time management

How to Be a Better Reader: 5 Things You Can Do Today to Make Reading a Habit

September 18, 2018

Reading Time: 5 minutes

READ TIME: 6 MINUTES

It’s no secret that I love talking books. But 9 times out of 10, there’s always someone within earshot of a bookworm conversation who laments, “I would love to read more, but I just can’t find the time…”

It breaks my heart.

Turns out, they’re not alone. 24% of American adults haven’t read a book – even part of one – in the last year.

If you’re on the fence about starting a reading habit, a recent Yale study discovered that people who read books live longer. And that “the practice of reading books creates cognitive engagement that improves lots of things, including vocabulary, thinking skills, and concentration. It also can affect empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, the sum of which helps people stay on the planet longer.”

All of that sounds really great to me… how about you?

Yes, you actually CAN find time to read – if you really want to.

But like anything you want to do, you have to make it a priority and carve out time for it.

You have more time than you think.

Instead of 24 hours in a day, I prefer to think in terms of 168 hours in a week. That’s a nice big blank canvas to start with. Sub out 56 hours for sleeping, assuming you’re getting around 8 hours of sleep a nice. Then pull… say… 45 hours for work and work-related stuff and you’re left with 67 hours for eating, getting dressed, exercising, taking care of your family, volunteering and – you know exactly where I’m going here… reading.

67 hours a week sounds like a pretty big number, so where does all the time go?

A lot of places… but let’s focus on the top two:

DISTRACTIONS & TECHNOLOGY

In addition to doing the essentials I mentioned above (Girl’s gotta eat, right?) our time bank takes a big hit in the form of distractions. And anyone with a smartphone knows how much technology is to blame for many of those distractions.

In fact, recent research shows that – while sitting in front of a computer – we’re hit with a distraction every 40 seconds. I’d like to think that counts for smartphone usage too.

We can barely get through a single minute without getting sidetracked. And all of those little distractions add up during the course of a day, leaving us wondering where all of our time disappeared to.

Then, when you consider that our brains are literally hardwired to respond to distraction – [seriously, we get a rush of the feel good chemical dopamine every time we switch our focus to something new] it’s a wonder we can get anything done these days – much less a bit of recreational reading.  

At the end of the day, which seems like a natural time for cozying under a blanket with a cup of tea and a book, we’re still scrambling to finish the day and getting ready to do it all over again tomorrow. Not exactly the peaceful picture we imagine…

And instead, we crawl into bed and scroll through pretty pictures and puppy videos on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest on repeat until our eyes glaze over and we shut off the light.

So, how do we flip the script and get in a little book time?

  1. TIGHTEN UP YOUR TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS

It should come as no surprise that the first step to finding more time to read is to simply arrange your 168 hours a tiny bit better. But never fear, it’s not as hard as you think.

Use time blocks to focus on accomplishing similar activities as a method of warding off distraction. Set aside chunks of your day, or certain days of the week for knocking out specific tasks. This keeps task-switching at bay, which results in 15-20 minutes of focus lost per switch.

2. USE WAITING TIME

Standing in line at the bank. Sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room. Waiting for your number to be called at the DMV. All prime time to get in some valuable mindless phone scrolling, right? Or – pack a paperback in your bag and get in a few pages while you wait. Consider this “found time” instead of “lost time.”

3. “READ” IN THE CAR, OR AT THE GYM.

I’m a big fan of listening to books using Amazon’s Audible for 30+ minute drives or while on the treadmill at the gym, but there are lots of other book-listening options, such as OverDrive or Libby that can help you get your fix without actually opening a real book.

4. RETHINK YOUR MORNING ROUTINE.

In his book, The Miracle Morning, author Hal Elrod expounds on the benefits of reading in the morning, before your day has the ability to go off the rails. For many parents, business owners and generally busy people, the early morning hours are the only time for quiet, “me time” and a prime window for personal development reading.

Yes – it might mean you have to get up a little earlier, but it’s certainly a viable option.

5. RETHINK YOUR BEDTIME ROUTINE.

We’ve already established that it’s easier to mindlessly phone scroll before you shut off the light and head to dreamland. But keeping a book on your nightstand gives you a second option that can actually reduce stress and help you sleep better. A 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that it only took 6 minutes of reading before bed to lower readers’ stress levels.

BONUS TIP: SET A GOAL. OR DON’T. AND GIVE YOURSELF SOME GRACE NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS.

Let’s face it. Some of us are very goal motivated, striving to cross everything off of our list and hit our target numbers. And some of us don’t want to add any more pressure than necessary to something that is meant to be enjoyable. So – if you want to set a goal like, “Read 1 Book Per Month” – then go for it! And if you don’t… then don’t.

And if you hit your goal, awesome!

And if you don’t, don’t sweat it. It’s okay. Really.

I only read ONE book in all of 2015.  

That was the year I decided I wanted to start reading again.

I kept The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin on my nightstand that entire year, and read a few pages here and there.

An entire year, spent on a book with less than 300 pages.

But that ONE book of 2015 was enough to kickstart a reading habit that thrives today.

So even if you start small – one book small – start somewhere.

TO RECAP:

  • Finding time to read is just like finding time for anything else.

  • You have more time than you think.

  • Distractions and technology are two of the biggest obstacles to carving out reading time.

  • Keep distractions at bay with time blocking.

  • Toss a book in your bag and read a few pages during waiting time.

  • “Read” an audiobook during drive time or gym time.

  • Read in the morning.

  • Read before bed.

  • Set a goal, or don’t.

ASK YOURSELF

  1. Do I want to make reading a habit?

  2. What type(s) of books am I interested in?

  3. How can I combat distractions and carve out time to read?

  4. Could I add reading to my morning or evening routines?

  5. Do I want to set a reading goal?

LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE

  1. Choose a book you’ve been wanting to read. Order it from Amazon, pick it up at your local bookstore, or check it out at the library.

  2. Ask others if and when they carve out time to read.

  3. Find 15 minutes in your week (out of 168 available hours) to read, make a reading date with yourself, and stick to it!

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