Posts Tagged ‘speed reading’

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about focus lately.  It’s one of those things that I started thinking about  a bit a while back and is now popping up at every turn.  I’ve generally been very good about being able to focus in very closely on a task, but I’m now convinced that this is an overlearned skill, at least for me.  Or perhaps it’s a borderline hyperfocus issue, although I really do try to avoid self-diagnosing psychological disorders, otherwise I’d drive myself crazy.

There are about a dozen aspects of this concepts flying through my head (so much for being overly focused), but lets start with three.

Speed Reading:

I am interested in increasing my reading speed.  I mean, geeze, there are like a million fiction books on my to read list and then there is all of the technical reading that I can’t seem to keep up with.  And that doesn’t even count getting lost in the internets for extended periods of time.

One of the techniques I’ve seen that makes a lot of sense is to learn to scan down the page rather then scanning each line horizontally.  This would involve learning to de-focus enough that you register an entire line at a time.  Now to add a bit of weight to this idea, one of the fastest readers I know says that when reading a old fashioned paper book (remember those), she would routinely register spelling errors on the right hand page while she was still reading the left hand page.  Pretty impressive, no?  In any case, I’ll take that as at least anecdotal evidence that a particularly speedy reader is utilizing a wider focus than I.

Sparring:

I spent nearly a decade practicing Kung Fu.  One of the core skills is to be able to spar.  It was never my favorite part of the class, I was much more interested in learning forms – the choreographed set of movements that at least in theory one could then decouple and use whilst sparring.  In any case, while I was never great at sparring and I’ve heard many times that some people are ‘fast-twitch’ and some are ‘slow-twitch’, one thing that really helped was to defocus my eyes.  Just look at in the general direction of the person I was sparring, not at any particular part of them.  Or looking at it slightly differently, focusing too much on a particular aspect of your opponent is a really good way to miss some other part of him or her heading your way.

Sight Reading:

As I’ve mentioned before, I am diving back into music after half a lifetime  of not practicing.  Or perhaps I’m just sticking my toe in the water to check the temperature?  No, I’m pretty sure I’m doing a cannonball.  Anyway, one thing that I was never very good at was sight reading, so I’d like to correct that this time around.  Sight reading on the piano is quite a task.  Here’s just a very simple sample of  a piano staff with lyrics for those of you that don’t read music.

Piano Staff

The notes on and around the top five lines or treble clef are generally played by the right hand, the notes on the bottom five lines or bass clef are generally played by the left hand and the words in the middle are sung (okay, duh on the last part).  It’s not uncommon for a number of verses to be written in the middle so that the distance between the clefs is greater.  There is also a common variation where the melodic line and the lyrics are written out above the piano part, but I think that’s generally intended for someone other than the piano player to be reading.  It’s relatively easy once you’ve got the basics down to read any of the three components.   It’s a matter of practice to get fingers (or voice) to reproduce what is written.

The thing that I’m obsessing about right now though is the ability to follow all three things at the same time.  I know people who can do this cold, so it’s definitely humanely possible.  I have no doubt that there is a large component of practice in that ‘cold’ is a bit different for someone that has been reading music for decades than someone who is just starting (or restarting).  If for no other reason than that as a beginner focus has a tendency to shift to one’s hands on the keyboard and then all hell breaks loose. But it seems like there is some fundamental ability to track those three things slightly separated on the staff that I should be able to get to click.

So that’s where I am.  I need to figure out how to defocus.  I’ll probably not go back to sparring, but I am going to take another run at speed reading training to see if I can find a tool or program that works for me.  And I might take another pass at improving my touch typing speed while I’m at it.  After all there are all those books out there just begging to be read.