Double Time: When to Speed Read/Watch/Listen
Keeping up with the amount of new media that comes out every day, month, and year is an impossible task.
We talked before about the 30,000 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every hour.
There’s also by one measure over 48 million podcast episodes (from the ancient times of April 2021).
And streaming companies combined to spend $220 billion producing new content for you in 2021, a number which will certainly increase.
The best way to deal with all of this? Or perhaps the only way?
Consuming at double speed.
(Or, you know, be pickier with what you choose to spend your time with.)
In the case that you might be looking to squeeze a few more minutes of articles, books, or buzzy series into your already full day, we hope this quick guide with arguments for each will help you make the right choices.
To Speed Watch Or Not To Speed Watch
Anyone who’s been on YouTube in the past century has seen they can modify the speed at which videos playback. It’s a feature that Netflix has, too, meaning that two of the primary places people watch videos, shows, and movies make watching them at 1.25x, 1.5x, 1.75x, and even 2x possible (if not always enjoyable).
Yes - According to a paper published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, students tested after watching a lecture at 2x speed had comparable results to those watching at 1x (sorry, in regular time). Then again, who among us hasn’t had a professor who just… talked… like… this… So, it’s an argument for bringing those deep, intentional thinkers and pontificators up to a regular, intelligible speed. As noted, there might be limitations to this kind of study about retention.
- No - The problem with speed watching? You become like this Vulture writer who finds that they savor 1x viewing for the drama. Though speed watching makes sense when it’s for pieces that weren’t specifically produced (like a random lecture), the argument fades when there are talented teams putting in energy to sound design, editing, pacing, and more.
To Speed Listen Or Not To Speed Listen
The temptation to speed listen to podcasts and books is very real. For one, looking at your book-listening app and seeing you’ve got a 30-hour chunk ahead of you is intimidating. Cutting that in half? Why, that’s nearly two full workdays of free time you now have!
The same could be said for your daily commute. If you’ve got 45 minutes in the car, do you let one hour-and-a-half podcast stretch out over two trips, or just knock it out?
Yes - There are plenty of good reasons to speed up, the underlying one being that as humans, we can comfortably understand about 275 words per minute (conversational speaking ranges from 140-180 words per minute). On average, that makes a 1.5x book or podcast easily understood.
- No - If it’s a produced podcast with dramatic effects or a book with sound effects, why not just sit back and enjoy the ride?
To Speed Read Or Not To Speed Read
There’s plenty of research into whether speed reading is, in fact, possible. The trade-off, as you might have guessed, is that the faster you try to go, the worse your comprehension gets. Your choice on whether to attempt speed reading will likely depend on the subject material you’re working through. From non-fiction flavor of the week business books to War & Peace, here are our arguments for and against speed reading.
Yes - ____
- No - Just enjoy a book, okay?
Okay, okay. There’s a point to be made for getting through long articles or books faster, but when so much of the joy is reading is the time spent pausing, reflecting, confronting new ideas, revisiting sentences, and then moving on… well, call me old-fashioned, but I’ll keep my reading at 1x speed, thank you very much.
As you might have guessed, we’re big fans of reading (and if you are, too, you might like our IRLA Reading Pack!) and we just want to share that with you, too.
Now, what about you? How fast do you watch, listen, and read?