influencers, to friends and family who could demolish books in one sitting.
In reality, I should have been comparing myself to…well, myself. If my goal really is to read quicker, then I should think: can I read quicker than I could yesterday? If yes, great! If not, why not? What can I do to change that?
Why do you want to change?
You should always ask that question when you come up with a goal of any kind. It’s the question I should have asked when I first started to come up with proper New Years Resolutions, and the the question I started to ask when I came up with this year’s goals.
Why do you want to change?
Is it to compete with your coworker? Is it to be the best in your friendship group? Or is it because you want to get stronger than you used to be? Do you want a higher wage for the reputation, or because you’re saving for a house while also caring for a newborn, and it would mean no longer having to work two jobs?
Who are your goals for? You? Or somebody else? Why do you want to be a faster reader?
Sorry, wait; we’re not all slow readers. Some of us are just lazy.
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