Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a school competition coming up and because of school (and I'll admit, my laziness and other stuff like workout, running) I haven't been exercising for the competition. I read 100 pages out of 400.

Anyway, it's a programming competition and I still have 300 pages left. There are various problems and there are algorithms that are explained in this book and I'd like to read the book fully till tomorrow.

So, one day left before the competition, but I'm asking you advices on how to read this book and comprehend it better?

I know that I should've started earlier, but as I stated, I really had no time.

I'll have about 8 hours for reading, then I'll go exercise and run, shower then go to sleep.

So, your suggestions on this and is it possible that I retain most of the information (that I learn the algorithms presented in the book) in one day?


share|improve this question
BTW: How did it go? – Daniël W. Crompton Feb 25 '14 at 11:57

This is nearly impossible, and what you need to do is remove all distractions and start reading.


  • If you need a computer unplug the cable or turn off the wifi - don't allow yourself to procrastinate outside your scheduled procrastination time
  • Every 60 minutes take a 15 minute break - procrastinate - it's useless to push your brain too hard


  • Go through the index and highlight all the thing you think you know and verify it - you don't want to waste time learning this you already understand
  • Start reading a difficult thing first and figure out what you don't understand and read that section of the book - working backwards in this way you find what the things are you need to learn
  • If after spending more than 10 minutes on a section you don't understand take a 5 minute break go to a different related or relatively easier section

You're going to lose, but at least you took part. Right?!

share|improve this answer
+1 on the impossible task. You'd have to read a page roughly every 2 minutes to complete that amount of material. And computer books are dense enough that you won't retain (or understand) much at that speed. – Jeanne Boyarsky Feb 21 '14 at 2:21
This is why you need to triage, everything you can drop you should drop sooner than later. – Daniël W. Crompton Feb 21 '14 at 8:52

Alas, it is not impossible!

Check out Spreeder. This web app speeds up the process of reading by placing the words in the exact same location so your eyes never have to move. I tried this yesterday and I was able to blaze through nonfiction material. It lets you set the words-per-minute that you can read.

I started out at 220wpm and I am up to about 250wpm now.

Be sure to go in advanced settings and enable the following:

  • Slight pause at end of sentences and paragraphs
  • Speed variability : slow down for larger chunks and speed up for smaller chunks so average wpm stays the same

These options will give sentences a more natural flow.

share|improve this answer
I sketched a design for this a few years ago after listening to a BBC forum podcast about how we process text. Happy that someone has managed to create an app! Looking forward to checking it out. This would be an obviously huge asset to kindles and other readers and could potentially hugely reduce the size of the device – Andrew Welch Feb 26 '14 at 17:23
@AndrewWelch I recently heard of Spritz app which accomplishes this on the mobile devices. Unfortunately, it rolls out with the Samsung S5. – Gaʀʀʏ Feb 26 '14 at 17:55
+1 for the awesome link! Although, I'd bet this method just won't work on (m)any technical books. – NeuroFuzzy Feb 27 '14 at 10:37
A speed reading app might accomplish the reading part, I currently read at about 400 wpm using fastreader on Android. At 250 wpm & 250 w/p this would take 5 hours (6.75 adding in breaks), which is in the 8 hour limit although I think that the text would be too technical to read. Add to that that speed reading in very brain intensive I have some doubts somebody would be able to keep it up for this long. – Daniël W. Crompton Mar 10 '14 at 11:51
@DaniëlW.Crompton Oh yeah, it would be challenging. I doubt much would be retained, especially if this is the first time speed-reading. – Gaʀʀʏ Mar 10 '14 at 19:31

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.