If the Internet had been a thing when I was in school, I would have skirted book reading even more than I did.
As it was, I figured out that if I read the first and last 20 pages of whatever book was assigned in English class, that I could fudge my way through most tests and reports.
That little shortcut, plus watching the movie version of the book if it was available, got me through.
Making matters worse for “Future Tom,” my bad habits were rewarded with good grades. I guess I was pretty good at getting the gist of a story or idea and relaying it.
In this way, I had proven to myself that books were things to be avoided. Books were hard, long, and boring. And I didn’t really need them.
That’s the impression I burned into my brain.
It was only much later in life that I learned how amazing books can be.
Now, I cherish them.
But I still struggled to read them.
All that mental baggage from my youth remained. Books were hard, long, and boring. And amazing?
I was confused.
It took me a while to reconcile this and to get my habits caught up to my new reality.
If you might be stuck in that place, for whatever reason, where you want to read more (especially books) but you’re struggling to find the time, motivation, energy, or whatever else is in your way, this post will help.
Let’s do this!
(Two of the tips in this post are going to work like magic for you.)
How to get into the habit of reading more books
Maybe you are already reading some books now and you want to read more.
Perhaps your book reading has fallen off and you get most of your info online. And you would like to get back into books for some deeper thinking they offer.
No matter where you are at, you probably struggle to find the time and energy for more book reading.
Now, you might be expecting me to say to set a big goal. Then to make it public and/or get an accountability partner. And finally to focus your willpower on this new priority and just do it.
Instead, though, I’m going to ask you to think about discovery, exploration, and experimentation.
Doesn’t that sound like more fun already?
I bet it does. And that’s exactly the mindset that will encourage you to read more books.
Here’s the thing. You need to have an open and excited mindset to make this work for you.
Then, you can layer on the strategies and tactics. We’ll cover it all.
But, start by thinking about all of this as something to try out and see how it goes. Less pressure, more results.
How do I force myself to read a book?
If you’ve got the right mindset, you know that this is the wrong question.
Forcing yourself to read more books is the path to making it feel like drudgery. The point isn’t to read books. It’s to explore new ideas, new fields of knowledge, or in the case of fiction, new worlds that don’t exist anywhere else.
This also leads to the first key strategy to reading more books: don’t be afraid to quit.
If you are not liking the book after the first 25 pages, drop it. There are millions of books on the planet, maybe this isn’t the right next one for you right now. Maybe it never will be.
That’s ok. Let it go and move on.
I struggled with this for years myself. I had thought of reading a book as a commitment. Once I started, I needed to see it through, no matter what.
After all, reading a book was rare in my experience. It was supposed to be hard and not so much fun. So it seemed appropriate for it to be a struggle.
But all that did is slow me down and discourage me.
Which is why switching to a mindset of discovery, exploration, and experimentation helped.
Now, if a particular book isn’t working for me at this moment, then there are plenty more where that came from. It’s better to move on and put the energy into further exploration.
Moving on provides great relief. And there is no teacher to dock your grade because you didn’t do your homework.
Never force yourself to finish a book just because you started it. If it’s not working for you, move on.
This is what libraries are for
You have at your disposal the greatest tool for picking books up and putting them down. Your local library is a great place to explore books.
Rather than buying every book you might want to read, which is a much stronger up-front commitment, consider picking them up at the library for free.
In my town, and probably in yours, the library catalogue is online. Books can be reserved and you can get an email notice when it’s ready for pickup. Many libraries even have ebooks and audiobooks available.
This makes it easy for you to pick up a few books at a time and explore them. Maybe some will stick and maybe some won’t.
That’s ok. Just drop them and move on.
Your library is giving you a convenient, low stakes approach to try out more books easily. There is probably one near your home, and there might even be one near your office.
Check them out. (Ha ha…get it?!)
What are good reading habits?
Scott Adams famously said that he stays healthy by using the absolute best diet in the world. With this diet, you can eat whatever you want, you can eat whenever you want, and you can eat as much as you want.
The trick, he said, is to change what you want.
I think the same applies to good reading habits. While I’m not a big fan of setting goals of reading a certain amount of books in a certain time, I do think it’s a good idea to convince yourself that you are finding joy in reading.
When it feels like work, it’s not fun or exciting. But, if you can find value and excitement in reading, it’s going to make you want to do more.
Books are ways to learn new things. They allow you to explore someone’s deep thinking on a topic. And they help you to see the world in a new way.
While this can be equally true for fiction, I’m mostly thinking about nonfiction books. That’s most of what I read these days.
And I find it to be an exceptional value to get the benefit of someone’s research and analysis of a topic, shaped by their experience and expertise, and presented conveniently to me after it’s run through a gauntlet of rigorous review and editing.
If I got it at the library, I got all that for free. If I paid twenty bucks for the privilege, I still got a world class bargain.
With each book you peruse, take note of the insights and lessons you are able to take away. Some will be big, some will be small. But you will certainly learn some things.
If you can appreciate that, you can get interested in doing more reading.
I always try to think about how I might apply new ideas to my work and life. There is usually some way to do this, but even the act of pondering it helps me to more deeply consider the ideas I’m learning and to appreciate their potential value.
Good reading habits stem from seeing the value in reading. Work on this and the rest will flow much more naturally.
But also consider the following magical strategies to supercharge your reading efforts.
Game changing habit number 1: Replace phone time with book time
This is probably the biggest change that has shifted my pace from reading a book every month or two to reading a book every week or two.
I have a super sticky non-productive habit of looking at my phone every free minute that I have.
As I became more and more aware of this, I would notice myself going through the motions of taking out the phone and cycling through the same apps in the same order over and over again.
I realized that I wasn’t really looking for or finding anything. It is a useless habit, but one that I keep repeating.
What’s more, I noticed that the more time I spend staring at that little screen, the more blazee I would feel.
Some time ago, I began shifting things by not picking up my phone at all for the first hour of the day.
It made a huge difference in how I felt. I started my days with more energy and awareness of the world around me instead of starting with my mind dulled by random content from around the internet.
One of the options that made a huge difference was to pick up a book and read a few pages to start the day while I had my first cup of coffee.
But the real game-changer came when I went just a little further. I started carrying a book around with me and swapping out more phone time for book time.
Instead of staring at my phone on the train during my commute, I read my book.
Instead of staring at my phone over lunch, I read my book.
Instead of staring a my phone on the train ride home, I read my book.
My mood and attitude improved greatly. And I started covering serious ground on the reading front.
Perhaps the biggest surprise has been that I’m really not missing anything. Even with the greatly diminished time spent on my phone, I feel plenty caught up with social media, news, and the like. It doesn’t feel like this trade-off has cost me a thing. Yet it’s given me so much.
Game changing habit number 2: Read books instead of watching TV
Today’s world of TV is amazing!
We have YouTube TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and a whole bunch of random stuff that comes with Roku.
I love digging into new and compelling shows or movies. And I get a kick out of streaming Karate Kid, Pretty in Pink, or Match Game 76 in the kitchen while preparing dinner.
So it’s extra easy for me to end the day by plopping down and “seeing what’s on” for an hour or two. After which, I sorta feel tired and run down a bit, but not really satisfied.
Again, I experimented with swapping out some TV time for book reading. The weirdest thing, perhaps, was that I truly expected that I would be “too tired” to read, but I wasn’t.
If I’ve got a good book that I’m interested in, I’m finding it fun and exciting to sneak in a few more pages at the end of the day. It can actually be an energizing experience.
But perhaps the biggest lesson here is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Catching up on news, entertainment, and classic TV is still fun. I just spend a little less time on it. That small shift can really make a big impact in how much I read and how my energy flows.
You probably have a TV or similar habit that can be refined a bit too. And I think you will be surprised by how some small adjustments can make a big difference.
Game changing habit number 3: Read audiobooks while driving or walking
Converting downtime to reading time is another way to find more opportunities to read. Audiobooks are great for this.
I’ve listened to a bunch of books while walking to or from the train on my commute or while driving in the car. This makes better use of the time than most other options (though I do enjoy quiet time to think too!).
My guess is that fiction books would fit in particularly well here, but I’m more of a nonfiction junkie. That said, not all of them fit well into audiobooks for me.
What I have discovered, however, is a wonderful world of author-read nonfiction books that are amazing. Autobiographies are a great choice.
Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up, read by Steve Martin, feels more personal than if I read it myself in my own inner voice.
But it doesn’t have to be an autobiography. Tony Shieh’s Delivering Happiness was one of my favorite business books, and I found his reading it directly to me to be captivating.
There’s also Gary Vaynerchuck who hates recording audiobooks but does it for his fans anyway. In his most recent book he goes off script many times, rants, swears, and carrys on about various things, making the experience more surprising and interesting, and many of the point more compelling.
Audiobooks may not be right for you all of the time, but I bet they are right for you some of the time. And they can even be superior to traditional reading. At least certain selections.
Finding your format
You can read books anywhere. And in a variety of formats.
I’m finding that I like to read most books in the good old traditional paper format. It’s less strain on my eyes. I enjoy the visceral feel of the book. And I love knowing intuitively how far along in the book I am by the thickness of the book.
That said, there are times when reading on a tablet can make more sense. Tablets make it easy to travel light. And they come with their own light source, making reading in dark settings more convenient.
I’ve also read whole books on my little phone, using the Kindle app. Maybe you would even like a dedicated reader, many of which have combine the benefits of electronic format with technology that mimics the paper reading experience.
The point is, you have options. And it doesn’t matter which one works or if you want to use a combination. Find one or find a combination that works for you. This can be another fun area to experiment.
How long does it take the average person to read 100 pages?
Read what you like and take whatever time you need. Metrics like how many pages you read a day or how many books you read a year don’t matter.
Read more and enjoy it.
As I’ve worried about pace less, it has opened up new opportunities for me. I’ve started to go back and re-read some of my favorite books now. And some that just didn’t sink in fully the first time around. In fact, some are lined up for a third or fourth read already.
Reading more books is fun, interesting, and exciting. Getting that attitude right will help you more than probably anything else in this post.
Maybe you already feel that way and you just needed some secret tips. Or possibly you want to feel that way but need to get started gently down the path.
Any and all of the above will be served by taking some small steps today to start reading more tomorrow.
It’s a mindset shift. It’s a matter of developing some new habits. Each of those takes time.
Just remember the powerful tips we talked about in this post today.
- Use your local library
- Replace phone time with book time
- Replace TV time with book time
- Read audiobooks while driving or walking
Adopt a sense of exploration and experimentation, pursue these techniques, and soon you will be on your way to reading more and more.
If it becomes valuable to you, the habit will grow. Remember to try different books and put them down if you don’t like them. There is always more to explore.