5 years back I hated reading books. Last year, I completed 75 books, and I am aiming for the same number this year. I did not even have to push myself into intense reading to achieve that goal.
I am not trying to blow my own trumpet here. I want you to know that if I can do it, I am sure you can do it too. Reading 50+ books a year is much easier than it seems. In this article, I will explain how to develop a reading habit without spending hours together.
- Why people fail to read books
- How to develop a reading habit and stick to it
- 1. Start with your favorite subject
- 2. Set aside time for reading
- 3. Read thinner books when you start
- 4. Do not take notes
- 5. Sign up for the Good Reads Reading Challenge
- 6. Carry your book around
- 7. Target pages per day
- 8. Cut a small portion out of your useless activity
- 9. Use a visual cue
- 10. Start with a modest target
- Bonus Tip
Why people fail to read books
Well, I am not going to re-iterate the benefits of reading books. You know what you gain from reading, but you have a hard time building the habit.
The reasons why you fail to cultivate a habit of reading are:
What separates the book lovers from the rest is the habit of reading regularly. An occasional reader picks up a book, reads for an hour today, only to resume 2 weeks later.
Not only have you forgotten what you have read by then, but you also find an excuse not to pick the book. To make it worse, you tell yourself, “Damn, I have been reading this book for a long time. I am never going to finish this.”
The more the gap between your reading sessions, the more difficult you will find to read again.
Reading a random book
One fine day, a flash of enlightenment strikes you, and you decide to start reading. You pick one of the best-seller books like the Power Of Now, Rich Dad Poor Dad, or Crime and Punishment.
20 minutes and a few pages later, you drop the book never to pick it again. You shut the book close and slap your forehead, saying, “If I do not like these well-known books, how will I even like the others?”
You know what? Just because a book is famous does not mean you will love it, especially when you do not have a habit of reading books yet.
How to develop a reading habit and stick to it
You can use the work for both students and working professionals.
1. Start with your favorite subject
If you pick up a best seller as your first book, you will almost certainly fail to understand why it turned so famous. The chances of you reading more than 50 pages are unlikely. Even if you do, you will need a very long time.
After completing the book, you ask yourself, “If a best selling book could only impress me so little, how will the other books fare?”
Instead, pick up a book from the topic you like. If you love sports, pick a biography of your favorite sportsperson. If you are into psychology, pick a book that covers a topic you like. If you like science, pick a book that piques your interest.
Today, even if your topic of interest is horse shit, you will find a book on the subject. You thought I was joking? Check this out – The Little Book of Horse Poop.
If you pick a book that you can relate to, you will breeze through the pages one by one.
2. Set aside time for reading
If you do not make reading a habit, you will not persist with it for long. Set aside a small amount of time which does not demand too much of your schedule. You can start with 10 minutes a day. Feel free to skip the weekends if you want to.
As much as possible, try to stick to the same time every day. You can read before you start your day, before bed or after lunch. Since 10 minutes is all you need, you won’t have to change anything to accommodate your new habit.
If you follow an irregular schedule of traveling and working ad-hoc routines every day, feel free to use 10 minutes whenever you find them. Whenever you tell yourself, “I am busy today to read,” you are only making an excuse.
3. Read thinner books when you start
When you pick a thick book, you encounter a mental block. “Damn, I need to flip those many pages to finish the book,” you tell yourself as you slide the book back into the drawer.
Choosing a thinner book gives you a psychological edge because you know the effort required is lesser. Completing a not so great 150 pager is better than opting for a 450-page monster that you will never finish.
To make that better, you now have a completed book under your belt. Read a couple more, and you have built the confidence of reading and made it a habit.
4. Do not take notes
Yes, you read that right. During my journey of reading, I tried writing notes on post-its and sticking them on the book for a few months. Though the exercise had many benefits, I felt a sense of discomfort whenever I had to pick a book because of the effort involved.
My reading habit was taking a hit, so I decided to give up taking notes. I wanted to make reading as easy as possible, which in turn made it enjoyable.
Feel free to skip this tip based on your style. Some people like to read, ponder, and keep notes to return to the book again. Some others like me prefer going through a book in a flow with minimal interruptions. Choose what works best for you.
5. Sign up for the Good Reads Reading Challenge
Good Reads has a reading challenge that you can sign up for every year.
Millions of people take part in the challenge. For example, over 3M people are participating in the challenge for 2020 already. Whether you read this in January or December, you can still sign up.
All you need to do is update which book you read, and the website will track it for you. Do not expect a cash reward because you ain’t gonna get one. But it does give you a dopamine rush every time you mark a book as complete.
The first thing I look forward to after completing a book is to logon to Good Reads and add it there.
6. Carry your book around
How many times in a day do you feel lazy? I am not sure about you, but I get bored for short periods at least a few times every day. Sometimes I relax, and sometimes I pick a book on my desk.
I make sure I always have a book on my working desk at work and at home. When you make reading easy, you will stick to the habit more often.
Back in the day, I would carry one book that I was reading each day to and from work. Well, it was a little work during the first month, after which it became second nature.
Today, kindle saves you the effort of carrying different books. “That’s a lot of work to do each day,” you say, throwing your hands in the air.
But don’t you carry your laptop or other things in your bag every day? Just add a book or a kindle along. You will find the habit hard to implement only if you do not want to do it.
7. Target pages per day
When you plan to read a book, you hold it across, check the thickness and place it back on the shelf. The thought of reading those many pages seems like an uphill task. By reading 10 pages a day, completing a book would take forever, you think.
Do you know how many books would you finish if you read 10 pages a day? Most people can easily read 10 pages in half an hour. An average book personal development book consists of 200 pages. At that reading pace, you will gobble up 18 books in a year.
In 3 years, with over 50 books under your belt, your knowledge and awareness will skyrocket.
8. Cut a small portion out of your useless activity
The most common excuse people make for not reading is, “I have such a hectic schedule. I cannot find any time whatsoever to read every day.”
Do you scroll through your Instagram feed many times a day? Do you watch a few Youtube videos? Do you sit on the couch watching one episode on Netflix after another?
If you do, you still have time. Each one of us has an outlet where we waste time in some shape or form. The idea isn’t to stop such habits altogether. After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
What you can do is, identify the area where you waste time and cut 15 minutes off. You can now substitute reading during that time. Not only does this help your reading habit, but it also reduces the time you waste.
9. Use a visual cue
As human beings, we are visual animals. We like to look at and feel things. A habit becomes easier to develop when you associate a real-life visual thing to it.
When I was trying to cultivate a habit of reading, I had kept 2 glasses with pebbles in them. Each stone indicated 15 min.
My target was to move 4 pebbles from one glass to another by the end of the day. Every time I finished 15 min of reading, I would look forward to moving the pebble from one glass to another.
You can use a similar visual indicator like :
- sticky notes which say day 1, day 2, etc
- circling a calendar
- a simple excel sheet
Heck, you can even invent your own visual indicator.
Create and use your visual reminders to help you track how long you have stuck to your habits. These seem like minor tricks that will not impact your practice, but they do make a difference.
10. Start with a modest target
When you embark on a journey of reading, do not aim to complete a library full of books. Start with a modest target of one book a month. When you pick a book in your area of interest, you will complete it faster than you expect.
If you set a tough goal for yourself, you will feel overwhelmed with the process of reading. Unless you enjoy picking up a book to flip the pages, you will have a hard time developing the habit.
Start small and keep going. You will turn into a reading machine in no time.
If you do not know which book to read, visit this book suggestor. The tool will help you pick a book.
You can choose a category from the list, and the tool will recommend one random book from that area for you. These books have been handpicked based on their rating on GoodReads. The tool will also give a summary of the book, along with the number of pages to help you make an informed choice.
Be rest assured that if you pick any book from your category of interest, it will resonate with you. With the right books inculcate reading habits will become a cakewalk.
Learning how to develop a reading habit is a great investment of time. Most successful people acknowledge how their reading habits added value throughout their careers. Now that does not mean that reading alone will make you a billionaire, but it does assist you in becoming a better version of yourself.
Most people give up reading the day they step out of college. Without reading, you will take a long time to improve yourself. Reading speeds up your expertise and knowledge. Among the two people with the same years of experience in a field, the one who read more tends to have an edge.
Cultivating the habit of reading isn’t that hard. All you need is the will to begin
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.