Do you get distracted when reading or struggle to remember what you read? Here are guaranteed effective speed reading and memory techniques for you!

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Ann will share tools and strategies in speed reading and visual memorization that she has learned from Jim Kwik, a speed reading and memory coach. The steps are easy to follow and will help you absorb all the important information you need to learn and remember, especially when reading technical articles or material, whether for your studies or work. Listen now!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Tools and techniques in speed-reading technical articles, slideshows, or anything that requires memorization.
  • Setting intentions before reading.
  • Reading the abstract.
  • Reading the outlines.
  • Picking out repeating words or terms.
  • Drafting questions that you wish to answer through the article.
  • Using visual tools or markers to avoid any distractions.
  • Summarizing what you read in your own words.
  • Thinking about how the topic affects your mindset.
  • Visual memorization techniques to remember what you have read or learned.

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“When you have a scientific journal or scientific article that you have to read, what I would do is I would take the article, set it in front of me, and set my intention. I didn’t use to do that before, like setting intentions before I read something. I don’t know, why would anybody do that. But I recently learned this. And this has been tremendously helpful to help me look at the big picture, and how this applies to me.” [00:02:01]

“I would take the ‘have to’ or ‘need to’ out of the vocabulary and change it to ‘I get to do this, I get to be in a position to learn this, I get to be curious.’” [00:11:00]

“Habits are created by micro habits.” [00:19:39]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

It’s Not Rocket Science Show website

Ann Tsung on Facebook

Ann Tsung on LinkedIn

Ann Tsung on YouTube

Ann Tsung on Instagram

Ann Tsung on Twitter

Jim Kwik Memory and Speed Reading Courses

Jim Kwik’s free podcast 

About Ann Tsung, MD


Ann Tsung, MD, MPH is a physician who is triple board-certified in emergency, critical care, and preventive/aerospace medicine. She is the podcast show host of It’s Not Rocket Science Show, and a real estate investor. Her mission is to help people create time, vitality, and deep relationships so people can achieve peak performance and fulfillment in life. Her passions include mind-body medicine, functional nutrition, longevity, productivity, and human optimization. She firmly believes that everything we need is within us now.



Please note the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein belong solely to the speaker, and not necessarily those of the speaker’s employer, organization, government institution, or medical program. This show is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing, or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this show or materials linked from here is at the user’s own risk. The content of this show is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition they may have and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions. Please assume that any links leading you to products or services are affiliate links that I will receive compensation from. I only mention products or services that I have used and believe would add value for you. Please note that I have not been given any free products, services, or anything else by these companies in exchange for mentioning them on the site.

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Full Transcript




ANNOUNCER: If you’re struggling with your vitality, energy, mood, focus, or sleep, this podcast is for you. Your host, Dr. Ann Tsung, ER doctor, and aerospace flight surgeon, will help you reach for the stars and remove the barriers or blockades that have been holding you back from living your best life. If you’ve been challenged by your health, relationships, or productivity, then it’s time for a breakthrough. So, here’s your host, Dr. Ann Tsung.



Ann Tsung: Hello, and welcome to It’s Not Rocket Science Show. I am your host, Dr. Ann Tsung. Have you ever read an article, like a scientific article, a technical article, and then after a while you don’t even remember what you read, you don’t even really remember how this applies to you and some of the numbers and why it mattered. Or about some of the times when you went through a slideshow, just to learn about the material in there. And you don’t really remember the big major points anymore, after what you read. Or you get super distracted that it takes you forever to actually finish an article or you just don’t even want to do it because you distract yourself and it takes a long time. I’ve done all of that before. And so this episode, I want to discuss the tools and techniques that I have learned from Jim Kwik. He’s a speed reading and memory coach, and what I use to actually speed-read technical articles, or any sort of slideshows or anything that requires memorization, for me to get through it really fast with deep focus so that it can be retained in your memory so that you’re not wasting your time reading it or spending time studying something. So let’s go ahead and dive in.


Regards to speed reading, there are a few techniques that I use. So the first one, when you have a scientific journal or scientific article that you have to read, what I would do is I would take the article set it in front of me, and set my intention. I didn’t use to do that before, like setting intentions before I read something. I don’t know, why would anybody do that. But I recently learned this. And this has been tremendously helpful to help me look at the big picture, and how this applies to me. So, say I was reading an article on the twin study of the astronauts. And so I will go in there and set my intention before I even begin to tell myself, “I will absorb the important information that I need, I will be able to pick out what pertains to me what matters to me as a flight surgeon.” And I will go in with a curious mindset, full of wonder and just for full of you know this, I get to learn something new, I get to read this, it’s not a chore. Okay? A lot of times we don’t want to read it because we feel like it’s actually hard. And it’s a chore, and we read like the abstract. And then we read the intro, and then we start distracting ourselves. 


One tip we have discussed in prior episodes, put your phone away out of your office or out of your desk, that will really help you fight the urge of checking your phone or your app or something like that as you’re reading. So, number one is setting intentions before you start reading. And number two, then, I will go ahead and take a look at the abstract and read the abstract to see what it’s about very briefly. And I would look at the title of the sections afterward. Usually, it’s like introduction, methods, results, and discussion. But if the paper is something different, I would read the title. And I would go really quickly through the graphs and the pictures and read the descriptions of that. Very often I find that if I can read the graphs and the photos and understand the descriptions, it already has helped me tremendously in understanding the paper. A lot of times, the text is just a more detailed description, the text description of the graph and the graph, because we’re visual people are visual learners and like oh, I’ll talk about later how memory is more solidified when you have some sort of visual imagery. When we look at the graph already or any photos or any sort of imaging like CT imaging, MRI imaging, it already helps us learn the material. It already prime’s us before we even start reading the article. 


So, that’s what I would do. First, I will set my intentions. Second, read the abstract. Third, I will go through the title or any subsections, read through the graphs, any images, descriptions of that, pick out very, very quickly through the text very quickly. Go through any like repeating words that’s jumping out at you like the telomeres keep coming up, or the ICF intracranial CSF volume keeps coming up. This was another paper that I read, or white matter, grey matter, anything that you can kind of pick out from the text that keeps repeating. And the next step would be, you would come up with questions that you would like to answer from reading this article. So this is before you even start reading the article, because you have picked out those repeating words you can say, Okay, how do the telomeres change as a result of the study? Or what are the results or the changes in the CSF volume and how does it pertain to the astronauts or any clinical significance from that, or perhaps, if you are reading some sort of article that has to do with stroke and intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding in the brain? And you read to yourself? Well, okay, so what’s the percentage of that? And what were the complications from that? Or the death rate from that? Or if you’re just simply reading something, say, flight rolls, is something that I’ve been reading quite frequently? And you can say to yourself, Well, okay, so after I read this, it’s something on the solar arrays. So, are there any hazards of the solar arrays on the International Space Station that could potentially affect human beings? 


So, again, when you have the questions ahead, before reading the articles, your brain is already primed to look for those answers within the articles which makes your reading the actual reading itself, much more purposeful. And it’s so much easier to pick up those answers as you read. So, come up with those questions. And then the next step is that you actually weed but what you will do to help you to be indistractible, is that you’re going to get a visual tool or have a visual marker, so I usually use a pen, you can use your finger, this is the way you may have been taught to read when you were a little to kind of follow the words with your fingers. And what this does, I would use a pen and read very, very quickly, like I go pretty fast. And I don’t read from margin to margin. Because I’ve been using speed reading techniques for quite a while, I go from like one inch or two inches away from the margin to the other end. So, basically, I only skim the middle part. And you can see that after you train for a while, that your peripheral vision will usually catch the margins of the text. So, I use a visual marker. And I go really quickly from one end to the other, again, not fully from one side of the text to the other, but I leave an inch off from each side. And I just go very, very quickly. I’m reading because what this does is that it prevents distraction because a lot of times your eyes will wander off the text and you’re like, oh, which sentence was I on. And then you have to go back, find your place, and then refocus again. So that takes attention away. And every time it takes attention away, you have to refocus. That takes up even more of your mental bandwidth. So, if you have a visual marker with your finger, or with your pen, then you’ll find that you’re less distractible and you’re actually following the text quicker. And that’s one tip on, you know, how you can speed this process up and also be hyper-focused at the same time. And remember to listen to some sort of neuro-modulating type of music while you do this that can help with the process of focus even better. 


So now, after you finish reading, you’ll find that a lot of times you are able to pick out the answers to your prior questions. What if you asked how does this affect me? How does this help me, you’ll be able to pick those out. And it just makes the whole entire reading process much more purposeful. And so when you finish all that, then you would summarize in your own words. Or if you’re taking notes, you will type out what you remember, try not to refer back to the article or the material that you’re reading. And it’s even better if you handwrite it instead of typing it. But if you can just go from memory, resist the urge or temptation to look back, and then write out what do you have remembered any sort of key points, key results, the summary, and then, later on, you review all this and you ask yourself, “So, after I have read this, how does this pertain to me? How would I change my practice?” So, what information, what I tell my patients from this article? Say if I’m reading an article like even a book actually, I’ve been reading a book on real food, fake food and finding out of all these brands are a lot of like manufacturers, sellers, restaurants who are charging you for fake things or olive oil being cut with grapeseed oil. Okay, how would this affect my purchasing habits, you know, I will look for olive oil bottles now with the country of origin and also the harvest date. And say if I am looking at the telomere changes and astronauts the twin study, okay, so it doesn’t really affect my practice right now. But what am I going to be looking forward to? In the future? What type of studies would I like to see? And what implications does that mean for the astronauts right now, like perhaps they would be able to use certain sort of what they call countermeasures or mitigation strategies to help them in exploration missions? 


So, I hope that helps in terms of speed-reading technical articles. Again, just to summarize, number one, you will set your intentions, you are not having to do this, I don’t need to do this. Nobody, you know, really, honestly, it’s not forcing you to do anything. So number one, I would take the ‘have to’ or ‘need to’ out of the vocabulary and change it to ‘I get to do this, I get to be in a position to learn this, I get to be curious.’ Set your intentions. And then, you would read the abstract, and you will read through the subsections. Pick out any repeating words, or terms, or privy in terms that you’re not familiar with. And then you would ask questions, you write down the questions that you wish to answer by reading this article. After that, you actually read the article with visual markers, like a pen, or a finger on the text, and just go through it. And what will really help is also to set your 25-minute timer, the Pomodoro timer, where you have a work cycle for 25 minutes on a kitchen timer, preferably not a phone because you get distracted, and you do not stop reading, or finish this task until 25 minutes is up, you cannot distract yourself. And then after that you actually read it, you will summarize the points that you read in your own words, and try to do it from memory, write it down on a piece of paper or notebook paper, because handwriting itself actually helps you memorize it, of course. And then at the very end, think about how this affects you, your habits, your mindset, anything for that you would like to read anything, any changes you would like to see. And I think you’ll find that that process makes the learning much more enjoyable than the usual just okay, I have to read this. And okay, I’ll just go from abstract, read the abstract, and then maybe I’ll just go line by line and distract myself with the phone or distract myself with the email or internet because this is so boring, I’m so tired. That’s happened to me before as well. 


And a little bit about memory techniques. Because after you read the article, you kind of want to remember the points, right? You don’t want to just you know, lose it. Even though you’ve already done a lot of work making this reading purposeful, to making this learning purposeful. You want to come up with a way to remember what you have learned. And like I said from Jim Kwik, we are visual learners most of the time, like if we can see something we can, you know, remember people’s faces, but don’t remember their names most of the time. I mean, that’s a prime example. So, what you would do when you want to remember something is that you would imagine a character, an animal, a prison, you know, a famous person, and then you would imagine them doing an action or associate them with an action. That’s super funny and ridiculous. 


So, for example, I’ve always had trouble memorizing the gas laws, right? The gas laws like Charles’ Law, Henry’s Law, Boyle’s Law, like I get so confused by like the temperature change and the pressure change. And this change in the volume change like which one is which do whose name I don’t remember, it wasn’t until I use the visual imagery technique that I finally remember, all these gas laws for my boards to study to make me essentially not worry about on my boards because those were the items I was most concerned about. So, say for Boyle’s law, it is essentially saying that the volume of the gas is inversely proportional to the pressure. So, what that means is that when you increase pressure, then the volume decreases. When you decrease pressure, the volume of gas will increase. That’s fairly easy to remember. But like, you know, when you have a bunch of other laws to remember as with different names, sometimes you just get confused in the heat of the moment. So, what I told myself was that I imagine I close my eyes and I imagine this boy which relates to Boyle’s Law. So this boy is actually in a chamber, a pressure chamber, okay. And I imagine myself on the handle the crank of the pressure. So, when I increase the pressure of the crank, this is all imaginary in my head, I can see that the boy in the pressure chamber is screaming, and he’s screaming, screaming, and like yelling and shrinking to like a super, super, super tiny person. And just saying, “Stop, stop, it hurts”, and you have to make a really ridiculous and crazy and preferably if you have sort of smell associated with it or imagined anything like auditory, you’ll remember even better. And then so he’s screaming, and there’s always like, okay, I’m gonna turn that crank handle back and decrease the pressure. And then the boy starts expanding, expanding, expanding to the point where he is like blowing up and filling the entire chamber. So, if you can actually imagine that with me, it’s super ridiculous, right? And the funnier you make it, the more ridiculous you make it, the more you’ll remember, for the long term. I made that imagery up probably a year and a half ago. And I haven’t had to go back to study the Boyle’s Law since. 


And then the Henry’s Law. So, the Henry’s Law is about how the proportion of gas, the amount of gas that’s dissolved in the solution is proportional to the pressure of that gas over the solution. So, what that means is that when I’m trying to remember, it’s essentially what the Coke can is, right? When you open up a Coke can, there’s less pressure, and then so all of those CO2 bubbles start forming and start, you know, going up. And then so what that means is that when I imagine, when I want to remember Henry’s Law, I want to remember, like, Sprite bottle or Coke bottle, and like a two-liter bottle, just imagine this with me. And then I imagine a giant hand that is sitting over the top of the bottle right now. And I am pushing that giant hand into the bottle, like with my hand, like just like punching it and pushing it and the hand is like screaming, like bloody murder and crazy and punching in all of the gas in there. Okay with the hand. And then you can see in like, this is how I remember Henry’s model. It’s directly proportional to the pressure over it. So, those are just my two examples of how I use visual imagery. Imagine a character, imagine an action, and then preferably if you imagine yourself and if you can add sound, smell, even taste, that will be even better. And then you can see how the well this works for you, perhaps and you can do the same thing with names if you want to remember other people’s names when you first met. 


So, I hope that this has been very helpful for you in terms of speed-reading and memory techniques. Just to recap, the speed-reading technical articles, or perhaps like any slideshows, you want to set an intention, read the abstract, read the outlines, pick out any repeating words or terms you don’t know, then draft the questions to yourself that you wish to answer with this article, you summarize it then in your own words, and then you decide how this will change or affect your habits or practice. And use the visual memorization techniques to remember these points that you have learned. So, associated with a character with a ridiculous, funny action, and try to imagine it with all of your senses. And see how that works out for you. You can do the same thing with slideshows that you have to go through when there are very, very long slides, you can go through them very quickly on the topics you are working on. It’s the same tactic though, same intention settings, you come up with the questions that you wish to answer by reviewing these slides and how they affect you, okay, and then if you can just do one thing after this podcast session, just pick one thing that you have to read or have to study. And if the only thing you do is set intentions before that already change your mindset. So, after this before you read anything, set your intentions, that’s all you have to do for the first time if you want to just try this tactic out. And then if you want to keep going further, then try out some of my other tactics. Again, the habits are created by micro habits. Don’t scare yourself, because it seemed like a lot of steps. So, a lot of times when there is a lot of stuff that you just don’t want to do it. Just pick one step, one step that you can do after this, okay? 


So, I hope you really enjoy the show. I’m super grateful that you spent this time with me. For all the show notes and the links that I’ve discussed, please go to And please go there because I have a free gift for you as well on there that can really, really help you with your productivity and save you time. So again, remember, everything that we need is already within us now. Thank you. Bye.


ANNOUNCER: That’s it for today’s episode. Head on over to iTunes and subscribe to the show. One lucky listener every single week that posts a review on iTunes will win a chance in the grand prize drawing to win a private VIP Day for a health and life makeover with Dr. Ann Tsung, herself. Then, be sure to head on over to and pick up your free gift from Dr. Tsung. Then, join us on the next episode.


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