Do you remember Aesop's fable of the Tortoise and the Hare? As you read this article about speed reading you probably think I'm going to talk about the fast hare. On the contrary, I am going to sing the praises of the lowly tortoise.

The lesson of the tortoise is the character trait development of consistent effort towards a goal. As you recall from the story, the tortoise astonishingly won the race. The persistence of effort is what won the day. That same consistent effort over time is what leads to speed reading mastery.

When I first started teaching speed reading 30 years ago, we taught 3 hour classes over a seven week period. Each week a student's progress was checked and new goals set for the upcoming week. The effort over time paid off for nearly all students. There was enough practice over a long enough period of time to develop mastery.

In today's culture, unless someone takes a class for a grade or as part of a certification, attendance radically drops off after 4 sessions for nearly all kinds of training classes. Life takes over and distractions take us off course. Does this sound familiar to you and your behavior trying to learn something new?

Inconsistent effort is perhaps the biggest cause of failure for those who want to learn to speed read today. Our culture today is all about instant access and instant gratification. However, many things that provide long lasting satisfaction do take some time. If you plant a seed in a garden the flower does not appear the next day. Great restaurants often print on the menu, "great food takes time to prepare." The same is true for learning a lifelong set of skills like speed reading.

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, just like the hare. Then life happens. Other priorities take over. We don't get what we originally set out to get. You stop yourself short on your road to speed reading mastery.

The great psychologist William James said that in order to change our habits, we must first commit to the change, then take the first opportunity to apply the new skill, and finally, 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 later. To move from new skill to mastery means consistently working with the skills over a period of time. You can reprogram your brain, but it doesn't happen by magic overnight.

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?

Here's what you need to do to avoid the costly mistake of inconsistent effort and practice:

1. Write down what the result of learning to speed read will do for you. Include as much sensory detail of the final result as possible. Post this somewhere will you will see it every day. If you're into electronic management, create a pop-up message to appear daily. Keeping it in front of you helps keep you focused.

2. Plan and schedule regular practice sessions. Write it down wherever you put your scheduled activities. If it doesn't get scheduled, it probably won't happen. If daily is not possible for you, then commit to 4 practice sessions per week to skill building exercises. These exercises are in addition to learning the content of speed reading.

3. Get a coach. Contracting with someone who will help monitor your progress and to whom you will regularly report your progress to will help keep the commitment going inside you. The coach will keep your feet to the fire. Being accountable to someone other than you helps to overcome wavering commitment.

4. Understand and appreciate the natural learning cycle. Your skill development will move through specific stages. The first 2 stages will be uncomfortable because you will be developing competing behaviors. You should expect that and be willing to push through the discomfort. Don't believe any marketing copy that tells you differently. You will be learning to re-program your brain. As they say, "Rome wasn't built in a day." Be patient with yourself as you learn new ways of absorbing information.

5. Be willing to make mistakes. Learning is a messy path. The important thing to remember is do you understand your mistakes and are you willing to adjust accordingly?

Beware of what the sales page tells you about learning to speed read in 16 minutes. You may be able to learn about it. You won't be able to master it. Here's a key question for you to answer: is it worth devoting a little time consistently over what most behavioral psychologists will agree takes 30-45 days to change your old habits into new ones? If you are willing to consistently apply your efforts, with proper guidance you can change a lifetime of old inefficient habits into an amazing new method for lifelong learning and growth by developing your speed reading mastery.

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 He is the creator and president of Productive Learning Systems, Inc, and, Inc. You can learn more at and download the free eBook, "The 10 Top Mistakes When Learning Speed Reading."

Additional Resources covering Speed Reading can be found at:

Website Directory for Speed Reading
Articles on Speed Reading
Products for Speed Reading
Discussion Board
Ed Caldwell, the Official Guide To Speed Reading