By popular demand the PhotoReading discount is back. Learning Strategies Corporation gave me permission to once again offer you an ongoing discount on their PhotoReading program.
For details see the PhotoReading page.
You may wish to check out my previous reviews of the PhotoReading system here:
A year of PhotoReading
It’s been about a year since I first went through the PhotoReading system (I have the Deluxe package), and I continue to use the methods as I first learned them. I’ve also fielded many questions from people who have gone through the system. I’m going to candidly share some of what I’ve learned over the past year, both from my own personal experience as well as the feedback I’ve received from others.
First off, I want to dispel a common misconception about PhotoReading. That misconception is that it’s a faster form of regular reading or speed reading. PhotoReading isn’t speed reading; it’s a multi-step method for for efficiently extracting key information from written material. The fast-page turning step may be the sexiest looking part of the system, but taken out of context that step has limited value on its own.
Does it work?
There’s some debate as to whether the rapid page flipping step has much of an effect, since this step supposedly involves subconscious learning and therefore doesn’t have the same feel as slow reading. My experience has been that this step does have an effect when I’m open to it working. If I tell myself I’m just flipping pages and can’t possibly get anything from them, then I normally won’t perceive any special impact from this step. However, if I do it with an open mind and a positive expectation that some subconscious effect is indeed occurring, I tend to see evidence that it works.
For example, when I do the rapid page turning step while reading a self-help book that includes lots of stories, I often get an emotional hit as I go through the book, which I can later verify fits the nature of the stories. Secondly, there have been times when I’ll PhotoRead a book, and before doing the activation step, something will trigger my knowledge of what’s in the book. One time someone posted a question in the forums, and I knew the answer was in the book I’d just PhotoRead, and I also knew right where to find it. This caught my attention because the question was about something entirely different than the book’s main topic, but I just had this inner knowing that the answer was in this particular part of the book, and indeed it was.
The page flipping step may look cool, but really it’s just one part of the system. All the PhotoReading steps work together as a complete whole. If I skip one of the steps or don’t take it seriously, my comprehension of the book may be weak. But when I apply the steps religiously, even when I think they may be unnecessary, my results have been terrific.
Perhaps the number one lesson PhotoReading has taught me is that reading must be purposeful if I wish to retain what I read. How many books that you’ve read do you still remember a year later? Most of our retention of what we read drains out of us within 48-72 hours. What did you read 3 days ago, and what did you learn from it? How much detail has been lost? Is your reading activity more than an addiction to disposable info crack?
Defining your purpose is a major part of the PhotoReading system. Consequently, I’ve learned to be much more selective about what I read. When considering a book, I’ll preview the covers and the table of contents and then ask myself: What specific information do I want from this book? What do I want to learn that will still be of use to me 5 years from now? There are a lot of books I’d have otherwise read that I now reject because I can’t come up with a clear reason for reading them other than simply to engage in the act of reading. I’ve learned that if I can’t get clear on why I should read a book, it’s a waste of my time altogether. Whether I slow-read it or PhotoRead it, I’m not going to get much value out of it, and I’m not going to retain it.
I’ve heard similar feedback from others, especially college students. Maybe you’ve been assigned a book to read, and you just don’t care about the content. The problem is that whether you slow-read it or PhotoRead it, you’re unlikely to retain much because you’re telling your brain, “This is irrelevant. I don’t care about this. Let’s just cram in enough info to pass the test, and then I’ll forget it.” That isn’t a good way to learn. If you don’t care about what you’re reading, you’re not going to retain well.
Comprehension and retention
When you slow-read a book that you don’t have a good reason for reading, it’s easier to maintain the illusion that you’re getting something out of it because you’re scanning the content word by word. It feels like you’re absorbing the ideas because you’re consciously aware of the words flowing through your mind. But realistically, you’re going to forget virtually all of it within a few days, and you’ll be left with only a fuzzy notion of the book’s contents. A year later you may barely remember you read the book at all. It may seem like this is the best way to comprehend a book, but in the long run, it’s mostly a waste of time. I read hundreds of books this way, and while I did encounter some useful ideas, most of those books were useless to me.
With PhotoReading, your purpose for reading gets magnified because if you have no compelling reason to read a book, you’ll very quickly discover that you’re not getting much out of it. This isn’t a failure of the PhotoReading system — it happens because you’re telling your mind the content isn’t important, so it has nothing to latch onto. When this happens the PhotoReading step devolves into little more than turning pages. But since you don’t have the illusion of comprehension as you do with slow reading, you will normally discover within minutes that a book just isn’t worth your time. So in my view, this makes PhotoReading a more useful method of reading because you don’t have to read the whole book just to determine if it was worthwhile. With PhotoReading you should be able to tell if a book is worthwhile in 5 minutes or less.
When I have a book I really want to read, and I get clear on exactly what I want out of it, PhotoReading works brilliantly. When I take the time to create a list of questions I want the book to answer, I can use PhotoReading to efficiently find those answers.
Reading as search
To use an analogy, PhotoReading works a bit like a search engine. If you visit a search engine and just bop around random pages, you’re wasting your time, and a week later you won’t even remember what you saw. That’s analogous to slow reading. But if you know what you’re looking for and search for it intelligently, you’re likely to find it quickly. That’s analogous to PhotoReading.
Fortunately, PhotoReading is a little more forgiving that this analogy implies. You can take a book you know nothing about and figure out whether it’s likely to contain information you want to learn. Then you can define your questions and extract the info you want. But at some point, you do need to stop and determine what exactly you want from the book. This is an iterative process, so with each step you gain additional clarity.
Whether you learn to PhotoRead or not, I’ll think you’ll benefit greatly by thinking about reading as a search function. What info are you looking for and why? If you just throw random bits of text at your eyes, you won’t really learn or retain much. But if you know what you want to learn and why you want to learn it, you’re reading will become vastly more efficient and productive.
A personal example – PhotoReading The Comedy Bible
As an example of defining a purpose for reading, I bought a book called The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter. I decided that my main purpose for PhotoReading the book was to learn ideas I could apply right away to improve my humor speaking. I also wanted to learn how to put together a 3-5 minute act to test in an open mike night at a comedy club here in Las Vegas — that’s been something I always wanted to do, and I figured this book could help me achieve that goal.
After PhotoReading the book, I had a much deeper understanding of how to write and deliver comedy. I taped a few stand-up comedians on Comedy Central and dissected their jokes based on what I learned about premises, attitude, punch lines, act-outs, mixes, etc. from the book. Then I taped a few Seinfeld episodes and dissected those too. I could see the comedic patterns being used in a way I never noticed before — it became downright obvious what the writers were doing and how they were doing it.
Later Erin and I rented the movie Wild Hogs, and I dissected the comedy structure while we watched it. In some cases I easily predicted the next scene based on what I learned from The Comedy Bible. I’d say, “This scene is the premise, so most likely they’re going to do X next, which will be the punch line. That’s what I’d do with that premise.” (Fortunately, this didn’t bother Erin, and she actually enjoyed my commentary.) On some level this spoils the humor, but it also allows for a deeper appreciation of it.
I’m also writing a new humor speech (based on my experiences with polyphasic sleep), and I was able to apply what I learned from The Comedy Bible to make major improvements to the humor. I could also tell you a long story about a delightful synchronicity that happened last night related to my goal of doing an open mike night, but suffice it to say that I’m well on my way and may have the opportunity to be coached by a pro.
Coincidentally (or synchronistically — take your pick), I’ll be sharing the stage with the author, Judy Carter, at an upcoming National Speakers Association Symposium in Palm Springs next month.
My experience has been that people who have difficulty applying PhotoReading successfully too often try to skip this critical step of getting clear about why they want to read a particular book. This is a really important step and shouldn’t be skipped, even if you’re just doing slow-reading. If you don’t have a good reason for reading a book — if you can’t figure out what impact you want it to have and why — don’t bother reading it. Go read something else that will actually make a difference for you; don’t waste hours reading something you’ll forget within days.
Info dumping vs. info extraction
In any event I continue to get a lot of value from PhotoReading, and I hope you get as much out of it as I have. Learning PhotoReading has completely altered the way I think about reading. Pre-PhotoReading I thought reading was like doing a raw info dump from a book to my brain. Now I see reading as goal-directed information extraction.
To take advantage of the PhotoReading discount and get the program at a discount off the regular everyday Internet price, visit the PhotoReading page.
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