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19 Powerful Techniques to Build a Reading Habit (2019) | Nick Wignall

The To-Go Box Method

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.

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19 Powerful Techniques to Build a Reading Habit (2019) | Nick Wignall

19 Powerful Techniques to Build a Reading Habit (2019) | Nick Wignall

https://nickwignall.com/reading-habit/

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Key Ideas

Read to someone

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.

The To-Go Box Method

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.

Book Summaries

Preview the book in order to vet whether or not it’s worth investing your time in.

  • Use book summaries. Find apps that give accurate and concise summaries of many of the most popular books out there and are constantly updating their library.
  • Use podcast interviews with the author. Authors often go on the podcast circuit to promote their books. 

Embrace the Audio Book

Use your commute to and from work to build/strengthen your reading habit.

  • Tip #1: Rather than setting out to spend your entire commute listening to an audiobook, just pick one leg of the commute. Making time to read more doesn’t have to mean giving up on other things entirely (like podcasts, for example). 
  • Tip #2: Listen at a higher speed. Even moving to listen at 1.3x speed can add up to a lot of extra time in the long run.

Skip the Stories

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.

Read with a Pencil

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.

Get a Book Buddy

A Book Buddy can take a lot of different forms:

  • It can basically be a book club of two, where you read the same book at the same time and meet regularly to discuss it.
  • It can also be a friend with whom you share similar taste in books and occasionally swap recommendations and quick thoughts.
  • They could be someone you admire as a thinker and reader and occasionally ask for recommendations from—almost like a reading mentor.
  • It could be an accountability partner, someone you agree to check in with periodically and who will keep you accountable for a reading intention or goal you set.
  • You could even have a Book Buddy who’s essentially a training partner, someone you compete against, perhaps by setting a mutual challenge and using that as fuel to read more.

Create Some Book Nooks

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.

Use a Commitment Device

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.

Use a Reading Tracker

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.

A Board of Recommended Reading

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.

Master the Art of Reading

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.

Write a (Tiny) Book Report

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.

Create a Reading Bucket List

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.

Find Your Why

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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Determine Your Reading Goal

Start off by setting a goal. This goal should be articulate and backed up with a purpose.

For some, it could be a goal of reading 24 books in a year. Once you’re done placing a target figure to your reading goal, then divide them into smaller goals.

Make a List of Books for Each Month

Write out a list of the amazing books you want to read. Ask for recommendations from friends and mentors. 

By being intentional about your reading list, you’ll stay focused on your ultimate goals and avoid lurking at any book that passes you by. 

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A new idea, outlook on life, mental model, is all it takes for something to click inside your brain.

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Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and a well-known philanthropist, also appreciates the power of reading, and how it can get you out of your head, seeing the world through another person's eyes.

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