Speed reading is a set of skills that is necessary for nearly everyone's survival in this age of information overload. Whether you are a student, returning adult student, employee, manager, executive, or business person reading more efficiently and effectively is set of techniques that are key to your survival. Here are 8 fatal mistakes you need to avoid when learning this set of powerful learning tools and how you can overcome them.

1. Too much focus on speed. All speed reading programs and approaches want you to focus on speeding things up. In the beginning stages of your skill development this obviously is essential. However, when you want to understand what you are reading, you can only read as fast as your mind can understand the material. Learn to distinguish between practicing the skills and applying them in the real world.

2. Focusing on the mechanics only. The eyes are the mechanical tools allowing you to read, but the brain/mind interprets and comprehends the material. Too many programs focus either exclusively or primarily on eye-span training and assume that the cognitive or comprehension process will eventually catch up. Beware of investing your time and money on these types of programs. There needs to be a clear path to the comprehension side of speed reading.

3. Holding back. In order to master speed reading you have to learn to think and perceive the print in new ways. Too often a beginner holds back because the mind gets so overloaded with this new perceptual process. A new learner may increase their reading speed by 100 words per minute or so, but won't let go in the speed development portion because comprehension suffers initially. This type of new learner wants to comprehend in the same manner he/she has always done it. Real speed reading does not speed up what you already do. It transforms how you process information and print.

4. Inconsistent effort. Learning to master speed reading as a lifelong skill is an easily learnable, but very complex set of behaviors. Very often the learner will be very excited at the outset. Then life happens. Other priorities take over. The great psychologist William James said that in order to change our habits, we must commit to the change, and allow no exceptions until the new skill is firmly embedded in our nature (becomes habit). You will not master speed reading by training a little one day and then not practicing again for a week or two. To move from new skill to mastery means consistently working with the skills over a period of time.

When was the last time you tried to change a habit? Were you successful? Did you do it overnight? Or, did you have to remind yourself over and over until the new skill became a habit?

Beware of what the sales page tells you about learning to speed read 16 minutes. You may be able to learn about it. You won't be able to master it. The key question for you is: is it worth devoting a little time consistently over what most behavioral psychologist will agree takes 30 -45 days to change your old habits into new ones?

5. Giving up too early. We live in a culture of instant gratitude. It seems almost everything is instantaneous. Unfortunately you have lifelong reading habits that won't change overnight. Jumping to conclusions too early and stopping your training because "it doesn't work" will just keep you where you already are. I'm often asked, "Does that speed reading stuff really work?" My flip answer is "no." "It" doesn't work. You work it! Effective speed reading is a systematic approach to dealing with print. First you learn the system. Then you apply the system. If you relate to this flaw, you need to enroll in a program that has personalized one-to-one support for the times when you feel like giving up.

6. "Reading" mindlessly. Once again, it is important to get the eyes moving efficiently, but you have to remember that behind the eyes should be your mind. What is your mind doing as your eyes are moving? Learn to activate and move your mind with your eyes. With proper training you can learn to move your mind faster as well. This is a comprehension issue.

7. Expecting that you should understand it completely after one try. Reading comprehension, or understanding the material, is not a one time event. For very simple things one exposure may be enough. However for larger documents, books, manuals, etc. that need to be fully understood and retained, thinking you should master it in one sweep is a myth. In fact comprehension is a process. A process is a systematic approach to accomplish a result. Learn how to build comprehension. Learn and apply the process.

8. The need to be perfect. If you are someone with a low frustration tolerance, you will never master speed reading. Perfection is an ideal state. As an ideal state, it is questionable as to whether it can ever be achieved in reality. We can strive for perfection and get closer and closer. Learning is a messy process. Rarely do we get it the first time around. Learning to speed read is the same. As with all learning, we learn a lot about ourselves in the process. Looking back at challenging things we have mastered, we discover the journey was not a straight perfect path. For those of us who love to learn, the journey was full of personal growth and now looking back worth the ride.

If you want to master speed reading skills, commit to the process, get a good teacher/coach to help you through the tough times, and keep these fatal mistakes in mind. You'll discover more than how to speed read. You'll unlock secrets of your mind you didn't even know existed.

Author's Bio: 

Ed Caldwell is the creator and publisher of the "Masters Online Program: Dynamic Reading, Memory, and Recall" and other live and web-based learning programs. As former National Director of Instruction and Certification for the world famous Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics program, Ed has 30 years experience teaching and testing new strategies to help people from all walks of life learn to read more efficiently. Trainer, speaker, and writer, he can be contacted at inquiry@productivelearn.com. He is the creator and president of Productive Learning Systems, Inc, and ProductivElearn.com, Inc. You can learn more at speedreadingtactics.com and download the free eBook, "The 10 Top Mistakes When Learning Speed Reading."