There is no question I’m asked more often than “How do you find the time to read so much?” or “How can I find more time to read?” Let me share 5 ways to accelerate your reading habit.
Bonjour dweebs! If you always wanted to develop a reading habit but felt afraid about how to begin, this might prove to be a tipping point for you. Scheduling is a function of prioritization, so I am assuming if you are reading this then reading is one of your priorities after all.
Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. — Anaïs Nin
I take solace in a beautiful 1930 essay by Hermann Hesse titled “The Magic of the Book,” in which the Nobel laureate argued that no matter how much our technology may evolve, reading will remain an elemental human hunger.
Decades before the Internet as we know it existed, Hesse wrote:
“We need not fear a future elimination of the book. On the contrary, the more that certain needs for entertainment and education are satisfied through other inventions, the more the book will win back in dignity and authority.”
You will understand the gravity of reading only once you are into it.
Now, I highly despise preaching, so if you think this blog is gonna rekindle your spirits, feel free to be disappointed.
Well, first, there is no secret. As simple as it sounds, finding time to read boils down to choices about how you allocate your time.
In a good week, I can read a book or two. Sometimes it takes 10 days or so to finish one. A book is usually 200-250 on an average and I can read up to 40-50 pages, resulting into 5-6 days to finish reading a book.
In case you wish to read more about how I spend my time, click here.
| Finding More Time to Read |
Let’s look at this another way. Rather than say what I do, I’ll tell you what I don’t do.
I don’t spend a lot of time watching TV. (The lone exception to this is the time I spend binge-watching culinary/comedy shows.)
I watch very few movies and do not indulge in YT spirals where you end up watching cute dog videos. (For me, it's mostly 1 movie in a week)
I don’t spend a lot of time commuting now. (Thanks to COVID or no thanks?!)
These choices are deliberate.
Finding time to read is easier than you might think. Waiting for a bus? Stop staring down the street and read. Waiting for a zoom meeting to start? Read. On the train? Read. On the plane? Read. Waiting for your flight? Read.
“Books read us back to ourselves… The escape into another story reminds us that we too are another story. Not caught, not confined, not predestined.” — Rebecca Solnit
The trick is to take baby steps. Take out 25-30 mins everyday to read, no matter what. You may also use the Pomodoro Tracker to track yourself.
| Reading environment |
“Reading is the work of the alert mind, is demanding, and under ideal conditions produces finally a sort of ecstasy,” — E.B. White
Take a minute and think about what sort of atmosphere invites you to read.
What are the most important elements for you (or are you one of the lucky ones that can read anywhere, anytime?) ?
Dedicate a space in your home specifically for reading. This can be anywhere you feel comfortable and at ease.
Maybe you want to set up a comfortable chair next to the window. Add pillows and blankets for even more coziness.
Accents such as book lamps, candles, or area rugs can also contribute to a soothing atmosphere.
“Lovers’ reading of each other’s bodies… differs from the reading of written pages in that it is not linear… What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space.” — Italo Calvino
| Proximity |
Always have a book with you -- because you never know when you'll find some edge time.
It might be on your phone- in kindle or an audible or a physical copy, but always keep a book close by.
This way, whenever you find yourself with some unexpected down time, reading will always be an option.
“Books feed and cure and chortle and collide.” — Gwendolyn Brooks
| Steal Time |
According to psychologist Gerald Weinberg, each extra task or ‘context’ you switch between eats up 20–80% of your overall productivity:
Focusing on one task at a time = 100% of your productive time available
Task switching between two tasks at a time = 40% of your productive time for each and 20% lost to context switching
Task switching between three tasks at a time = 20% of your productive time for each and 40% lost to context switching
One way to find more time is to be consciously aware of where are we wasting our time.
“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” — Franz Kafka
And just how much are you switching? One study found most people average only 3 minutes on any given task (and only 2 minutes on a digital tool before moving on).
| Sprints vs Long Hauls |
What I read depends on the situation
If I know I have only a few minutes, I’m not going to read something that requires a lot of mental context switching to get back into.
I’ll keep it simple, with something like Alaine De Botton’s Essays in Love. For short inter-bursts, the key is to select a book which does not have a lot of cliffhangers but instead has short and pithy chapters.
Waiting around is also a great time to read magazines, newsletters and articles from the web.
These tend to be short, rather disposable, and easily digested.
Sometimes I want to read without interruption. Sometimes I’ll read something light before going to bed, at other times during long hauls I’ll read something requiring more thought so I can ponder an idea while I’m falling asleep.
That is why I read: I want everything to be okay. That’s why I read when I was a lonely kid and that’s why I read now that I’m a scared adult. Our minds and the universe — what else is there? — Mary Ruefle
When I’m not reading, I’m trying to think about what I’ve just read. I don’t pull out a book while I’m in the checkout line at the grocery store. Additionally, establishing connections/correlations/causation between your new and older reads makes you remember more stuff.
“The end of a book’s wisdom appears to us as merely the start of our own, so that at the moment when the book has told us everything it can, it gives rise to the feeling that it has told us nothing.” — Marcel Proust