Are you struggling to finish that 500 page novel so you can write your report on it? Do you have a hard time getting through even the shortest chapters of atechnical book? Do you read a paragraph and then have no idea what it was about? If the answer was "yes" to any of these questions, you need to develop more efficient reading skills.
Efficient reading is not just speed reading. The goal of an efficient reader is to understand what they are reading, and to learn from it, while not wasting time. Speed is a part of efficient reading, but certainly not the only part, and not even the most important part.
To increase your efficiency when you read, you must first ensure that you have no vision problems, that you are sitting comfortably, and that you have proper lighting. Absolute quiet is not essential, but you do need to be able to concentrate. Eliminate any distractions, or move somewhere away from the distractions. This means different things for different people. Some can read with quiet music playing, others have no problems sitting on a park bench next to a noisy playground.
You should realize that you can read different types of material at different speeds and still be reading both efficiently. Your Biology textbook may slow you down a lot more than the suspense novel you got out of the library. New concepts and technical detail will take more time for your mind to absorb than will easy vocabulary and a familiar subject.
Some people have the bad habit of reading aloud silently. To find out if you are one of these, put your finger on your lips while you read. If you feel your lips moving, you are subconsciously sounding out every word you read. Since we all talk slower than we read, this will always slow you down.
An even more common problem is re-reading lines or parts of lines. Sometimes this is necessary if the whole meaning is not understood. But usually this is just a habit and is caused by letting your mind wander to other things while you read.
How do you get rid of these bad habits? Usually, just becoming aware of them is enough to stop them. But it could take a lot of practice and willpower.
A few other pointers will help you increase reading speed while retaining comprehension. Thoroughly read the introduction or first paragraph of your paper. This will tell you what the paper is about, and you will have an idea of what you will learn by reading further. From that point on you can scan the rest, picking out important words and slowing down to read anything that "jumps" out at you as being significant. The more you read the better you will get at comprehending the material by simply scanning it.
As with most things, practice is the key to reading more efficiently.