Like me, I’m sure some of you don’t read very often. By reading, I mean reading books – not screen based reading, I don’t think that counts in the same way, not really.
I used to read so much more…
Years ago when I started my first web design job, I used to have to commute back and forth by train. That gave me a half hour window each morning and afternoon that I could fill with reading. During the year or so that I did this I was hoping to join the Army, so I read book after book about the Army in Iraq & Afghanistan, my shelf at home was filling up with books that had been read from cover to cover.
Fast forward to my current position, web design/development focussed role once again – but now I work remotely, my commute lasts 5 seconds or so as I walk from my kitchen to my office.
In my own never-ending mission to keep improving myself, I decided wanted to read more, that I SHOULD read more. Surely there is so much more information that can be absorbed from books than from the blue light of the laptop screen. There is also less other distractions with a book, no instant access to other information that leads to an article being abandoned midway through because I remembered I wanted to look at something else.
How do you read more books?
To start with, I approached my want to read more by seeking out ways to read quicker. It seemed quite logical that if you can read faster, you can read more – in less time, right?
I purchased the SuperLearner course on Udemy and began to work my way through the process. Now, this is not to say that the course isn’t good because it is, it just wasn’t the right approach for me to reading more books.
In order to start to use the techniques at the start of the course, I had to practice. This practice didn’t last. I was still not reading as much as I wanted to.
How do other people read more books?
I’m a fan of LifeHack, I can often find myself clicking through plenty of the posts there – many of which will no doubt become visible as the inspiration behind a lot of what I write here on abreakfromlife.
I read this article (which seems to be unavailable at the moment – as is the whole LifeHack site it seems) the author seemed to have a similar outlook/goal as I did, but he also offered up a few ways to actually read more books – by reading more books! Genius!
1. Read 20 pages a day
This seemed like a good start to me. Choose a book and read 20 pages. The next day, pick up that book again and repeat the process. It was so simple! In reality, I found that I needed to follow up on a few more of the articles’ steps – I started using the Coach app and set myself a daily goal of reading 20 pages.
This meant that my phone would prompt me daily, reminding me that this easy approach to reading more still needed to be reinforced into my daily routine.
I decided to receive my prompt Monday to Friday each week, freeing up the weekend from the demands of reading. As I ticked off the daily goal in the app, I did get a nice feeling of satisfaction that I was actually beginning to do what I wanted – I was reading more! Hooray!
To this day I still use this method. Although I often read a bit more in general, I aim to get in my 20 pages each day. There have been numerous days when I have been so engrossed in my book that I have read a couple of hundred pages in one sitting – a week or more of reading, in one sitting! Moments like this are my new satisfaction – when I realise that I have managed to bring reading back into the list of daily activities that I willingly choose to do for fun.
2. Change your relationship with reading
Change your relationship? What, like take your book to bed with you?!
Well no. That would be silly, wouldn’t it? But it was one of the thoughts I initially had when I read it. Maybe it should be ‘change your approach to reading’ – that is more like how it struck a chord with me.
Essentially, try to read some books without reading from cover to cover.
Whilst this could prove to be a bit difficult with most non-fiction books, it is a good method to use when reading something more fact based. Although I enjoy learning new things, I always want to learn it all – right from the beginning. Needless to say, this doesn’t often work and I abandon the topic because it’s become boring. Learning or reading, just the bits that are of importance or interest now – that makes it much easier to get into it.
Tim Ferriss’s book, the 4-hour body, requires being read in this manner. Being a collection of different essays, the reader is presented with a number of different journeys through the book based on their goal. I now try to look at some of my more technical books in this manner, using them not as the main source of learning something – but more as a reference to back up and reinforce what has been taught elsewhere.
I originally began to read the Cabin Porn (it’s not actual porn, rather a collection of isolated cabins) book in this manner, dipping into the images first and using them to draw me into the different stories. Being a book of stories, or rather case studies, it wasn’t so easy to consume the content like I wanted to. But that was OK because I now knew that the technique would work for some books I read, but equally that it wouldn’t work for others.
3. Diversify your reading choices
Credit goes to Alastair Humphreys for this take on it.
Al’s approach? Reading 2 books at once. Not literally of course – but having 2 books on the go at the same time. 1 fact, 1 fiction.
Not literally of course – but having 2 books on the go at the same time. 1 fact, 1 fiction. When I read this on his blog, the lightbulb shone a lighter brighter. This seemed like the perfect backup plan for making sure that reading doesn’t just become a trudge through the pages.
I have a stack of web design & development books on my shelves. I’ve got books on User Experience, Digital Marketing, Drawing Skills… the list goes on. The one thing all of these books have in common, aside from being largely unread, is that they are all trying to teach something to the reader. Some of them read quite well, but any subject can soon get dry when you are trying to force yourself through it.
Reading 20 pages of these books each day is not conducive to me increasing how much I choose to spend my time reading. If anything, it would have the opposite effect – leaving me thinking, ‘Why do I want to read more books anyway? This is painful!’
Taking a different approach, I stopped trying to read books like this. To begin with at least.
I started trying to read more fiction.
Not facts, but stories!
Initially, this felt counter productive. I wanted to read more books so I could learn more, so I could be better at doing what I do. So I could make a step closer towards being considered as ‘well read’.
As it turned out, reading more fiction by the likes of Christopher Brookmyre, Duncan Falconer and Chris Ryan (don’t judge me on my tastes) actually did make me read more. Certainly more often and more consistently. This is where the joy of reading can be found. Escapism. Like the films I enjoy most, reading stories like these allowed me to truly escape. I began to let my mind visually create the characters and settings, page by page. The more pages I read, the more defined the visuals became in my mind.
This was much more like what I wanted from reading more.
It doesn’t have to be about learning more – not all of the time at least. In choosing to spend more time reading, practising the skill, we naturally get better at doing it. So in making it easier to let yourself keep on practising, by choosing to read a book showcasing different artists’ works rather than a book instructing in specific drawing techniques, you can enjoy working on the skill of reading.
4. Accountability – it has a place here too!
Yes, I can count to 3 – this is more of an ‘extra credit’ approach.
I’ve now stopped using/paying attention to the coach app. I no longer need reminding of my 20 pages a day goal, I’ve gotten over that hurdle.
I do still want to keep track of my reading efforts, to see if I am actually reading more – as I had hoped to be.
I think I actually came across this via a Facebook app a long, long time ago! I’ve now got their app on my phone and I keep track of the books I am reading, I log when I’ve read them and I have an ever-growing list of books that I want to read.
Each year Goodreads suggest you join their yearly challenge and decide upon a number of books that you’d like to read in that year.
YES! The goal is now visualised for me, with my progress being updated along the way. Whilst I’m not as disciplined as I was when I started tracking my 20 pages a day, I do now make sure to log each completed book within the app.
A happy upside to continuing to track the books I’ve read is that the Goodreads now has a picturing of the kind of books I like to read. As my ‘want to read’ and ‘read’ lists grow, so does the list of recommendations of other books that I might enjoy reading. By making sure that I read outside of my normal type of books now and again, I am always sure that there will keep on being more and more interesting books for me to read – and Goodreads will tell me which ones they are.
For 2017 I aim to read 24 books, just 2 a month.
In applying the approaches listed here, reading 24 books this year should be very achievable – I think I’ll end up reading more than that, to be honest. Having certainly not read 24 books over the last few years, I am already reading more now than I have been in those years. By ensuring that I consider and apply these 4 methods, I hope to keep upping my book count year on year.