by Mo Amiri November 17, 2019
How many books have you read so far this year? No matter what your number is, we as readers always want to read more books.
I’m the person you see at the coffee shop, the airport, and the edge of a plane, about to jump out (think skydiving), with a book in my hand. Ok, maybe not the last one, but the point is that I read all the time.
And if you’re reading this guide, then chances are you do too.
Or at least we both try.
On average, Americans spend less than 20 minutes reading for leisure per day. A survey conducted by Booknet revealed that only 16% of Canadians read printed books as a daily leisure activity.
So, why aren’t we reading as much as we’d like to?
Five words: not enough time to read. Solution? Make time to read.
If it were that easy, then I would’ve ended this guide right here. But as you know, we can’t create a 25th hour in the day just to read.
I am here to tell you that there is hope for all bookworms to flip through more pages than ever before, even with your current busy schedule.
In this guide, you’ll learn 40 of the best tips and strategies to help you squeeze in more reading time, even with your current busy schedule.
The goal is that after reading (or even skimming) these tips, your nose will be in more books than you ever hoped for.
Reader, let’s dive right in.
40 Tips To Read More When You Don't Have Time:
|Tip.01||Find Your Why|
|Tip.02||Uncover Your Obstacle|
|Tip.03||Analyze Your Reading Mindset|
|Tip.04||Daily Reading System|
|Tip.05||Unplug Your Phone|
|Tip.08||Join A Book Club|
|Tip.09||Carry A Book Everywhere|
|Tip.11||Track Your Reading|
|Tip.12||Distraction Free Reading|
|Tip.13||Build A Reading Nook|
|Tip.15||Read Books On Willpower|
|Tip.16||Read on Your Commute|
|Tip.19||The Art Of Skimming Books|
|Tip.21||Avoid The Reading Burnout|
|Tip.25||Don't Re-Read The Same Line|
|Tip.27||Re-Allocate Your Time|
|Tip.28||One Page Plan|
|Tip.29||Make Reading A Habit|
|Tip.30||Read On Flights|
|Tip.31||Read Multiple Books At Once|
|Tip.32||Read New Genres|
|Tip.34||Become A Bookworm Scientist|
|Tip.35||Plan Your TBR|
|Tip.39||Impromptu Book Dates|
|Tip.40||Stock Up On 100 Books|
There are many reasons why you might want to flip open a book. To gain new knowledge, to open up your imagination or to escape reality for a while.
After digging deep to find out what your 'why' is, the next step is to search for what’s holding you back from reading more.
In other words, what is preventing you from reading as much as you’d like to?
A common obstacle to reading is time. But, ‘I don’t have time’ is too broad to be of any value. By figuring out the exact obstacle, you’ll be 50% on your way to solving it.
Let me show you how you can break down your time obstacle into 3 phases:
Phase 1: To start, observe your day-to-day activities. Spend a week writing down what you do on a daily basis. Don’t analyze anything at this stage. Fill out your timetable with general terms like sleep, read, cook/eat, Netflix/TV, walk dog, commute, exercise, and work.
Phase 2: It’s time to put on your statistician socks. After the observation phase, it’s time to look over your schedule and add up the hours for the most recurring tasks. For example, you don’t have to add ‘dentist time’ if you went there for only an hour during the entire week.
Phase 3: Apply the appropriate tip from this list. For example, in phase 2 you noticed that you spend 10 hours on the bus commuting to and from work per week. In Tip. 16, I give you an idea of how much you can potentially read on your commute.
Notice that our ‘time obstacle’ became a ‘commute obstacle.’ This allowed us to easily plug in the solution: read on commute.
Follow the same process. Start broad. Then keep narrowing your obstacle down until you find a solution that helps you make more time to read.
Lesson: Apply the 3 phase model to uncover and breakdown your reading obstacle.
For some of you, reading 28 books in 28 days might be just another month. For me, it’s an occasion to celebrate with chocolate cake (not one slice, but a whole cake).
This is by far my favourite tip in this guide.
A downside of reading goals is that they come with an endpoint. A finish line is great to look forward to, but what happens once you cross it?
Reading is a marathon, not a sprint. That’s why a reading system can be the perfect complimentary piece to your reading goal.
A daily reading system answers, ‘what can you do today to get closer to your reading goals?’
Let’s look at an example.
Goal: Read the 1,100+ page behemoth “IT” by Stephen King. Putting it that way sounds like it’s going to take forever. But here comes the complimentary piece to the rescue.
System: Read 30 pages a day. Sounds much, much more manageable. You can even make it more detailed by adding a when and where. Read 30 pages a day during your 12:30-1:15 pm lunch break on the bench in the park across the street.
Analysis: The total number of pages didn’t change, but the daily reading system broke it down into manageable chunks. In the simplest terms, a system is a set of small goals. And setting small goals might be what you’re missing.
A rule of thumb is to keep these small goals quantitative, measurable, and realistic.
Bonus Tip: Adjust your reading along the way. Maybe you can only squeeze 15 pages, not 30, during Tuesday’s lunch break.
Lesson: When you set a reading goal (finish 1000-page book), create a daily reading system (read 30 pages a day) to help you reach that goal. A reading system is a set of small milestones that’ll add up to help you reach a larger goal.
Next time you’re cruising on a boat, throw your phone into the ocean.
‘I’ll leave my phone right next to me, but on silent mode’ is not a full-proof method. If your phone is next to you, then you can reach it. And if you can reach it, then you will reach for it.
The practical thing to do is to place your phone in another room while reading. But if you know that you will leave the room to go grab it, then consider downloading apps that’ll help you stay away from your phone (ironically).
Is it practical to go to such heights? As Cooper, played by Mathew McConaughey, said in Interstellar, “No. It’s necessary.”
Lesson: Keep your phone out of sight, out of mind while reading.
If you followed the first sentence in Tip. 05, then it’s time to go fishing for your phone.
If you can’t unplug your phone, then you can use productivity apps to help you focus.
Beeminder (iOS, Android, Free): First, you set your goal. And if you fail to hit that goal, then you (literally) pay the price for it.
Flora- Focus Habit Tracker (iOS, Free + Offers In-App Purchases): Plant a virtual tree when you’re ready to focus. While you’re away, your tree will grow. If you use your phone during your assigned focus time, the tree dies. The app allows you to donate your virtual coins to a real tree planting organization, Trees For The Future.
Freedom (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows): Use this app to block distracting websites, apps, or even the internet.
Bookling (iOS, $0.99): An app made for book lovers to motivate and help them stay on track of their reads. Let’s talk about the app’s ‘Remind Me’ feature. Bookling allows its users to set alarms that reminds them ‘hey, it’s time to crack open that book.’ It’s great if you want to receive notifications of your reading goals for the day. With Bookling, you can track your reading goals, bookmark the several books that you’re reading, and unlock achievement badges. BuzzFeed even listed it as a life-changing app in 2015.
Bookly (iOS, Free): Formerly known as Bookout, Bookly is the ultimate book tracking app. Bookly will calculate your reading statistics, allow you to monitor your reading in real-time, and generate an awesome infographic once you complete a book. Here's Brandi describing her addiction with the Bookly tracking app.
Lesson: Apps are great if you’re always distracted by your phone or need a way to stay accountable.
While apps can keep you connected, there’s nothing quite like peer-to-peer pressure. The good kind that is. The kind that lets you read more.
And it’s straightforward: grab a coffee, grab a book, grab a buddy. You can both read the same book and have weekly discussions about the events that took place. Or you can swap books. Here’s Althea on how to find more reading buddies.
And if your buddy decides to bail out? Then you still have a book and coffee.
Lesson: To stay accountable to your reading, grab a buddy instead of an app.
Round up a few of your reading buddies and start a Wine Club.
Oops did I say wine. I meant Book Club.
Joining a book club can keep things interesting: you’ll get to explore new books, hear different viewpoints, and actually sneak in a few pages between wine testing (ok I promise this was the last wine reference). Here are Charlotte's 11 reasons to join a book club.
Think “Buddy Read” but on a larger scale with more fun activities like Book Club parties and naming your squad, such as “To Read or To Wine” (not another wine joke).
If you don’t have many willing participants in your area, then you can create a virtual book club with your social media friends. You can hold weekly virtual chats or video meetups to discuss the book.
Lesson: Joining or creating a Book Club is a fun way to get you reading more in no time.
You've probably (definitely) heard this a million times before: carry a book with you at all times. Throw a book in your purse or backpack and leave it there.
Your day has so many ‘book filler’ moments. There’s always an opportunity to read. While you wait at the bus stop, dentist’s office, or kitchen for your hot pocket to heat up. Those are perfect times to whip out your book and sneak in a few pages.
The pages will build up to an entire book before I can even finish this sent…
But what if you don’t want to carry around a heavy paperback with you everywhere? Or what if there’s not enough space in your fanny pack.
First of all, fanny packs went out of style before they were even in style (fashion tip: If you have a fanny pack, then go get another one and throw them both out).
Second, you might appreciate going digital with a kindle, kobo, or an audiobook subscription like Audible to save weight and space.
Bottom line is that 5 minutes of reading time is still 5 minutes of reading time. So have a book within your reach at all times.
Lesson: Have a physical, digital, or audio book by your side at all times.
Yes, audiobooks count. While I do prefer paperbacks and hardcovers, audiobooks can be life saviours (literally and figuratively).
If you drive to work, then having your nose in a book is not the safest option. In this case, you can play the audiobook version.
Imagine that you’re standing on a crowded bus. There’s barely any room to move. Unless the people standing next to you don’t mind your book right up against their faces, my suggestion is to plug in your headphones.
Other scenarios where you can opt for an audiobook include: while walking your dog, doing laundry, or cooking breakfast.
Here’s an interesting post written by Dana comparing audiobooks vs reading.
Not sure which audiobook subscription to opt for? Check out the best audiobook resources for 2019 here.
Bonus tip: Increase the speed of the audio to 1.25 or 1.5. The narration can be understood. Try 2.0 if you feel extra adventurous and don’t mind your brain melting.
Lesson: Audio up, when you can’t book up.
There are two kinds of bookworms:
Being part of the latter club for many years, I have to admit that I used to mix the books I read with the ones I had yet to open. Which meant that I sometimes read halfway through a book before realizing, ‘oh, I’ve definitely read this before…twice!’
Do you really want to re-read a book that took you halfway to remember that you've read it before?
By having all your books arranged in one place (i.e., journal, spreadsheet), you'll know exactly what you read, what you thought of it, and how long it took you to flip through all the pages.
Goodbye to accidentally reading the same book twice.
Lesson: Stay organized by tracking your books.
This is my official request to make an open book the new global sign of ‘Do Not Disturb.’ Do you agree?
The worst thing for readers is finding out that their friend dog-eared the pages of their book and that they have to get new friends.
The second worst thing for readers is getting distracted every 2 minutes while reading.
Some can read in the noisiest environments. Others need total silence.
Keep your momentum rolling by reading in a quiet place. More momentum means a higher page count.
Lesson: Read in a quiet place where distractions are minimal.
Turn your reading space into a cozy reading paradise. Reading nooks to a reader are the equivalent of tuna cans to a cat. Curl up with your favourite hooded blanket, scented candle, and furry friend for the coziest reading experience.
Don’t think you have enough space for a reading nook? Here are ideas on how you can fit a reading nook in small spaces.
A cozy reading nook can take your reading to the next level. And by next level, think ‘why would I ever leave this place.’
Whenever you’ll be at home, you’ll want to jump right in with a book instead of watching TV or do anything else. Ensuring you get plenty more paperbacks and hardcovers on your completed shelf.
Lesson: Build a cozy reading nook.
Non-fiction books are great even if you’re a fiction fan for life.
Sometimes, you need to spice things up. To fuel your curiosity. To get over that reading slump. And a non-fiction book can do that.
That does not mean that you have to go memorize your high school anatomy book. Pick a topic that intrigues you. Something that you would like to gain more knowledge about.
Lesson: Head over to the non-fiction section of the bookstore to spice up your reading.
This tip combines tip #02: Uncover Your Obstacle and tip #14: Read Non-Fiction. If what’s standing between you and your reading goals is willpower, then there are many willpower books you can explore to strengthen your willpower.
According to research, humans have a finite amount of willpower on any given day. That’s why sometimes you can't seem to muster enough energy to grab a book.
Here’s a quick summary on the science willpower (using a cup of water as an analogy) in case you’d like to explore it further.
Picture willpower as a glass of water. You start every day with a cup filled to the top (assuming you had enough sleep).
But, as the day goes by, it starts to deplete. Whenever you need to resist a temptation, make a decision, or pretty much think, you’re using up your willpower resources.
Answering questions such as “do I have enough time to hit the snooze button?”, “what am I going eat for breakfast?”, and “should I get another kitten?” all use up your willpower resources (Answer key: always 5 minutes, avocado toast, and no, you should get 3 kittens).
All these questions drain the water/resources from the same cup. In other words, you only have one cup of willpower for all your tasks. That means resisting to grab the cookie while on a diet, thinking about what to wear in the morning, and making decisions at work all deplete the same cup/resources. There is no “must resist cookie” willpower cup.
Luckily, willpower is also like a muscle. You can strengthen it with training. Fixing your posture every time you slouch is an example of a willpower building exercise.
One of my favorite books on this topic is Roy Baumeister’s “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”. Roy also talks about the science of willpower in this video.
Lesson: Willpower your way into reading more books by reading books on willpower.
This tip has boosted the number of books I’ve read more than any of the other tips listed. As a result, it deserves its own moment of fame.
If you don’t want to carry a book everywhere, then only do so when you’re on a bus, train, or an Über ride.
The average American worker commutes a total of 216 hours per year. Imagine spending that time reading?
Allow me to provide a case in point: How much time do you spend commuting to work or school per year?
Let’s say that you travel 1 hour a day (two-way) for 5 days a week. That’s a total of 5 hours/week.
Assume that this is your schedule for 50 weeks/year. Now, we multiply 5 hours/week by 50 weeks/year. We get 250 hours/year.
This is where it gets interesting. Let’s convert 250 hours/year to pages/year. Assume that we can read at a rate of 30 pages/hour.
The total number of pages is…seven-thousand-five-hundred!
There is a potential to complete 7,500 pages a year just by reading on your commute, where there isn’t much to do anyways. To put it in perspective, that’s like reading the entire Harry Potter book series (approximately 4,224 pages)…almost twice.
Lesson: If you do not want to carry a book everywhere, then just carry it when you take the bus, train, or any public transport.
This one is a no-brainer. I usually skim if I want to get through a book faster (more on this in tip #19 below).
You can start by using these scientific speed reading techniques to read faster, or these 5 tips to read faster without losing comprehension.
Lesson: Read more by reading faster (duh).
Everyone has their favourite series and characters. It might not have been your first series that you read, but it was your first love.
It's like your love for the characters was taken straight out of a movie about sinking ships (everyone’s favourite movie theme). Starring Leonardo DiCaprio of course (everyone’s favourite actor). And that’s what matters.
Re-reading your favourite novels is one of the best ways to gain reading momentum and break your reading slump.
And that momentum can serve you well, defying all laws of momentum-related physics. Pulling you right into a reading binge. And a binge is the perfect formula for reading more books.
Lesson: Re-read some of your all-time favourites to gain reading momentum.
Instead of spending time focusing on every detail, skim and highlight only the main points.
Of course, you can’t skim every book or you’ll miss out on the reading experience. But, skimming is effective when you read self-help books.
If you’ve read more than one self-help book, then you’ve probably noticed that they tend to have a recurring theme. This is not to say that you won’t learn anything new from each book. But you can save a lot of time and finish books quicker by skimming through the repeated points and highlight only the actionable parts.
Lesson: Skim books, particularly self-help ones.
You've reached halfway through this guide! You can download your free PDF version of this guide by clicking on the link above.
I think this is one of the most random, yet underrated, tips on this list.
If you’re like me, then anytime you pause your reading, you make sure it’s at the end of a chapter or section. I don’t know why I do this. It’s one of those things that deep down I know is the right thing to do. Like popping bubble wrap.
Being a bookworm scientist, I decided to carry out a reading experiment:
Methods: Read any 2 related-genre books at the same time. The difference between the two cannot be more than a total of 10 pages. I chose ‘Salt to the Sea’ (page count 391) and ‘Three Day Road’ (page count 400). White coat not needed, but preferred.
Results: I completed Salt to the Sea in 10 days. And Three Day Road in 15 days.
Discussion: I don’t have a scientific explanation for the results. If I were to guess, then I’d say that by pausing halfway through a paragraph, you get a craving in the back of your mind to go grab that book asap. And that’s exactly what I did when I had the chance. (You could make the argument that Salt to the Sea was more entertaining than Three Day Roads).
The only way to find out if it’ll work for you is to give it a try.
Lesson: Pause your readings halfway through a paragraph.
There's another side to my 28 books in 28 days record. A dark side.
The following 28 days I read a whopping total of 1 book.
The reason is simple: I had a reading burnout.
I must admit to not sticking to any of strategies that got me to 28 books in the first place. ‘Tis was a feet hard to repeat. Plus, a book a day is not my forte. It’s almost nobody’s forte. Other than Warren Buffet, who reads 500 pages a day.
Imagine saying this to yourself, ‘I haven’t exercised in a long time. But I plan to start exercising 1 hour everyday starting tomorrow.’
It’s possible to do. But on a long-term basis it’s much harder to stick to than starting with 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week.
Remember what happened when the turtle and hare raced? What happened was that the turtle kicked some serious fluffy rabbit tail. Although the rabbit was much faster, the slow and steady turtle won the race.
This ties in with Tip. 04, “Set a Daily Reading System”. If you want to read more, then start by setting a reasonable goal that you can achieve. Only increase the number of pages once you’re comfortable with your reading schedule.
Here are Kathy's tips to help you recover from a reading burnout.
Lesson: Increase your reading volume by a few pages every few weeks to avoid a reading burnout.
*WARNING* This is for the bravest bookworms (aka bookdragons) out there.
Similar to how you’d prepare for a biology test, sometimes you need to cram all your reading in one go.
A read-a-thon is like a reading session on steroids.
The main goal is to read more during this time than you would any other time.
Here’s a summary of how to plan a read-a-thon in 4 easy steps:
Lesson: Ready. Set. Read-a-thon.
The faint hearted bookworms might want to swap the read-a-thon with a reading challenge.
The main difference between the two is the time length. Readathons have a small timeframe. While, reading challenges have daily, monthly or even yearly milestones.
The best analogy I can think of is that a read-a-thon is a sprint, while a reading challenge is a marathon.
From completing 100 books a year to only reading historical fiction for an entire month, there’s a host of reading challenges on Goodreads to satisfy your bookish cravings.
Lesson: A reading challenge can keep you motivated and focused on the prize if a read-a-thon is not your forte.
Remember tip #02: Uncover Your Obstacle?
Well, you might’ve realized that reading can become an expensive habit. Especially if you read a gazillion books every year.
But, instead of calling it quits, start planning your book budget ahead of time, maybe at the start of every month.
This way you can set expectations on how many books you’ll buy from the bookstore, and how many you’ll borrow from the library.
As Erasmus, the 16th Century scholar once put it, “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”
Lesson: Set a Bookish Financial Plan.
The ‘what did I just read?’ question comes up way too often in a reader’s mind.
So, what you’d naturally do is go back and re-read the same line another time.
And another time.
It can be exhausting and time-consuming. But why do some lines not get processed by our minds? Three possible answers:
If you want to read more, then re-reading the same sentence many times will not help your cause. You can either read through and see how the rest of the page unfolds or take a break from reading.
Taking short 5-10 minute breaks has been shown to get your concentration back on track.
Lesson: Don’t re-read the same line a million times. Power through or take a break.
I left this one as a half tip for one main reason: Does reading the summary of a book count as reading the book?
When all is said and done, if you only read the Spark Notes of The Great Gatsby, is it fair to say that you’ve read the entire book?
I’ll leave this for you to decide.
Lesson: Does reading the summary of a book equal to reading the book?
You've heard it all. Plan your day first thing in the morning. Even better, do it the night before. Focus on only 3 priorities per day. No, no, that’s 3 for the entire week. Right?
No matter how you decide what your priorities are, you have to figure out if reading more is one of them.
If it is, and you’re spending a lot of time on an activity that is not urgent or important, then you might want to consider re-allocating that time to flipping pages. Not pancakes (ok, pancakes too).
I’m talking about as little as 10 minutes a day. Can you watch 2 episodes of Friends instead of 3? You could spend those 20 minutes reading. In 2017, Americans were spending 10 times more of their leisure time watching TV than reading.
10 minutes might not seem a lot. But who knows? You might get so absorbed by the book that you realize a whole hour has gone by.
Lesson: Re-allocate time from one activity to reading.
If all else fails, tell yourself, ‘I will read 1 page today.’
That’s it. One page.
To which you might say, “I currently read more anyways. How is 1 page going to help me read more?”
To which I reply, “I’m suggesting that you read 1 page a day because I want you to actually open the book. Even on the days that you don’t feel like reading at all.”
You know that time when your friend was asking you to come along to the movies. And you knew that you’d enjoy it, but you preferred to stay home and watch Netflix. Well, this is the same thing. Sort of.
What happened is that you thought of all the things you had to do. Get dressed, drive to the theatre, and wait in line for the popcorn.
There have been dozens of times where I had the time and desire to read. But never did because I associated opening a book with reading at least 20-25 pages in one go. That thought alone felt like I had no energy to grab a book.
In the same way that you turned down your friend because, let’s say, you didn’t have anything to wear, I didn’t read.
I’m not saying that you should change your schedule to read only 1 page a day. Instead, make it a daily promise to yourself to read that page even if you don’t feel like it.
By associating reading with 1 page, opening a book doesn’t seem like a gigantic activity anymore. Reading more feels like reading less (I don’t know what’s that supposed to mean, but it sounds like the right thing to say). In your movie plan, that would equate to telling yourself, I’ll put on a pair of pants.
Lesson: Promise yourself to read at least 1 page a day.
The best long-term strategy is to turn your reading into a daily habit because we generally consume less mental energy on habits.
Here’s more on how to start new habits that stick.
I was planning to write a guide on building reading habits. But then I came across Nick's article: 19 Powerful Techniques to Build a Reading Habit. Nick does an amazing job detailing the techniques. So if you’re looking to build a new reading habit, then look no further.
Lesson: Upgrade from reading goal to reading system to reading habit.
On flights, you are stuck in your seat. You get snacks delivered with a click of a button. And you get to show to the other passengers that you are a true bookworm by turning on the overhead lights to read, while they try to sleep.
And (secretly) wish that they could knock you out with your own book.
These reasons alone make flights an excellent time to squeeze in as much reading as possible. In her blog post, D.R. Baker even points out that reading on an airplane can be magical.
Travelling with kids? Here are Jen’s 3 book recs to bring along for long distance flights with a one-year old (spoiler alert: books with finger puppets are the clear winners).
Lesson: Pack a book or e-book to read on your flights.
Fictional worlds are colliding. That’s what I thought when I first started reading multiple books at once.
Nonetheless, here are 2 reasons why reading multiple books at once can help you read more than reading one book at a time:
Reason #1: Gives you a chance to get through those mentally draining books (i.e., philosophy) because you’ll be pairing them with ones that are easier to digest (i.e., romance). Another tip is to enjoy the complex reads when you are alert, such as in the mornings. Keep the lighter reads for when you wind down.
Reason #2: If you’re a mood reader, then you could wake up in the mood for Sci-Fi. Then, during lunch you might want a good Thriller to go with your tuna melt panini. And at night, it could be rom-com time. By having several genres open, you can choose what you feel like reading in the moment. And as you know, when you’re clicking with what you’re reading, then you’ll want to read more of it. Which equates to more total pages.
Are you totally against reading multiple books at once? Laura, a reader at heart, shares her experience on transitioning to reading more than one book at a time.
*CAUTION* Know your limits to how many books you can read at once. I would not try this out with more than 3 books at a time because a) ain’t nobody got time to keep up with that many storylines, b) I can’t carry 50 books with me so that I can read based on my mood, and c) tuna melt panini does not go well with every genre.
Lesson: Read multiple books at once, especially if you’re a mood reader.
Step outside your bookish comfort zone.
You know what happens when you eat chicken that has the exact same seasoning everyday? You’ll hate chicken.
The same goes for books and devouring them.
Keep things interesting by reading new genres. Here are 11 reasons to try reading a new genre. There’s bound to be at least one genre that you haven’t read yet. Graphic novels, maybe?
Try these 7 books to help you break through your genre bias. Tease your taste buds with new reading spices. (Ok that’s enough bookish food puns)
Lesson: Read one new genre per month.
It's going to be an epic battle. It’s you versus…you?
That’s right. Challenge yourself to a daily, weekly, monthly reading goal. If you achieve it, then reward yourself with $5. Then, use that money to buy more books.
If ‘you’ wins over ‘you’ (i.e., you don’t hit your goal), then take away something. Like Netflix time. Or add something you hate. Like radish to your dinner. In psychology, those are positive reimbursement and positive punishment, respectively.
Lesson: Challenge yourself to an epic reading battle.
Trying these tips is the easy part. What’s hard is giving yourself permission to fail at them before finding the ones that stick.
Not every strategy is going to work for you. As great as audiobooks are, you might prefer to carry a physical book around with you. Even if that means holding the book in someone’s face on a crowded bus. So Tip. 10 ‘Audiobooks Count’ might not be your best bet.
The point here is that some tips will work better for you than others. Keep experimenting until you find the ones that stick. I’d suggest that you try one (or two at most) in one go.
Lesson: Experiment with several strategies to find the ones that work best for your goals.
By knowing what you’ll be reading for the next month, you hit 2 birds with 1 stone.
First, you eliminate decision fatigue. Which can affect your willpower. And a lower willpower means that you’re more likely to do a minimal-energy task such watching tv than reading.
Second, because you’ve already selected what you’re going to read, you can jump right into the first page of your next book after completing one.
So, what I’m suggesting is that you batch your TBR list for the next month or two to avoid draining your mental resources and time.
Lesson: Plan your To Be Read list to save on brain resources and time.
(We’ll count this as a tip and a half)
Taking notes sounds time consuming, right?
At least that’s what I thought before trying it out. At first, I was spending a lot of time deciding what to actually write down. And of course, picking out the stationary that would perfectly match the book’s theme.
But, I soon realized that I needed a more efficient note taking system. So, I started writing down everything. And by everything, I mean everything.
But, what does everything really…really mean?
Have you ever caught yourself daydreaming about stuff that have nothing to do with the book that you’re reading?
Great! Because that’s exactly what you’ll be writing down.
Do not copy what is happening in the book or focus on what is a ‘note-worthy’ event. Instead, write down the thoughts that flow through your mind. In other words, you’re taking notes on the thoughts that are distracting you from reading.
Let’s call this process ‘Bookworm Meditation.’
Bookworm Meditation is the art of noticing the non-book related thoughts that exist in your mind while reading. And focusing back to the book.
I say “art” for two reasons: to make it sound fancy, and to highlight the importance of practice.
Let’s go through an example to drive this point home.
Suppose that you’re sitting on a park bench, reading a romantic novel. On page 54, the main character is about to ask someone out for a dinner date to an Italian restaurant. This cues your thoughts to go on a pasta thinking spree.
‘Should I cook pasta for dinner today? I’ll chop up some of the fresh green parsley that I got yesterday from the farmer’s market, then…Maybe I could cook enough for today, tomorrow, and two-Wednesdays from now because well it’s pasta,’ said you.
Before you know it, it’s been 15 minutes. And no pasta. (I’ve lost count how many times this has happened with me).
But now you have a plan. When your attention wanders away from the book, notice your thoughts and write them down. Don’t worry about grammar. We’re not writing the next ‘Pride and Prejudice’ here. You can even add ‘pasta=dinner’ as a note. This’ll help you to let go of the distractions and re-shift your focus back to what you’re reading.
Reading is a cycle. Thoughts will pop-up in your mind while you’re reading. These thoughts can distract you for a few minutes, leading you to read less during that time. It’s normal. But, since you want to read more, you need to practice re-focusing your attention back to the printed words.
A solution is to write down your thoughts once you realize that you’ve drifted away. Psychologist Nick Wignall suggests keeping a distractions list while reading.
Lesson: Practice Bookworm Meditation; note down your non-book related thoughts while reading.
Is Bookstagram stealing your reading thunder?
If it is, then consider either spending less time there, asking a bookstagram friend to join you for a buddy read, or take part in the many reading challenges hosted on there.
Lesson: Organize your Bookstagram life.
You're already 3 chapters in, and there’s nothing special about the book. It’s only words on paper. No ‘cadabra’ follows the ‘abra.’
If you’re not enjoying your current read, then it’s time to let it go.
Go on an impromptu coffee date with your book.
Grab a latte at a cozy café and get to know your read.
This a great way to spice up your dating (more like reading) life.
The point is to keep the reading process enjoyable. And changing your environment from time to time can do that.
Lesson: Read in a new place from time to time.
I saved the craziest tip in this guide for the very end.
The title says it all: get 100 books!
On one hand, you’re going on a wild book hunt. This will be a book haul for the ages. You’ll tell your kids’ kids about it. You might as well buy a bookstore.
On the other hand, can you even imagine buying 100 books in one go? The first step would be to rent a U-Haul to pick you up from the bookstore. Or booking a whole plane if you shop online.
While not the most practical tip in this guide, planning and buying your entire TBR collection for *insert a really long time* puts reality right in front of you.
You bought 100 books! And they’re looking at you.
I have not done this…yet. I have to admit that I have thought about this. I mean, who doesn’t want to get 100 books?
The idea is too absurd (at this stage in my life). But as book lovers, we can dream.
Lesson: Buy the first 100 books on your TBR list.
“Collect books, even if you don’t plan on reading them right away. Nothing is more important than an unread library.” – John Waters.
Being on the go and having access to constant distractions means that there is little time left for you to read. And changing your entire daily routine to fit in more reading time is no easy task.
That's why I focused on listing tips that are are easy and quick for you to include in your current schedule, no matter how busy you are. Not every tip is going to magically lead you to flip through more pages. So, experiment to see which ones stick.
Final lesson: My main take away for you from this guide is to find the 1-2 tips that make a huge impact on your reading. And focus on those.
For me, those 2 tips are tip #04: Daily Reading System and tip #16: Read on Your CommuteThis is similar to the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. In this case, only a few tips will significantly help you read more.
“Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment and saying: Let's not forget this.” – Dave Eggers.
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Let’s Meet in the Comments
What other tips do you have for fellow bookworms who don't seem to have enough time to read? Which of the tips I mentioned above are you currently using? Which ones are you excited to try?
Stay Cozy & Happy Reading,
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by Mo Amiri April 19, 2021
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