I was observing my bad reading habits and thought to summarise the observations.
These are bad reading habits I have observed in me and my near friends. They may be applicable to you as well.
I have researched and tested the solutions to these bad reading habits here, continue to read on.
Not setting clear intent or goal while reading.
Yes, I have observed many people just pick up the book, article or content & start reading it.
It is like driving without any place to go, you keep on reading/driving on and on.
I tried to keep the end in mind first before reading the material.
For Example – I was reading the article by HBR on psychological safety – I decided, I want to know “what it is ”? This gave me the goal to read the article to the end.
One Quick question – Do you read the material from start to end? Or struggle to keep up the pace?
So, If you are not clear about what you want from the material you are reading, you may not read the material properly.
I have observed myself getting lost in some reading and my mind starts wandering here and there.
The solution to this Bad reading habits
Always ask yourself what you want from this material?
I ask myself What, Why, How in that order while reading any material and it helps me to finish the material.
Poor posture while reading
A very good friend complains whenever she tries to read she gets sleepy. She could read 1 or 2 pages at the max and soon start to feel sleepy.
I asked her where she sat to read? She was reading while lying down on the bed or sofa.
Our posture has a great impact on our cognitive ability like your favorite place to relax.
Remember Sheldon from the Big Bang theory? He is so careful about selecting his place to sit. Well, I am not suggesting it be like the Sheldon, period.
The best posture for reading is with your back straight and you must be at an alert relaxed state.
The Solution for Bad reading habits.
I suggest you fix a place where you can sit comfortably and not disturbed for a good amount of time.
Make sure the place you select for reading has sufficient lights.
You can fix the time for reading, this will help you to build a good reading habit.
Fixation i.e reading one word at a time.
We are taught to read word to word from the beginning so this bad reading habit is old and rusty.
We read one word at a time which is called fixation. In other words, we fix our eyes at one word at a time.
This impacts your reading speed, you stay at a slow reading speed and for many people like me, it makes reading a boring experience.
The brain likes speed, don’t believe me? Don’t you enjoy binge-watching your favorite show? Our brain always wants to know more and quickly if it does not get that it starts to focus on other things.
This makes reading an unpleasant experience for the eyes also, it keeps on jumping from one word to another and gets tired eventually.
The solution to bad reading habits
Well, a simple solution is to start reading the sentence in a group of words.
Instead of reading like
I want to increase my reading speed.
Read like this
I want to| increase my| reading speed.|
This will be a bit uncomfortable in the beginning but can be learned through practice.
The other solution is to read in peripheral vision.
We read in tunnel vision type. That means we read like a tunnel-like focus.
Instead, we can use peripheral vision that could help read sentences in groups of words.
Vocalization and subvocalization
This is the most disruptive bad reading habit we have been taught for ages.
Remember, when we first learn to read, we are asked to read out loud, which is called vocalization or lip reading.
And when we grew up we were asked to read in mind, so we read out in the brain or mind, which is called subvocalization.
How vocalization and subvocalization are the problem?
When we read out loud we are doing two things, one is obviously trying to read and another is trying to pronounce every word. We do not need to pronounce any word for reading.
Reading is mostly a visual process, you see the signboard without reading and you understand the message. Or do you shout STOP in your head?
Still not convinced, Try this read out loud at 250 words or so. After reading see how much you have understood? The chances are very little.
While doing vocalization and subvocalization we are so busy in pronouncing the words our comprehension gets affected badly.
Lastly- Vocalization and subvocalization impact our reading speed. The average reading speed is 150 WPM (words per minute) to 250 WPM.
We speak 150 WPM to 250 WPM usually, which means we are not reading, we are speaking the material.
Our goal should be to reduce the number of words to read out and read at the thinking speed.
The solution to bad reading habits.
This habit is pretty difficult to get rid of, I have tried several ways but have not got any success so far.
I tried to read while keeping my tongue stuck to the upper side of the mouth, it somewhat helped in reducing lip reading.
I also tried chewing gums while reading, well it served as more distraction to the reading than reducing the problem.
I am currently working on a few more techniques and I shall keep you posted on successful techniques
Regression or re-reading.
Regression or re-reading is another difficult bad reading habit to get rid of.
Regression is reading the words or sentences again.
The researchers state that the average person spends one-third of their reading time in re-reading or regression. So if you are reading for one hour you may have wasted 20 minutes re-reading.
I observe that I re-read because that’s how I have been taught to read. If I don’t understand the phrase or word I tend to re-read that portion.
We need to learn that If you have not understood the first time, re-reading will not be of any use. You can get more clarity later. It happens many times that we understand the part in later reading.
For example, you came across a difficult word in the sentence, you may not know the word but can always know what it is trying to say from sentences.
The solution to this bad reading habits
You need to work more on your vocabulary. If you come across a difficult word in a sentence just put a tick mark there and find meaning later on.
Do some concentration exercises, read bad habit number 6, and work on the environment where you are reading.
You can use a pacer – your finger or pen to guide you through the reading material. This will help you enhance your concentration.
Poor reading environment
Selecting an ideal reading environment is crucial for good reading.
Do you usually get distracted while reading, or not able to focus on reading material?
I used to keep on changing places while reading, from a chair to floor to stairs to the sofa to bed. This not only hampered my reading speed but also my comprehension.
I have dedicated one place and time to reading at my home. This has helped me to develop a reading habit and it has trained my family members. I can not be disturbed at that place and at that time unless emergency of course.
Make sure the environment where you are reading has enough lighting and comfort. Poor lighting while reading can give fatigue to the eyes and can make reading a boring experience.
Other bad reading habits
- Getting overwhelmed with the information
You will be able to finish the book in one go someday with all speed reading techniques. If you practice them regularly and reduce the above mentioned bad reading habits.
I have now developed the habit of keeping the outcome in mind while reading the material. So before starting to read any book ask yourself “Why are you reading this?” “What will you achieve after reading this book/article?”
This will help you feel less overwhelmed.
- Not doing proper research before buying a book
Let me ask you a question.
Do you finish reading all the books you purchase?
Let me be honest, I was one of the people who bought the book just by seeing its cover, few reviews, and not knowing other details. And when I finally read the book, I did not find it appealing to me anymore.
Whenever you want to buy a book, always have clarity about why you need that book. You can also read a few pages to understand the writing style, fonts, and other details. See if you are comfortable with the book.
- Not planning properly
We read the book to learn new, you can not just pick up the book and try to finish it.
I always plan my reading, I do not just pick up books randomly.
In order to make maximum out of the book, I have clear intent about what I want to achieve out of this book. This gives me an idea to focus on important chapters and to read for the ideas.
To plan properly, you can also read book summaries beforehand or reviews on Amazon.
- Reading with “All or nothing attitude’.
I used to do this a lot, I will pick up a book and want to finish it as early as possible.
That reading was without any focus, so I could hardly finish half of the book and add it to my other unfinished project.
If you learn speed reading you can read a book in one sitting also, but having that forceful mindset affects adversely.
You can have small targets first then gradually move towards higher targets.
I always recommend reading book summaries before making any investments in books.
What are your bad reading habits? Comment below and share if I have missed and bad reading habits.
Reference – Speed reading for dummies about bad reading habits and how to overcome them.