How many books have you read in the last few months? If your answer doesn’t satisfy you, then this article may be of help.
Four years ago I published an article that explained my plan to read more than 8 thousand pages in a year . It’s a simple plan that took advantage of every spare moment I had to read 25 pages a day. At its core, it is a plan that I continue to use with some modifications and additions that I have learned as I go along and through recommendations from others who read more than 100 books a year. In this new article I want to share those strategies that you can combine and adapt according to your preferences and routines.
Why do you want to read books?
Our mind is designed to seek immediate gratification and this makes it difficult to initiate and maintain long-term goals. But with a little practice and with well-defined objectives, you can cultivate the habit of reading. It is important to clearly define the reason (s) why you want to start reading. Defining your goal will help you stay focused and will be your north when other activities appear that try to deviate from what you want to achieve. Defining why is a principle that helps you establish your priorities and works very well with any of the long-term goals you want to set: starting an exercise routine, saving, starting a college career, etc.
Sometimes it is difficult to put into words the reasons why you want to start reading, but some of the most common are:
It is true that books are not the only source of knowledge, with the Internet we have unlimited sources of information, all of them useful and valuable. However, these media are made for brevity and superficiality. In contrast, books, despite being a slightly older technology, have unique characteristics that help them stand out: they address specific topics in more depth, are more rigorously researched, have greater editorial control that allows for much more prose. polished. So if you want to study in more detail any subject it is always good to look for a good recognized book.
Reading also helps you expand your vocabulary, improve your writing, and ultimately helps you better express your ideas. All the knowledge you acquire with books also opens doors of conversation with other people and improves your social skills.
In my case, I am a bit curious so I read books to learn about the topics that interest me. I also read books to better articulate my thoughts and opinions. I think I need to improve my ability to express ideas more clearly, and books give me a good example of how to do that.
Distraction, relaxation and adventures
After a long day of demands and responsibilities, reading a book can be an oasis to disconnect from the constant messages, emails and stimuli that weaken your ability to concentrate and think clearly. With a book you can distract yourself, relax, travel and experience all kinds of emotions, sensations and thoughts. Sure, you can get distracted by watching a Netflix series or checking the Instagram feed, but in my opinion, neither of them equates to a good book. George RR Martin , author of the series A Song of Ice and Fire , wrote a phrase that conveys very well what books can offer you: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, he who never reads lives only one”.
There are a number of studies that suggest that reading fiction increases the capacity for empathy and decreases prejudice. It makes sense, a good book puts you in the shoes of its characters, makes you experience their emotions and thoughts. Which can help you broaden your perspectives and understand other people’s emotions a little better.
Several studies have found that reading books is a good tool to improve memory and generate cognitive reserve, capable of protecting people from diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. So by reading books you can not only learn, have fun and relax, but you also protect your brain.
You don’t have to choose a reason, you can combine them
Setting your goals doesn’t mean you have to choose just one. It is simply a way of knowing more clearly why you want to do it. In my case, I read for a combination of goals. I’m a bit curious so when I listen to or read about a topic that I don’t know and that interests me, I try to find a book that helps me understand a little better. I recently read a wonderful book on Greek myths, because I heard a very good recommendation on a podcast and it was a good opportunity to learn about a topic that I knew very little about. Now I am reading a biography of Marx, because I realized that the only thing I knew about communism and Marx was what I had seen on television. I also try to read everything I can about clinical psychology, and at other times of the day I read fiction books to relax, preferably at night and before going to bed. Again, the idea is to be clear about why you want to read.
Techniques to start the reading habit and increase the pace
You already know why you want to read, you have clearly defined goals and you want to read. Here are a number of recommendations to get you started:
Choose several literary genres that interest you or attract your attention
Without the habit of reading, it can be difficult to know what kind of book you will like. That’s why I recommend that you choose several genres and try the ones that appeal to you the most, short novels, science fiction, graphic novels, whatever you want. You also don’t have to read them from beginning to end and force yourself to finish them, I recommend reading 20% of a book and if you don’t like it or it doesn’t catch you, leave it. We are in a testing phase and at the beginning the important thing is that you can enjoy reading and not feel it as another burden. Once you have developed the habit then you can move on to more challenging books. I started reading a bit late, I read the first complete book at 19: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes . Over the years I have been able to read a little more challenging and voluminous books.
How to find genres that I like? A good way to find books is to search for recommendations on the internet, read readers ‘comments on Amazon (where you can buy used books at a very low cost), Goodreads (readers’ social network), read the New York Times section of books , Visit local bookstores (so you can also give them a hand right now) and ask for recommendations or just check out what books they have. One way I like to find good books is to check Bill Gates’ reading list , he always publishes a very interesting and current list. Thanks to this resource I learned about the wonderful biography An Education and Why We Sleep, a complete and very well written investigation on sleep.
You only need 5 minutes a day
You are more likely to meet your goals when you set a specific time for them to do so. Calmly analyze how your day to day is and what moments you would dedicate to reading. Reading for long periods of time is a skill that requires a lot of training, therefore it is not very effective if you try to read an hour at a time. This would increase your frustration when you fail and increase the chances that you will stop trying. Better look for small spaces of 5 and 15 minutes to read. It can be while you wait for the bus, have lunch, make a coffee or whatever. If you can read 5 minutes a day, you will have completed your goal and if you manage to dedicate several 5-minute spaces to it, you will have read much more than you did before.
Record the pages you read, not the books
Reading a 500-page book can be quite challenging, especially for people who have not developed the habit of reading. A more effective alternative is to set the number of pages you want to read per day and not the number of books. This way you can easily know if you reached your daily goal and it will help you stay motivated immediately.
At the beginning, try to set very small objectives that are impossible to not meet. For example, you can set “read 2 pages per day” and keep track of either a note app or on paper when you do it. At first it may seem too little, just 2 pages? But remember that you are establishing a new habit, it is much more effective to start in a way that does not create friction in your life. In addition, these two pages will add up and by completing the week you will have read 14 pages that you did not read before, which is quite an important achievement. Once you have consistently achieved the goal of 4 pages per day (28 pages per week) then you can progressively increase it.
When you finish the book, you can make a record of the books you finished. It’s nice to see at the end of the year how many books you were able to read.
Read books in digital and physical format
Having books on hand is essential to start the habit of reading. A good strategy is to have them in physical and digital format. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but by combining them you have the perfect solution.
Books in digital format are quite inexpensive, you can download a sample and if you like it, you can buy it complete in a matter of seconds on your cell phone, tablet, Kindle (for me the best electronic reading device) or any device. The digital books include a dictionary function, notes, highlighting, reading log, they allow you to change the font size, background (to make it more comfortable for your eyes) and you can even read in places with low light. Having books in digital format helps a lot to keep up the pace of reading. For example, if you are waiting in line, you can move forward with your reading plan from your cell phone instead of entering the black hole of social media.
Books in physical format help you disconnect, they offer the advantage of being able to leave your cell phone and any other technological device to concentrate better. Research shows that people learn best when they read in print because they can easily move through the book, review concepts, and quickly make annotations for later review. Last, and not least, is that with physical books you can build your personal library, which is very reinforcing.
In my case I use both modes depending on the book I am going to read. If it’s fiction, I can read it from the Kindle and if I really like the book and want to collect it, I also buy it in print. For my work I buy books in physical format, so I can highlight, write notes, etc.
Treat yourself with kindness
There will be days when you can’t read or have a hard time concentrating, and thoughts like “I’m not good at this”, “I will never be able to finish this book,” etc. are likely to arise. It is very important that if that happens, you treat yourself with kindness, and notice what is happening. You can say something like, “Right now I am distracted and I cannot read, what is causing it? With curiosity and a kind treatment you will be able to notice what is interfering with the reading habit that you are forging, you will be able to modify it and at the same time you will reduce self-criticism and you will feel more motivated.
These are just some recommendations, if you have other useful strategies and want to share them, please add them in the comments section. I would be delighted to read you.