How to Read More

“I wish I had more time to read.”

Who hasn’t said that before?

I can’t add more hours to the day, but I can offer five tips to help you establish a reading habit, maintain it, and experience better quality reading time.

  • Go by time, not by page count or chapter break
    • Start by setting a timer to read for 20 minutes first thing in the morning when you wake up or right before you go to bed. Build up from there as your schedule and interest level permit.
    • Why it works: It feels like work and can be intimidating to meet an assigned amount. Switching the goal to a time-oriented one reduces the pressure to “get it done,” since it doesn’t matter how many pages you read in the given time. Plus, there’s a simple joy in setting aside time for yourself.

This seems obvious but…

  • Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode while reading, and turn it face down.
    • One of the greatest joys of reading is losing yourself in the book, so you forget that you’re actually reading words on a page. Instead, it feels like you’ve entered the book’s world. This amazing experience will not happen if your phone keeps vibrating or lighting up with notifications. Distraction kills transportation.

And if you need some extra motivation…

  • Select a book with a friend, spouse, or family member and set a time to finish each chapter. Plan a coffee date, lunch, or happy hour to talk about what you read.
    • Why it works: Not only do you get the pleasure of reading, but you also get the “reward” of sharing a treat with good company.
    • Fun Fact: Reading, historically speaking, was rarely a solo activity like it is today. Printed material was expensive, so families and even whole communities would read out loud together on a daily basis. Bringing back this social component will make reading a whole lot more meaningful.

Don’t stifle yourself…

  • Always have two book options
    • Sometimes you’re not in the mood to read the book you’ve been reading. The genre, style, or tone just isn’t right for how you’re feeling at the time. That’s fine! You’re not reading because you have to (aka school assignment), you’re reading because you want to. It’s supposed to add something to your life. Reading multiple books at a time can give you the variety you need to have the right book for the moment.
    • I can only handle two books in a given period, but my husband can have as many as five going. If you suffer from decision-making fatigue, stick to two. But if that kind of variety is exciting to you, bring on the books!
    • Pro Tip: Make sure the books are very different in genre (like realism versus fantasy), style (ornate versus simple language), and tone (serious versus light).

Re-think your reading time and space…

  • Listen to audiobooks while commuting, walking, running, or cycling (on a stationary trainer—it’s dangerous to have headphones in while on the road with cars)
    • Pro Tip: if your work is less than 3 miles away, try walking instead of driving or taking public transit. 3 miles is about a 45 minute to 1-hour walk; this is excellent book-listening time! It can be difficult to get into a book during a stressful morning drive (though long road trips on open highways make for great audiobook listening). Walking, however, provides the perfect amount of easy movement to stimulate your brain and augment your absorption in the story.Dickens_Gurney_head
    • Fun Fact: Charles Dickens, among many famous writers, was a prodigious walker. As he writes in The Uncommercial Traveler: “My last special feat was turning out of bed at two, after a hard day, pedestrian and otherwise, and walking thirty miles into the country to breakfast.” No wonder why his novels were so long, right? He must have thought them up on epic trekking days.

Posted by

PhD Candidate in English at UCLA, Ironman athlete, outdoor enthusiast, and hammock extraordinaire with a guilty penchant for over-priced health foods.

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