Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I Might Be Able to Do Something in 20 Hours

Written by: on May 17, 2014

This little project was intriguing to me: using the principles of Josh Kaufman’s book, The First 20 Hours, How to Learn Anything…Fast.

Admittedly I probably spent close to twenty hours trying to figure out what to do. I likely should have settled on learning how not to avoid the task at hand. It did cross my mind, but like everything else, it quickly was replaced by another idea. Kind of reminds me of waiting for the Tube in London.

Here’s a few ideas that went streaking by:

  •  Violin. I’ve always wanted to play the violin! But I don’t actually have one and I didn’t sense that purchasing one for this exercise would be the best use of my money.
  • The left-handed layup. I love basketball and enjoy playing recreationally, but for some reason, I’ve always struggled with the left-handed layup. This would be a perfect chance to work on that missing piece of my pick-up arsenal.  However the forecast of rain for the entire week made it impossible to make use of my driveway laboratory for this experiment.
  • Bake a cake from scratch (my wife’s idea).  I have no idea where ‘scratch’ starts, let alone work from it. This seemed like too large a mountain climb, the book wasn’t titled ‘The first 200 hours, how to pull the hairs out of your head one at a time.”

Finally, my train came in…Speedreading. Practical, useful and something that I could continue to develop.  It made perfect sense, learn to read quicker in a short window of time. They were made for each other. In fact we could even call it a loveable project.

Off I went. I haven’t been to the public library in town in several years, but considered it to be a great place to start for research. My twenty hours were going to start by being well informed. At least that was my intention until I arrived at the library and realized that it was one of those rare days in which it was closed for staff training. Of course it took me a long time to read the poster rather than keep pulling on the locked door. Maybe I need a course in simple observation, but the book wasn’t titled “The first 20 seconds, how to stop looking like an idiot on a public sidewalk”.

Internet research became my best resource.  Four articles stand out:

  • http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newISS_02.htm – This summarizes the SQ3R Method that we have discussed in our cohort.  Great principles of being aware of the general outline of what you’re reading developing questions and then reading according to that purpose.
  • http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/01/16/how-to-read-faster-bill-cosby/ – this is an article which reviews Bill Cosby’s (yes that Bill Cosby) book. He presents three methods: previewing, skimming and clustering. I like the idea of previewing and use it often in research. Skimming I’m not so good at as I tend to get lost or find myself randomly moving through a page. Clustering, now that seems like a great idea, but requires the most training. Which leads to…
  •  http://fourhourworkweek.com/2009/07/30/speed-reading-and-accelerated-learning/ – Tim Ferriss shares a concise version of his PX Project which he boastfully guarantees an increase in a matter of just 20 minutes. The premise is based on the clustering idea but is developed further.  It got my attention, held my attention and convinced me based on the length of time it took me to actually read the article.

To start you need to determine a baseline. My regular reading rate was approximately 300 wpm. In the speed reading world, this is considered a pedestrian rate. The good news is that it qualifies me to be a perfect guinea pig for this method. Taking my pen in hand I began the pacing exercises. Not reading for comprehension, just practicing keeping a consistent pace for one minute and then two and then three minutes. This was actually harder than I thought because of my tendency to keep slowing down so that I could read the words as they flew past the tip of my pen.

Next was the technical skill development: increasing my horizontal view, or as Bill Cosby calls it, clustering. The idea here is to train your eyes to look at the sentence as an image rather than individual letters and words, trusting your brain to process what’s in the image. It’s like looking at the piano in our living room. One quick glance and my brain knows that is more than a piano. It has a metronome on it, piano books, decorations on the top. My car keys are there. The stool has a cushion and the jar on the corner has about 4 or 5 pencils. The magnetic music staff and notes sits on the front of it waiting for the piano students to come for the lessons with my wife. One quick glance provided that information. It was all there and I didn’t specifically have to look at each one. If my brain can do that, then maybe there is hope.

Here’s my results to this point, when it comes to speed reading:

  • Through the 20 minute cycles of skill training, I was able to improve my reading speed to 370 wpm after the first cycle.
  • After a few different cycles over the course of the last few days, that has increased to 580 wpm with comprehension of what I’m reading.
  • My pacing rate has increased to just over 800 wpm. However, I can barely sustain that for three minutes. I will need to undergo some off-road track training in order to improve that skill.

A couple of observations:

I was surprised by the quick and noticeable increase in reading rate. The skills training provided allow for immediate feedback and allow for an easy way to mark progress.

  • I recognize that I am easily distracted, not by outside things, but by the book itself. As I read on the right page, I tend to sneak a quick peek back to the left to see if there is anything I miss.
  • This is actually hard. In order to properly do this, you need to sit upright with the book flat on the table. The height position of your eyes is important, as it helps you minimize peripheral distractions and keep you focused on the actual words and not the margins or the snacks lying beside your book.
  • I’m not sure that baking a cake would have turned out as well as this.
  • I wish it was sunny enough to practice my left handed lay up.

What will I do next?

I will continue to work on these skills. I’ve been encouraged enough by these early results.

I may even give some of the apps like Spritz, Velocity and Acceleread, a try. They promote themselves as tools which can develop the cluster capacity.

Turns out this blog was a little longer than I normally write, maybe it’s because I was able to read it faster as I went along.

We’ll call that progress.

About the Author

Deve Persad

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