My life has always been consistently inconsistent. Books, although, have always been one of the few constants in it. With a fervor for reading that made those around me say I ate books instead of reading them, I was known as the reader in whatever circle I was in.
And then from one day to the next, I lost interest in reading.
Not coincidentally, those years overlapped with a bout of depression, insecurity, and a general period of darkness.
Because I was scared of losing that part of me completely, I started actively challenging myself to read more. Over the past few years I’ve gone from 25 to 52 to now trying to hit 100 books this year.
Having to force myself to do something I once loved has made me have to start finding ways to start liking it and be relatively consistent with it. In order to prepare myself, I started reading many articles on this topic and noticed that a lot of it was geared towards people who want to read because of this hustle, millionaire-at-30, CEO-life mentality.
This was and is still not my goal.
I read because it’s fun, I’m curious about learning new things, and it makes me feel more fulfilled than other forms of entertainment. There’s no snobbery or higher goal I aspire to.
If your goal is just to read more and instill that habit into your life, especially if you’re not the most organized, type-A human being, then you’re in the right place.
Here are the tips I avoided like the plague and what worked instead.
You don’t have to schedule your reading to make it a habit
While I love scheduling, I am trash at sticking to plans.
Linking to pre-existing habits only works if you have pre-existing habits to link to. Which if you do, congrats! But if you don’t, it’ll feel like linking a stone in the ocean to a grain of sand, hoping it’ll stay in the same place wave after wave.
Instead, create a general guideline and figure out what works best for you as you progress through your books. For me, something like I have to read x amount of books in x amount of time tends to be good enough. I go for x amount a week, because it’s long enough that it doesn’t feel pressuring, but short enough that I remember to do it.
Plus, unless you’re already prone to being super organized, scheduling it can suck the joy out of any reading challenge and make it feel like… a challenge. Fitting it in wherever it works best for you, be it in 5 hour chunks at night, every other night, waking up ridiculously early, or split through the day will make you more likely to want to do it, instead of only making time for it.
It’s OK to stick through reading something you don’t LOVE
You’re not going to love every book you read.
Even if you do all the research and prep work in the world, there will be books that will feel like a chore to get through. Of course, you should choose books you think you’ll enjoy. But there’s no guarantee that every book, especially once you’re over the one-book-a-week threshold, will be to your taste.
This is especially relevant if you’re halfway through the book anyways – by that point you might as well finish it. The good thing about finishing a book that leaves you disappointed is that it’ll be a good indication of what to avoid in the future.
Instead: if you’re going to commit to a book that you’re not sure you’ll like, make sure it’s a short one. Also make sure you have another one simultaneously that you can pick up in case one of them is making your brain hurt.
Screens are not your enemy
A few facts people like to ignore when recommending people only stick to physical books to avoid distractions:
- Books are expensive.
- Books take up space.
- Getting every book you want is not always possible, especially if you want a book that’s not in the native language of the country you’re in.
- Not everyone wants to resort to Amazon to buy their books (for those yelling “why don’t you just buy them on Amazon?!)
You’re challenging yourself to read more, not collecting for your personal library or trying to get better sleep. Sure, it’s harder to read if you’re constantly distracted by notifications, but there’s a reason Do Not Disturb exists.
Reading in bed is fiiiiiiine
Which leads me to the next piece of advice that seems inescapable: never read in bed.
The reasons why? Well, because it might make you sleepy and you won’t be able to focus. Oh wait, it makes you lose sleep. Oh wait, actually it’s because you need a division of reading and sleeping and it’ll confuse your brain.
While I agree you shouldn’t pick up the habit if you already have that clear division of sleep/play/work area and a consistent sleep schedule, let’s be honest for a second. Most of us scroll for hours on our phones, in bed, every night.
If you already do that, then feel free to read in bed.
Replace the phone for a book. Those arguing you won’t retain important information are assuming you’re reading books to be a smarter, more intellectual, more cultured person instead of just reading for the fun of it. If it’s interesting to you, you’ll remember it.
So maybe just don’t read boring books in bed.
Read at your own pace. Just be mindful of what that is
Real advice I’ve read: read faster. Just read faster? That’s the advice?
Most of us won’t take a speed reading course to prep for a reading challenge. And you shouldn’t.
The fact is, you’ll get through books faster the more you read. Don’t sweat it if you feel slow and clumsy at first. Just like anything else, reading is like a muscle – the more you do it, the more you’ll flex it, and the more dynamic you’ll get. Just keep your pace and focus on what you can read that would match whatever your pace already is.
It’s easier to adjust the book content and size you’re reading to match your speed than it is to learn to read faster.
Read what interests you, not what people tell you will interest you (like practical, non-fiction books)
If you just want to build in regularly reading, focus first on what you enjoy.
You definitely don’t have to love everything you read, but you should at least like it. If practical, non-fiction books are your bread and butter, ignore this section. If you’re like me, a fan of stories more than how-to’s, then start with what you love.
My love of reading really came back in full force when I started reading more fantasy and graphic novels. I’d had a few false starts before where I’d been forcing myself to read classics, self-help non-fiction, and educational books.
While now I’ll gladly pick up one or two (or more) of these, when I was just starting, this made me automatically associate reading with it being another task, making me procrastinate.
Just read what you like and only then focus on all things practical and self-improvement. You’ll be much more willing to give it the time and energy needed for the more tedious books, once you’ve satisfied your taste for the stuff you actually want to read.
A book is a book is a book – you don’t need to break it down into pages
Math hurts my brain. This is why I chose to study social sciences and humanities. Turning something that feels like the opposite of math into something vaguely math-y just sucks the joy out of the experience.
When I started setting myself the goal of picking up more books, all I wanted to get out of reading more was finally getting to the ones I’d put off for so long.
Breaking it down into pages read and how much is the equivalent to one book average and yadayadayada may work for the more goal-oriented, one-track minded of the bunch, but for me, this is a hard pass.
A book is a book is a book. Whatever you consider a book and whatever you think you can manage, just stick to that. If you want to make it more structured for yourself, you are more than welcome to bring out your calculators and Excels.
But for me, keeping track of how many I’ve read and need to read is already a lot, so I keep it as simple as I can.
Basically, if you’re trying to make reading not feel like a chore, don’t make it a chore.
I don’t believe in a world where everyone enjoys reading books, or will fall in love with it if they find the perfect book, just because it’s something that I do. I myself don’t like podcasts or audiobooks because I don’t have the concentration for audio-only, yet know a lot of people who find them even easier and more productive than reading.
One way isn’t more valid than the other just because we’ve given this almost untouchable quality to books.
What I do know, is that you can make it easier for yourself to incorporate it into your daily life.
And if you’re one of the people who gets enjoyment out of it but seems to have this stack of unread books in the corner or their room that feels kind of daunting because everyone loves waxing poetic about how much better of a person they are because they read actual books and are educating themselves but this added pressure only makes you want to do it less so you’ve been ending up just scrolling through your phone all evening then, hey, I’m Nicole and you’re not alone in wanting to change that.
I might not be able to help make you a more productive reader, but I can do my best to give tips on how to make it fun again.
If you want to learn more about what actually did help me in getting back into reading and hitting my reading targets, I’ll be covering that in a few weeks time.
Like what you see? I post a new blog every Sunday/Monday where I talk about… whatever THOUGHT interests me that week. Expect a bit of books, travel, beauty, and taking pop culture way too seriously.