To develop long term habits is about setting up systems that support your cause.
Systems play an important role in surviving the time and keeping the habits alive. Without systems, all you have are bursts of unacted motivations.
You will be caught up in wants of doing it, but never actually getting to do it.
Here are 7 ways to set up a system for your reading habit.
You can find the post on why reading is an important habit to cultivate here. If you don’t have the patience to go through the whole post, I have summarized the point of each paragraph below its heading in one line.
Allocate time for your reading.
Time is the true luxury.
Time is limited, having time to do all the things that you want to do is an implicit goal.
But it takes a certain combination of discipline and interest to carve out this time in your daily or weekly schedule.
This is arguably the most important step in sustaining any habit, including reading.
In Spite of wanting to read books as a habit for many years, I have not been able to establish the habit. When I started seriously thinking about establishing this habit, the most important step was to carve out time for reading every week consistently.
For an average reader like me, it takes about 1–1.5Hrs to read 30–35 pages. This means an average book of 250 pages will take me about 8–10 Hrs. That means I only have to find 4 or 5 reading session across 2 weeks which includes non-working days to read 21 books in a year.
This is not a new thought but when you put down the numbers and see what it takes to build the habit, it will no longer be daunting.
As you start allocating a weekly number of hours for reading, the habit of reading will appear out of thin air.
Try and find this time in your schedule to read, either daily or weekly.
This is the biggest hurdle to cross in your reading journey but also the most important one that kept me and many people from reading more.
2. Add to Cart / Buy Now
Buy more books.
The more books you buy the more you will read.
Though it might seem like an expensive approach, it is not. Any book that is older than two years is available in a used format in many stores online and offline for cheap.
Having a bookshelf full of unread books is a form of inducing self-guilt to make sure you will allocate time for reading them.
If you are spending 5–8 days reading a particular book, you might not be interested in reading the same book all the 8 days. But having immediate access to unread books that you want to read will mean that you can switch from a boring book to an interesting one in a snap.
If you are trying to buy more books, then Amazon is not your friend. Amazon on contrary to the expectation is not the cheapest source to buy books.
You can find a list of resources where to buy books economically in the U.S. at the bottom of this article.
3. Track It
Keep track of the books you are interested in read at some point.
Once you look at reading as a habit, you are now in the market for good suggestions. There are many sources from which you will get book recommendations. It could be friends, colleagues, YouTube, radio, podcasts or movies.
As beings with limited memories, it is important to maintain a list of “want to read” books and keep adding the books you encounter from different resources to that list.
There are a lot of apps through which you can maintain this list, but the App that works best for me is goodreads.com. Many people I know and who read as a habit use this app to keep track of their “want to read” list here.
Almost every website that sells a book has a wishlist option.
How and where you track your interests don’t matter, all that matters is to have it accessible and updated.
You need your dose of group assurance, encouragement and engagement.
Benjamin Franklin organized a group of people and formed a club called Junto, which used to meet every Friday evenings to discuss all the things under the sun.
This was a space for the meeting of mind, perspectives & opportunities. They had an active set of questions they were thinking about every week were also tracking the progress they made. It was a group of curious self learners.
To keep your reading habit going, find your Junto. A group of friends who are reading actively and want to do it more.
I have a group of friends who read regularly and have different areas of interests. We all share some interest areas but also have very different worldviews. By having this group we can discuss the books we read and also find interesting perspectives on the same book. The group also encourages each of us to explore different topics which we would not otherwise explore.
Find these people in your network who are insatiably curious and are exploring reading. This is not only a way to keep reading habit sustainable but also to keep your curiosity alive and insatiable.
It’s also a way to diversify your interests and get new ideas to read.
Find your Junto.
Gamification reinforces behaviors
Having a target number of books to read per year or quarter and tracking your progress is a great way to self motivate yourself to make time for reading.
There are a lot of applications where you can do this, but my favorite is good reads.
You can start by setting a target for a month or a quarter and then test after that time period and tweak it. You will eventually find a balance of book number and time period ideal for you.
6. Don’t Judge
To begin reading is the important part, not what you are reading.
The most important part of developing a reading habit is to sit and read. And it doesn’t matter what you read.
You can start by reading bestsellers, or not so best sellers, you can read an old book or a new book.
You will eventually stumble and find your interest areas and the good books will fall in to your list.
Don’t judge yourself on what you have picked up to read, just focus on reading and getting into the habit of reading.
Reading is the important part, not where and how you read.
Both paper books and e-readers like kindle are great mediums to read. They have their pros and cons.
The right medium for you is the medium that is most comfortable for you.
Kindle is often known for its portability. But it has its share of caveats.
For example, kindle has a feature where you can see what other people who read this book have underlined. Though some people like this feature I don’t enjoy it. I feel it is influencing me to think about what are the important lines and what are not important lines. But that’s me.
The true answer for which medium you would stick with is the answer to the question “which medium is giving you a high return on investment of your time in reading?”
It should not just contribute for your reading speed, but to your overall cognitive reception, for some, it’s a handbook for some its kindle.
Experiment and discover the right medium.
All the above steps are only a few of the many out there.They are not a mantra but only a direction.
Find the ones that will put you in the direction you want to travel.