How I Read and Listen 300% Faster

22 January, 2023
Self-improvement; Productivity

I listen at 4x speed and read at 1000wpm. This article will explain how you can train yourself to read and listen 300% faster. This is the ultimate productivity skill in three ways.

First, you learn more per unit time (read 3 books in the time someone else reads 1).

Second, you free up time for every other part of life.

Third, you increase the rate at which you think. Once you listen at 4x speed, a normal conversation provides so much extra thinking time.

The premise of this article is that you are reading for the purpose of learning rather than enjoyment. Or if you're like me, then learning and enjoyment are synonymous.

Part I: Speed reading

Only 40% of speed reading is about reading words faster. The remaining 60% comes from the method you apply to reading. I’ll first explain my ‘method’ and then how to ‘read words faster’.

1. Learn the Right Method

1.1. Focus on insights gained per unit time

Success in reading isn’t defined by # of pages read. It’s defined by insights gained per unit time.

To maximize insights, non-fiction books shouldn’t be read word-for-word. Instead:

  • Skim stories. Around 70% of non-fiction books are made up of stories and examples
  • Skim the boring or tedious. The start of a chapter is often less useful. Same with the last few chapters
  • When skimming, read the first line of each paragraph. A good author summarizes the entire paragraph in the first line. The last line can also be helpful

1.2. Read actively

Observe your compulsion to take notes. If you are compelled to take lots of notes, that’s a sign of an insightful book.

However, there are exceptions to the ‘note-taking rule’, including biographies and fiction. “Dune” and “Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman” have had an enormous impact on my life, yet I didn’t take many notes on them.

To generate more insights:

  • Ask questions about what you're reading
  • Every few pages, pause to recollect what you just read. If you can’t recall it, you weren’t focusing (or the content was meaningless)
  • Sometimes speeding up generates more insights since it forces you to focus
  • Sometimes you need to slow down to give yourself time to process the insights
  • Always ask yourself, “how am I different now that I’ve read this?” This is the definition of a valuable insight. You want books to catalyze change

If I'm not generating insights, it's typically because the book is dull or repetitive. The solution? Read faster or read a different book.

1.3. Compound knowledge

Your knowledge base determines how quickly you can comprehend complex information.

Bill Gates can read 100s of challenging books because he has a large knowledge base. If Bill and I read the same thing, he will learn more.

To build your knowledge base, try to gain multidisciplinary knowledge. An example is Elon Musk who would read two books a day spanning topics like philosophy, programming, science fiction, religion, engineering, physics, product design, and more.

The more you read, the more you'll be able to read.

1.4. Read multiple books simultaneously

Great insights come from reading multiple books simultaneously. For example, reading Dune alongside Steve Jobs’ biography alongside Jeff Bezos’ shareholder letters was like chocolate ice cream with olive oil and salt: sounds stupid in theory but is incredible in practice.

This allowed for learning transfer. Learning transfer is taking knowledge from one domain and applying it to another.

1.5. Batch consume similar content

Another way I increase insights is to batch consume similar content. For example, I listen to 20 of one person’s podcasts in a row whilst reading their book. This is helpful because:

  1. You develop a deeper understanding of someone's thinking
  2. Repetition hammers home the key points
  3. You can increase listening/reading speed since parts are repetitive and you are adjusted to the person's style

2. Learn Speed Reading

Speed reading is a useful tool. The problem is applying speed reading before learning the right reading method — there’s no point speed reading what need not be read at all.

In any case, here are my top speed reading tips.

2.1. Use a visual pacer

Use your left pointer finger, a pencil, or some other pointing device to pace yourself when reading. This is useful for a few reasons:

  1. Eyes are attracted to motion. Adding motion increases focus
  2. Your nervous system is set up to absorb content better when both sight and touch are involved
  3. Pacing avoids back-skimming, which is a massive problem in reading

2.2. Make fewer fixations per line

In every line we read, our eyes fixate on a certain number of words. We might fixate on 12 words, 8 words, or 4 words. The goal is to fixate on around 3 groups of words per line.

To make fewer fixations per line, you can try to use your peripheral vision. To force yourself to do this, you can indent an inch on either side of the book when reading and trust your peripheral to pick up the rest.

2.3. Read for shorter, more intense bursts

Lack of focus is one of the primary reasons for slow reading. Speed reading requires intense focus. I enjoy this focus since it allows me to have more insights per unit time.

Reading faster can increase comprehension because it forces you to focus.

2.4. Practice reading beyond your current ability

Reading is like gym training — you need to stress your ‘reading muscles’ to grow. When reading unimportant content, force yourself to read above your current ability. You will comprehend a bit less, but it will pay off in the long run.

Part II: Speed Listening

I don’t have any special hacks for speed listening. It’s simply practice. Particularly practice outside of your comfort zone. If your comfort zone is 1.5x speed, listen at 2x. If your comfort zone is 3.5x, listen at 4x. My friend claims to comprehend 6x speed.

To get to these speeds, you need to use specific apps:

  • Apple podcasts only goes to 2x
  • Spotify and Audible go to 3.5x
  • Owltail goes to 32x speed and is a wonderful podcast player all around. Would recommend!
  • Video Speed Controller is the Chrome extension I use to speed up videos
  • Apple text-to-voice can read Kindle books to you. Or you can use a tool like Speechify

It’s important to be selective about which content you listen to at faster speeds.

  • If it’s a new or complex topic, it pays to slow down
  • If you’re tired, slow down. My HRV and recovery scores correlate with my ability to listen quickly
  • If it’s a biography or story-style podcast, speed up
  • It’s audio quality is high, it's easier to speed up. Audio quality is a combination of (a) your headphones, and (b) the speaker’s microphone.


If you take away one thing from this article it’s that success isn’t defined by # of pages read. It’s defined by insights gained per unit time. Learn what works for you to optimize that. Or don’t. It’s up to you!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
See all articles