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Mind Mapping and Speed Reading

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    The skill of speed-reading came into being at the start of the 20th century. It became necessary because the influx of publications of every sort into the public consciousness made up a deluge of information that people found hard to cope with when they adhered to normal reading rates. So speed-reading was developed.

    According to speed reading instructor Michael Tipper, most people who are not trained in speed-reading read at the speed of 200 words per minute. These same people believe that this is the normal pace they should be reading at because most of the people around them also maintain the same speed. Tipper states, though, that it is possible for most people to increase their reading speed to much faster rates – essentially to become speed readers, and even to eventually reach the ability to read 1000 words per minute. This is what he claims on his site at: http://www.michaelonspeedreading.com/. And he says he has the confidence to predict that because he has taught speed reading to over 70,000 people.

    Now you may be wondering what speed reading has to do with mind mapping. Well, to start with, both tasks require you to use your eyes and your mind at the same time. When you learn to speed read, a speed reading machine will guide your eyes down the page at faster and faster rates until you reach your maximum reading speed. You are then required to take a quiz on what you just read to see how much information you have retained. Mind mapping can also be used by a speed reader to note down what information he can recall from what he just read. The difference between the quiz and the mind map is that the quiz takes a line-by-line format; the mind map, on the other hand, allows you to keep adding ideas that you recall from the reading material infinitely (at least, until you run out of paper to draw on) in ways that you prefer. A quiz asks for written words. A mind map lets you doodle and sketch in symbols for your ideas, if you believe that will help you recall and retain the information better.

    If you learn to speed read, you will find that it will aid you in your mind mapping. You will absorb information at a faster rate – then you can use mind mapping as a complement to speed reading as a learning style. Drawing on a mind map may help you to express ideas you initially read as words at a faster clip. Not only will you comprehend information fast while speed reading, but you can check how much you actually retained in your mind by mind mapping. That’s how it works.

    Reading fast does not necessarily mean you are doing speed-reading. You might be reading fast but not absorbing the information – your eyes are simply darting from word to word, but nothing is entering your head. A quick attempt at a mind map will reveal if this is true. Genuine speed reading means that you are able to pick up meaning along the way. Again, if you are practicing real speed-reading, you can test yourself with a mind map. For example, try mind mapping what you have just read in this document so far. Remember anything? That’s how you will know – through a mind map.

    You may attempt to read faster by yourself if you motivate yourself to read two or more words at a glance and try to limit the number of times your eyes regress, look back over past words, or wander off to other sentences. You could also use a visual guide, or a pointer, to hasten the speed at which your eyes read words. Basically, a visual guide such as your own finger helps you to see just where you are in the sentence. Your finger acts as an accurate reference point for your eyes. Other visual guides commonly used are pens and pencils; some people like to use cards but the finger, pens and pencils are better because they allow you to focus on reading from left to right horizontally – a card just shows one line of words. To use a visual guide most effectively, keep its point trained just underneath the particular words you are reading. Move it along the sentence smoothly and regularly – this permits your eyes to select the right groups of words to look at. Speed-reading will occur when you practice moving the visual guide at speeds that go a little faster at every training session. In response, your mind will cope by concentrating more and improving its level of comprehension in tandem with the speed.

    Tony Buzan also developed a speed reading technique, in addition to the mind mapping method. This technique is known as the Tony Buzan Mind Map Organic Study Technique. You start off by browsing through the reading material for around 10 minutes. This allows you to get an idea as to how the ideas are organized – if the reading material is a book, find out whether it employs summaries before each chapter, or graphics, descriptive headings, or lists to make the information easier to absorb. Next step (which should take around 5 minutes) is to apportion the time you will use to read each portion of the reading material – Buzan recommends breaking up your reading time into 20-50 minute segments, with a 10-minute break in between segments. Having browsed through the book, do a fast mind map (around two minutes) of what you understood. This allows you to keep the knowledge in context. The third step is to create a new mind map – this one will be about what questions you may have about the content, as well as your goals for reading in the first place. (Don’t take more than 10 minutes for this one.) This gives you an idea of when you have read enough of the material and should stop. Take note that at this point you have used around 30 minutes preparing to read the material. You might want to rest or stretch for 10 minutes more before proceeding.

    Another thing you should observe is that you don’t need to follow the rest of these steps for every kind of reading material – we will indicate where each step is applicable. Now, the step known as Overview can be used for any kind of book because you will be looking for the major concepts of the book. Check out any tables, lists, bold-face material, graphics, pictures, and headlines which help you to find that out. You will observe again that this step alone will allow you to draw a central key idea, as well as the first level of sub-topic ‘tree branches’, for your third mind map. In fact, you might see that this is all that you really need and may want to stop here. If not, proceed to the next step which is called Preview. Here you will be required to practice selective reading – namely, which parts of the book are not clear to you after doing the Overview? You do Preview by perusing the first sentence of every paragraph as well as chapter summaries. This step allows you to spend time looking for information that is crucial to helping you understand the reading material. Then get your third mind map and add more ‘tree branches’ of information to it. The step Buzan dubbed Inview should be used only if there are difficult paragraphs, or portions, of books which you feel are necessary to your comprehension. This step requires you to simply read through the difficult parts which are stepping stones to your reading goals. If your reading goals don’t require it, do not do the Inview step. However, the step labeled Review is necessary for all types of reading material. This entails redrawing the mind map again – purely from memory this time. Yes, we know, this is your fourth mind map – be patient with yourself. Actually, you need to put this version of the mind map aside then attempt to draw a fifth version the following day. You are then asked to compare Version #5 with your original mind map – Are they the same? Are they barely similar? Which mind map is more thorough?

    The very last step is mandatory if the reading material is very important to remember. You are required to draw a mind map of the same material after one week, another mind map after a month, and a last mind map after a year. It is further recommended that you share the information you learned with other people – this may even mean displaying your most recent mind map to them – so that you will reinforce the learning process.

    Buzan also gives other tips that should help you in the task of speed-reading:

    1)    “Warm up” your eyes for the task of reading at high speeds by allowing them to take a quick glance throughout the reading material.

    2)    Make sure that the room you will be reading in is not too warm. The ideal is to maintain a slightly cool room temperature that hovers from 16 to 18 degrees Celsius (or 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.)

    3)    Though we all like pleasant surroundings to read in, don’t get too comfortable or you will fall asleep. Also, maintain a reading area that is free from clutter that could distract you from your reading.

    4)    If you will be reading over long periods of time, try to take breaks when you lift your eyes from looking at the surface of the page and instead examine far-away objects. This allows your eye muscles to relax and rest, preventing you from getting fatigued.

    5)    When you encounter something visually important (such as a graph, photograph, or a page of print text), you may halt your reading, shut your eyes, and try to visualize a mental reproduction of this important image. This tip will aid your recall and hone your powers of imagination.

    6)    Keep a good posture, neither rigid nor tense but relatively upright. Also, your eyes ought to be 15-24 inches away from the book.

    Studying how to speed-read the right way will allow you to think faster while becoming more creative, take better notes (your mind map will prove this), find exams easier to take and pass, be more effective at studying, achieve higher reading speeds and comprehension levels, recall practically anything you need or want to remember, enhance the range of your vocabulary and intelligence, increase your visual perception, be mentally aware, shave off seconds, minutes, even hours from your total study time, and even eventually achieve reading speeds of over 1,000-words per minute to around 10,000-words per minute.

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