You've decided to take up the practice of the essential success skill of speed reading. You start your practice, perhaps using a software program that helps to get your eyes moving 2-10 times faster through the print. You zip right through the reading selection and get to the end. Then, you notice that you don't have any idea what the material was about. Although this experience may be quite common in the initial phases of learning to speed read, it can often happen with traditional reading as well. Here is the key to stopping this time waster.

Reading is the ability to derive meaning from printed material. The reader is required to not only see all the print, but is also required to engage the mind in processing (or interpreting) the symbols on the page. This second phase is what reading comprehension is about. With most speed reading training programs, especially software, you will learn to get your eyes through the material faster. But what about getting your mind to respond?

When you read, whether it is very fast or not, remember to bring your mind to the party. Reading and staying focused on the print is one of the most common challenges untrained readers confront. Mind wanderers: Are you out there?

Mind wandering happens for a variety of reasons which could make a book by itself which we will not address here. However, mind wandering is mindlessness. You are not present to your thoughts, and in this application, to the meaning of the print. That means there is loss of focus and attention. The machine is running without its operator. It is a waste of time, whether you read speedily, or not.

Mindfulness is the practice of using your mind in such a way that you become an observer watching what is happening to you in the present moment without having emotional attachment. You may experience an emotion, but you merely observe having it. Although mindfulness has been practiced in Eastern spirituality for millennia, the practice has been applied to many different situations in the west including stress management, diet and nutrition, athletics and body mechanics, healing, decision making, and more. Psychology refers to it using the term metacognition - or thinking about your thinking. In psychological terms, this means we monitor our thinking while we are reading.

Mindfulness applies to better reading comprehension and longer term recall when you:

1. Read with a purpose. Ask yourself why are you reading what you are reading, and what do you want to get out of it?

2. Ask: What do I already know about this subject, topic, etc.? Bring any of your previously stored knowledge to the forefront of your mind. In most subjects, you bring something to the party.

3. Ask: What do I want to learn, understand, and find out from the material? These questions will focus your mind.

4. Monitor: As you go through the material summarize frequently. If the material does not have natural breaks such as headings and sub-heads, stop every page or 2, or whatever your "overload limit is." Sometimes the overload limit can be as short as a paragraph. With practice, you can increase your limit. Without the continuous monitoring, you will fall back into mindlessness and you merely move your eyes over the print. In the west, we refer to this mindlessness as, "the lights are on, but nobody is home" syndrome. When reading, this happens when the reader becomes passive and not physically and intellectually involved with the material. Too often people believe reading is a passive activity. It is not! Active reading is the key to mindfulness in reading. Active reading occurs when you are involved and engaged with the print.

5. Finalize: When you are finished the book, document, report, etc., do something with the information. Make notes, summarize, refer back to your opening questions to see if they are answered, draw an illustration, discuss with a friend or colleague, etc. If you skip this part, your long term recall will suffer dramatically. If the information is something you want to remember long term, you must make it your own by doing one or more of the previously mentioned tactics.

Bonus tip: When you regularly apply the "finalize" tip, you move your comprehension from short term memory to long term memory which builds better and lasting recall. Often people complain that they read and understand some material, but cannot remember it a day or two later. This happens due to the nature of short-term versus long-term memory. It you want to recall the information, you have to do something with it to transfer it to long-term.

Now that I have given you 5 essential tactics for better comprehension and recall at any speed, I'd like to invite you to pick up even more free tips on better comprehension and speed at

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 Having trained tens of thousands of people, he has mastered the art of the coaching, especially when learning speed reading. Ed is the creator and president of Productive Learning Systems, Inc, and, Inc. You can learn more tips and truths about speed reading at and download the free eBook, "The 10 Top Mistakes When Learning Speed Reading."

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