I have always loved reading. Starting when I was a lad growing up at a time when a trip to the public library to select your next 2 books for the coming week was a treat.
That love of reading has stayed with me and has broadened to be categorised as content consumption be it text, video or voice alone — or any combination of all of these elements. It isn’t unusual for me to shift between modes on my Kindle as I shift through a truly seamless experience where I can read on my iPhone, then pick up reading where I left off on my actual Kindle device and if I have also purchased the audio version of the book, I now have a seamless transition to listening from the very point that my reading left off.
No doubt you now have a picture of my attachment to consuming stories be they fiction or nonfiction.
A recent experience shifted my consumption workflow for the better because I discovered a choice that I understood but didn’t know how best to leverage it for my benefit.
I was moving through this well-worn flow of book consumption — read, shift device, read, listen, shift device, read and so it goes. The problem on this occasion was that the listening was “sticking”. It was so frustrating as I kept retracing and re-listening, but still I was finding my concentration slipping.
At this point I decided to try a little experiment — to increase the audio reading speed. At first, I found the experience a bit jarring — a bit like putting too much vinegar on your chips and getting that first taste assault. But then you get to enjoy the change.
Which is exactly what happened with my audio speed increase. More specifically, these are the main steps and my realisations:
- I started listening to an audio version of a nonfiction book at normal speed. This continued for about 5 minutes.
- At this point I moved up to 1.25x audio speed. My first reaction was the disappearance of the relaxed reading style and pace that has now become a bit hurried in its delivery. This ran for another 5 minutes.
- I now notched up to 1.5x audio speed. At this point I had a “fight or flight” moment where I was deciding whether to extend or abandon my experiment.
I extended my experiment and what happened next surprised me.
At 1.5x it was immediately off putting to me. Fast, getting a bit squeaky and seemingly no gaps. After another few minutes though I started to catch up to the speed. Not only did it start to sound somewhat normal, it also became more comprehendible to me as the increased speed had eliminated the normal speed rhythm and with it the normal speed gaps between sentences and paragraphs.
My discovery was that the elimination of gaps eliminated the space in audio where my mind would start to wander.
I have pushed the speed up to 2x and whilst it works, my comfortable pace is 1.5x. Dual benefits are that I have made a step change in my comprehension and increased my content consumption pace by 50%.
If this sounds to you like a win - I am in agreement.
This might not be for everyone but it warrants your own experiment. But don’t forget to acclimatise yourself to the speed increase as jumping straight to 1.5x or 2x might have you prematurely killing your own discovery path.