I have a love-hate relationship with reading. I love what reading gives me, and yet I get anxious about all the books I haven’t read. My “to-read” list is about 3 times as long as my “read” list, and I’ve read hundreds of books.
I recently dedicated myself to making sure I was reading consistently every day. I’m going to share some tips that I found helpful to keep my reading habit consistent.
Start Small, Really Small
Have you ever set a goal for yourself to read more? It was probably along the lines of “Read an Hour Every Day” or “Read at least 1 chapter each day”. How did that work out for you?
The problem with targets like that is they are too fixed. If you read 2 hours on Monday, 1 hour on Tuesday, and 10 minutes on Wednesday, should you be upset with yourself? Absolutely not! On average you’re reading over 1.5 hours a day. Congratulate yourself.
What really worked for me was committing to reading only 3 pages every day. It sounds like a very tiny bar and one that would take you 100 days to finish most books. Let me explain why it’s very powerful.
Anyone can accomplish this goal on any given day. It will only take a few minutes to check this off as complete. You could complete your reading while waiting in line to order your food, during an Uber ride, or just taking a 5-minute breather on the couch.
If you sit down to read 3 pages, most times you’ll end up reading a chapter and often more. You won’t always be able to read more than 3 pages, and that’s ok. Over time as this habit develops, you’ll end up reading more books and be integrating reading into your daily routine.
Knowing that even on the busiest of days, you’ll be still hitting your goals and targets is a very powerful motivator. As time goes on and you’re very consistent (you need to be consistent over months), you can start increasing the page count goal.
Start slowing be going to 5, then to 10 onwards until you hit your sweet spot. If you start missing any days, any days at all, back off to your previous level. Consistency is better than quantity.
Change Your Default
Pick up your phone and look at the apps on the home screen. You more than likely have Facebook, Instagram, maybe Twitter on there. I’m not going to preach you on hiding those away or deleting them from your phone. What I want you to do instead is to add to your home screen.
Install reading apps like Kindle, iBooks and Google Play Books. You can keep other reading focused apps their too like Pocket and Medium (you can follow me on Medium).
The goal is to give you another option than social media when you open your phone. You want to change your default from opening Instagram to opening the Kindle app. Once you start defaulting to reading when you have a few spare minutes, you’ll naturally find yourself completely more books.
By reading by default, and then engaging in social media when you consciously want to, you’ll change your relationship with both reading and consumption.
When you open up Facebook or Instagram, you’ll be more likely to share the new information you read over the past couple of sessions. This changes your behavior from a consumer of social content, to a producer.
Put That Book Down
When I look back on the times I stopped reading consistently, it was almost always because I got stuck with a bad book. You know exactly the type of book I’m talking about. The one that is just a slog to get through.
Up until recently, I always felt compelled to finish reading any book I started. When I started giving myself permission to stop reading a book I wasn’t enjoying, my streak of every day reading continued.
Everyone needs a range of books at their disposal to keep with our current mood. Sometimes I’ll be in the mood for some sales strategies, so I’ll want to pick up a book about selling right away.
If I’m currently reading a book on another subject, it’s ok to hit pause and come back to it later. It’s better to switch topics and keep yourself reading about what you are interested in currently than to force yourself to finish a book just because you started it.
You’re probably going to end up having 2 – 3 books on the go. That’s actually optimal because there will be times when you can’t read a certain topic. For example, if I’m reading about sales strategies and I want to take detailed notes, that’s going to be hard while I’m inline getting lunch.
You don’t want to keep 2 books going on the same topic. That can actually put your brain into conflict about which to read first. If the information in one book is being contrary to the other, you’ll end up getting no value from either book.
If you find you’re very passionate about the book you’re currently reading, there is no need to have another one on the go. It’s absolutely great to dedicate yourself to one book if the information and value you are receiving from it are working for you.
The goal is to read consistently, not to check off books on our “to-read” list.
Reading flow is the most valuable thing for absorbing the information being communicated in the book. Nothing will kill more flow more than hearing a text message chime or a new email beep.
I want to ignore my phone I really do. What if that’s a new client message? Was that an angry client email that just came in? Did my order of the 5-pound bag of kettle chips finally ship? I want to ignore the sounds my phone makes, but it owns me.
I put my phone on Do-Not-Disturb (DND) mode when I sit down to do some reading. A lot of people are going to advocate that you put it into airplane mode, but as a parent, I want emergency calls to come through.
Your phone is not your only distraction. Your kids might be screaming and reenacting Lord of the Flies in the living room. There might be construction happening outside your apartment building.
Recognize these distractions and do what you can to minimize them. Now might not be the best time for a reading session. That’s ok because you can read those 3 pages tonight before bed.
Some days are better than others for reading. Take advantage of the days that are optimal, and relax a bit on the days that aren’t.
Sit down and really absorb the information you are reading. You don’t have to break every 8 minutes to check your phone. You are learning new things with better focus and clarity.
When you go back to your phone, you will realize you haven’t missed anything urgent or important. You see 3 notifications from email newsletters and a couple of text messages from your Mom. These notifications would have easily derailed your reading session.
Recognize that Reading is Reading
Books are one of human kind’s greatest inventions. They have allowed us to transfer information from generation to generation. Reading today is not done entirely through books, and the information you read outside of books is no less valuable.
I can think of at least 5 books I read in the last 12 months that should have been a blog post instead. The reality is that some books make their point in the first few chapters and spend the remaining 75% of the book just rehashing the same information until the author has hit some magical page count.
There are a number of blog posts that have completely changed my view on a topic and directly contributed to me having a better life. Quality information is still education, whether it comes from a printed book or a blog post.
The line is also getting blurry between what is a book and what is not. If you read a 70-page ebook, did you read a book? What if the ebook was 90 pages? No, 120? Where is the line?
Change your view on what you consider to be reading. Dismiss books that are just rehashings of the same content over and over. Bring in content that provides a new understanding of a subject and a different view. You’d be surprised about what you can learn outside of a book.
The goal is to consistently read quality information every day. This can be in the form of paper books, ebooks, medium articles (you can follow me on Medium), blog posts, etc.
A lot of books out there are filled with fluff so the author can actually get the length to have their information called a “book”. That doesn’t mean it’s any more valuable than their blog. Half the books on the Best Seller list are a collection of the author’s blog posts.
Educating yourself is never a waste of time. I have never read an article online where I learned a new tactic and thought afterward on what a waste of time that was. Focus on choosing quality content to read and you’ll want to read more, no matter the medium.