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One of the biggest obstacles to reading books we enjoy is that we think we should read books even if we don’t enjoy them—specifically, the idea that if we start a book, we must finish it. This is nonsense, of course.
If you want to build a stronger reading habit, start by making the commitment to quit more bad books.
For a weight-loss hack, it goes like this: As soon as you order a meal at a restaurant, ask immediately that half of it be put in a to-go box once it’s ready and only the other half served to you. It’s basically a stricter version of portion control.
We can apply the same technique to get ourselves to read more.
Instead of 2 hours of Netflix each night, cutting it in half would still give you the satisfaction of watching Netflix in the evenings but also free up time to read as well.
Preview the book in order to vet whether or not it’s worth investing your time in.
Use your commute to and from work to build/strengthen your reading habit.
This one applies specifically to non-fiction books, especially contemporary self-help and business style books. Stories support the ideas but rarely are they necessary.
A good general principle to follow if you want to read more is to read more efficiently. And judiciously skipping stories is a good way to become a more efficient reader.
When reading with a pencil—underlining, making little notes, etc.—you tend to be more engaged with the book, which in turn leads to a more enjoyable experience.
It also leads to better memory for the book long-term, which contributes to a more satisfying experience of reading generally.
A Book Buddy can take a lot of different forms:
Strategically place books you’re reading in different physical locations.
After a while of reading in specific locations, the locations themselves become associated with the act of reading, and then cues for the behavior.
A Commitment Device is a psychological technique to help us stay committed to our long-term aspirations when faced with short-term distractions or temptations.
When embarking on any new goal or habit, never rely on willpower and good intentions alone to see you through. Instead, try to build in some mechanism that helps you get there regardless of how you may feel at any given point along the way.
One of the best ways to establish and stick with a new reading habit or commitment is to boost your motivation with a reading tracker.
The point of tracking isn’t primarily to hold you accountable, it’s to provide positive reinforcement, and therefore motivation, to increase your likelihood of sticking with your reading habit.
As you read online, look for people whose writing you admire. Then, sign up for their newsletter or somehow try to follow their work regularly. They usually can’t help but talk about and recommend what they’re reading.
You also want your own system for capturing their recommendations and ensuring that they end up as things you actually read.
To master the art of reading and become an expert reader, you must begin thinking about reading beyond the basics of what you learned in school, and instead, start to see it for the extraordinarily complex, multi-dimensional skill that it is.
There’s no better guide to doing this than the classic book by Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren: How to Read a Book.
Imagine how much more motivated you would be to continue your reading habit if you could easily recall the big ideas and main points from the vast majority of the books you read, able to discuss them intelligently and apply their lessons to your life and work?
A really good and fairly simple way to do this is to start writing book reports. Jot down key ideas from a book, a few favorite quotes, and maybe some of your own impressions of the book.
Many people say they want to read more, or be a reader, or build a reading habit, but have no idea what they want to read.
Solve this by creating a Reading Bucket List. Spend a half-hour or so one day and jot down as many books as you can think of that you’d like to read.
List various reasons why reading is fun or enjoyable or important. As you stumble on things that seem especially meaningful, try to elaborate on them.
Because the more clear and specific you are about why a reading habit is valuable to you, the more it will become a part of your identity and therefore an enduring habit.
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