January 28, 2015

10 Stupid Simple Tricks to Speed Read and Remember Everything

How to speed readI’m sitting in a New York City Starbucks attempting to hide from the freezing drizzle that’s falling and got a text that said:

“Nathan, I heard you on a podcast, can you tell me more about you read so much while also remembering everything?”


First, understand my personal pattern of reading. 3 books each week. 1 biography. 2 strategy books. Average 900 pages read per week. I aim for this pattern each week but am not perfect and sometimes miss.

10 tricks I use to read fast and remember everything:

1. Literally gain an unfair advantage by expanding your viewing range into peripheral vision. This will allow you to “skip” reading 2-3 words on each side of the page. Doing this is more about self control than anything else.

Force yourself to skip them and let your peripheral vision do the trick. At first, it’ll feel silly, like you’re missing something – ignore this feeling and keep practicing. If you’re worried about comprehension at first, don’t worry about it. Focus first on speed. Retention of ideas in your periphery will come when you master compartmentalization (keep reading to learn how to do this).

2. Read without subvocalizing. Do not repeat the words in our head. Most people learned to read by doing this so for anyone older than 10, this’ll take practice to un-train yourself. The opposite of subvocalizing is compartmentalizing. Keep reading to learn how to compartmentalize.

3. Use a pen to set your speed and for note characterization (more later on). I use a Uni-Ball vision elite. They don’t bust on planes and I find that they leave clean lines easy for interpretation later on. This helps you with both speed and retention. Here is a picture from the current book I’m reading and what my pen tracking/notes look like.

4. Don’t read every word. Focus on skipping across a page like a well thrown stone skips across a smooth lake. Compartmentalize ideas and word combinations and then actively choose which to read. This takes practice. This is what a compartmentalized page might look like:

Speed Read

Your brain will get better at then picking the right “compartments to open” for comprehension:

compartmenatlize choose


Most people struggle with compartmentalizing because of the fear of missing out. Some tricks I used to get good at this was first to only read words that seemed to be longer than 5 letters. Note I didn’t actually count the letters in every word but by setting a constraint my brain could quickly determine whether or not to read.

Another short cut I used was to literally skip every 3 words. You start recognizing what patterns make sense to compartmentalize and which ones don’t. You’ll also find that certain genres follow different compartmentalizing patterns. (Bios are different than strategy books for example.)

5. Do not re-read. This means you must read in a place where you are not distracted. Most people spend upwards of 30% of their reading time, re-reading.

6. Establish a code while you read to easily take notes after you’ve finished the book. My code is: Underline general notes, circle people’s names for potential future bio reads, double underline other books or works referenced in the book. You’ll see all my notes are broken into these categories.

7. Don’t let your eyes stop. Use your pen to set a constant speed and stick to the speed. If you find your eyes stopping, it means you need to get better at compartmentalizing words and phrases real time to keep up with the pace you set with your pen.

8. Read from a place of curiosity. The way I pick the next biography to read is usually based off a name mentioned in the last bio I read. This allows me to create a fully connected story from all the content I ever consume. Your mind appreciates this and you’ll find your natural interest in reading to be greater.

9. In order to take something I read about say, Warren Buffet, I’ll connect physical actions he does in his life with the theories he teaches. This activates multiple senses and allows me to retain information in a story like way, rich with vivid detail.

For example, Warren Buffet’s Bio said he is famous for drinking a coke and eating two McDonalds burgers at an average lunch. The week after I read Snowball (his bio), I mimicked this eating pattern for a full 7 days and tied 7 key learnings from his Bio into each coke and burger lunch.

During Monday’s lunch I internalized: Save $.75 of every after tax dollar and put it into a combination of low fund indexes for the long term, as I took the next munch of my burger. Click here to see how I spend/invest all my money.

Tuesday’s lunch would be another lesson and so on and so forth. I think this is one of the secret reasons I’m good at retention that isn’t well explained online.

10. Lastly, one week after I read each book, I go back and write up the notes. When I do this I create a section called “ideas to implement at Heyo” in the notes. I then surface these ideas to my management team during our Monday afternoon meetings. We often debate these ideas which helps further retention. If you want to see an example of what the final notes look like, click here.

Reading in such a hyper focused and intentional way is not for everyone. I’m super competitive and like the fact that I’ve found a way to retain so much information and do it at a speedy pace. Because I’m just 25 (and have about 2.5b seconds left to live if I live to be the average white men in North America, 88) these tactics, like compound interest, will pay off for years to come.

Thanks to Kaivan, Greg, Austin, Claudio, Chris, Azul, Hunter, Michael, Wilson, and Richard for helping me edit this before posting.

Tell me what questions you have in the comments.

August 10, 2014

How To Read Fast and Retain Everything

People ask me how I read so much and actually retain information. This is the system I build for myself.

Week of August 4th:
1. Read Walt Disney Biography
2. Read The Perfect Store (eBay history)
3. Read Creativity Inc, (Pixar history)
How to read: Ignore first and last two words in every line. Circle any names mentioned who I find interesting. Write “read” and underline any other books, articles, or publications mentioned that I want to study. This strategy works best when using a $1.99 Uni-Ball Vision Elite pen made in Japan. Underline critical themes deserving of space on the 8.5×11″ page of notes for each book.

Sunday 8/10:
1. Flip through Walt Disney, The Perfect Store, Creativity Inc and capture all underlined notes in a one page review. Write down all people mentioned in book along with all publications mentioned.

Week of August 11th:
1. 6:30-6:45am read the one page summary of Walt, Perfect Store, Creativity Inc. (do this every morning for a week, then once every Sunday for 3 months, then once a quarter for 4 quarters, then 1 every half year for ever)
2. Filter all decisions through creative lens Walt did with no focus on finances. Smoke cigarettes. Avoid family. Study employee desks late at night to keep pulse of company. Convince yourself you’re Walt.
3. Read The Obstacle is The Way, Willpower, Hillary Clinton Biography

Sunday 8/17:
1. Flip through Obstacle is way, Willpower, Hillary Clinton and capture all underlined notes in a one page review. Write down all people mentioned in book along with all publications mentioned.

Rinse, wash, repeat.

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