A common refrain I hear from many of my friends is a desire to read more. I get it. I have a long list of unfinished books, and a longer list of those I want to read.
The fact is, that for any writer, aspiring or established, the importance of reading is paramount. A writer does not create out of nothing, but uses the material he knows as compost for growing new ideas. For this reason, I want to increase my reading time significantly. Over the last several months I have done so.
Do you feel the same way? Do you want to spend more time reading? If so, I think you can, with these four tips:
1. Pick your place(s) to read carefully, then stick to them
At home, I have a chair in the living room that I read my Bible in every morning. If I try to read it elsewhere it’s not the same. There is something about that chair in the quiet of the morning.
Find the places that work for you. For me, it’s that chair, my home office and my bed. In those locations my mind is used to reading, and this has a powerful reinforcing effect. Regardless of what makes a location great for you, find the few places that are, and read there consistently. Form a habit.
2. Reduce, or even better eliminate, distractions
If you see me at work, whether at home or in the office, I have my headphones in. I’m always listening to podcasts or music. To get anything done, I almost feel like I have to. But that doesn’t work for me when reading. It is too distracting.
Distractions go beyond sound, too. I now treat my reading time the same way I treat my writing. I reduce or eliminate as much input as I can. This means that when I sit down to read or write I do the following things:
- Use a dedicated e-reader or the actual book. No tablets. The temptations and frequency of distraction is just too high
- Turn off music and podcasts. If I need to block sound or I must listen to music, I only listen to music without words
- Absolutely no TV
- Put my phone on silent, or even the ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode
- If I am in my home office, I will quit the email and social media apps on my computer that have audible alerts
- Have a glass of water, or cup of tea/coffee close at hand
Your list is probably different. But, the key question to ask when you consider the inputs around you while reading is this: will it pull me out of the words on the page and interrupt my thoughts? If the answer is yes, then get rid of it.
3. Have multiple options
I keep generally three to five books going at any given time. This kind of variety allows me to pick an option to suit my mood, and when I can do that I am less likely to pick up the TV remote or waste time on the Internet. It’s important to have a number of books available that you want to read, spread across genres. For some people this may mean simply having a list of what you want to read so you can move right on to a new one when you are ready.
Also, life is too short for bad books. If you don’t like what you are reading, then stop. Move on to something else. You will read more books and learn more things if you don’t let boring books and other people’s opinions drive what you read.
4. Have a plan, and make it a priority
This is most important point. If you really want to spend more time reading, then you have to make it a priority. If it is the last thing on your list for the day, it will more than likely not happen.
Having a plan and setting your reading time aside as a priority can help prevent these times from slipping away from you. Every reader will be different, but my plan is simple. For me, the Bible is first thing I read in the morning, and I always carve out time each evening for a least one chapter of one of the other books. Find your own rhythm and plan, but make it conscious. Write it down, or curate a small stack of book by your bed or reading chair. Be intentional about what you are reading.
Reading is a very personal habit, so not all of the details may be right for you. But, I do believe having set locations to read, reducing distractions, and having multiple options will help you read more. And, if all else fails, make it a priority.