The benefits of reading are countless and impressive.
Reading puts your brain to work. It involves several brain functions, including visual and auditory processes, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, and more. It increases your attention spans, focus and concentration. Reading also stimulates mental processes, and that helps preserve memory skills as we grow older .
When I became serious about digital wellness a few years back, reading for pleasure as an alternative to digital entertainment was the first activity I decided to take on seriously.
Throughout the years, I have learned the following three practical tips that have made reading an immensely enjoyable leisure activity— quit reading books you don’t like, cut out distractions, and remove friction.
1. Quit books you don’t like.
This is by far the most important tip that significantly improved my reading habit.
Prior to discovering this simple idea, I used to feel guilty about not finishing a book.
I’d especially feel guilty if the book was considered a classic, blaming myself for not being smart enough, or interesting enough, to enjoy something regarded so highly. I would blame it on my own laziness or distractions.
In one of her brilliant posts, The Ultimate Guide To Reading More, Rosie Leizrowice advises us to choose the books we read wisely by opting for books on topics we are passionate about, reading books by people we admire, and looking for the favourite books of our heroes.
How many times have you picked up a book because it’s a bestseller or a classic only to find it tedious to get through a chapter, let alone the whole thing?
How often do you feel obliged to finish a book you’re not enjoying at all?
Reading, especially reading for leisure, should be a delightful activity.
The truth is, when you find a book you truly enjoy reading, you will know because you won’t be able to put it down. You don’t find yourself zoning out constantly and not remembering what happened in the last couple of paragraphs you just read. You look forward to reading it to find out more about the characters and the storyline. You long to find out what happened to the characters long after the story ends on the last page.
Since realizing this, I have been ruthless when it comes to choosing the books I read.
I could be half-way through a book and if it starts to feel tedious, I quit it. If a book doesn’t grab my attention in the first couple of pages, I don’t bother with it. I only read books written in the first-person perspective, with very few exceptions, because that is what I enjoy the most.
Here is another perspective.
Tim is a 34-year-old man who reads about 5 books a year. If Tim lived to be 90, he only got 300 more books left to read, out of the millions of books available, in his lifetime.
even though it feels like I’ll read an endless number of books in the future, I actually have to choose only 300 of all the books out there to read and accept that I’ll sign off for eternity without knowing what goes on in all the rest.
In other words, don’t waste your time reading books you don’t enjoy. Your time is limited, so dedicate it to books you truly find pleasurable.
As Austin Kleon puts it very eloquently, “every hour you spend inching through a boring book is an hour you could’ve spent plowing through a brilliant one.”
Choose books that excite you, and discard the ones that feel like a chore to read.
2. Cut out distractions.
This is a no-brainer.
After you choose a book you enjoy, the next step is removing distractions that get in the way.
Even the best book you find is no match for digital distractions.
I read the most books last year during the times I killed my phone. As a result, I read books instead of scrolling through time-wasting websites. Reading a page here and a chapter there adds up over time.
I also read a lot more when I put my phone away and read a physical book to fall asleep. The additional benefit of this is, of course, better quality sleep.
I could have read double the amount of books I read in 2019 if I worked more diligently to on remove online distractions.
Find out what your distractions are, and minimize them. Kill your phone.
3. Remove frictions.
I discovered this idea from the podcast episode, Creatures Of Habit: How Habits Shape Who We Are — And Who We Become, on creating good habits.
According to psychology Professor Wendy Wood, an important ingredient for habit change is removing frictions.
Friction is the amount of effort required to perform an action. When it comes to implementing a habit, it is important to remove or minimize friction by reducing the amount of effort required to perform the action.
Professor Wood wears her workout clothes to sleep so when she wakes up, she is ready to go for a run. In doing so, she has minimized the effort required to go for a run in the morning.
I keep an e-book or two going at all times so I always have something to read even if I don’t have a physical book available. I maintain a to-read list so when I’m done with a book and don’t know what to read next, I can always refer to the list and choose a book. I have signed up to receive weekly book recommendations from my local library to add to my book list.
Life is full of excuses not to do the things we would like to do and are good for us. Prepare for your future self’s excuses by putting a plan in place to remove frictions.
I’m hosting a #ReadWithMe accountability group on Zoom every day at 6:30AM EST. If you are interested, SIGN UP at https://linktr.ee/MehretBiruk for the Zoom link + a short guide I wrote on Reading with a short attention span (PDF).
Until next time… 🙂
 Oppong, T. (2018, February 20). The Reading Brain (Why Your Brain Needs You to Read Every Day).