Making time to read

In the past I’ve sometimes dedicated a blog post to a book I’ve read that I thought would interest Unclutterer readers. But this time I’d like to recommend a reasonably short article in the Harvard Business Review:8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year,” by Neil Pasricha.

This isn’t dry academic theory — it’s what Pasricha actually did to increase his annual book-reading rate from five books a year to 50 books last year and probably around 100 books in 2017. And as I read through his list of eight strategies, I could see how the ideas behind them could be applied to forming other new habits and reaching other goals.

The following are a few of the ideas he shared:

Set up the house so it’s easy to grab a book and hard to fall into mindless TV watching

Instead of relying on will power to switch from TV watching to book reading, Pasricha set up his environment to support his goal.

Last year my wife and I moved our sole TV into our dark, unfinished basement and got a bookshelf installed on the wall beside our front door. Now we see it, walk by it, and touch it dozens of times a day. And the TV sits dormant unless the Toronto Blue Jays are in the playoffs or Netflix drops a new season of House of Cards.

Write ongoing short book reviews to share with others

If you write reviews on Goodreads or send out monthly reviews to an email list, you’re making a public commitment to reading — your friends will notice if you stop. To me, this sounds better than just publicly proclaiming on January 1 that you’re going to read a certain number of books that year, because such claims are easily ignored. This is a way of continually celebrating that you’re living up to your personal commitment. And you get to share some cool books with others!

Have no compunctions about quitting a book before you finish it

Pasricha explained his mindset this way:

It’s one thing to quit reading a book and feel bad about it. It’s another to quit a book and feel proud of it. All you have to do is change your mindset. Just say, “Phew! Now I’ve finally ditched this brick to make room for that gem I’m about to read next.”

He also suggested looking at another article: “The Tail End” by Tim Urban. Urban looked at measuring his remaining life in terms of activities and events, figuring he might have about 60 Super Bowls left to watch and 300 books left to read, excluding books he read for work. That 300 figure (or whatever the number is for you) can make it easier to give up on a dud.

Make use of all those little bits of time that are easy to overlook

As Pasricha explained:

In a way, it’s like the 10,000 steps rule. Walk around the grocery store, park at the back of the lot, chase your kids around the house, and bam — 10,000 steps.

It’s the same with reading.

When did I read those five books a year for most of my life? On holidays or during long flights. … When do I read now? All the time. A few pages here. A few pages there.

Nothing that Pasricha did was all that unusual, and much of it is standard advice for anyone trying to build a new habit: make it as easy as possible to do the right thing, make a public commitment, celebrate your successes, etc.

What did seem unusual was how he combined all eight strategies to reach his goal. It’s a good reminder that forming new habits often isn’t easy, so it’s helpful to look at multiple ways to support those new-habit efforts.

6 Comments for “Making time to read”

  1. posted by JohnCanon on

    I use a technique I call “push the bookmark.” This keeps me going with momentum. I put the book down if I get distracted and can’t push the bookmark. I make a mental note of the paragraph location as I put in the bookmark.
    For complex non-fictions that have to be read, I use two bookmarks . I start with one bookmark. Before I close the book I place the bookmark, then I skim ahead to see what’s coming up. Then I place the second bookmark. The advance bookmark helps keep my interest as I plod through with the first bookmark. As always “Push the bookmark.” Both bookmarks move through the book in a variable tandem. Gets the job done.

  2. posted by Valeria on

    I have been using the little bits of time to read since I can remember. I always carry a book in my handbag, so I can read when I’m in a slow line, when I use public transport, when I’m at the doctor’s waiting room, when I’m having lunch alone during the workday, etc.

    This makes me think of something else I suggest to people who want to read more: It’s OK to read more than one book at the same time. I am now reading a fascinating crime novel, but the book is hardcover, large and too heavy to carry in my bag. So this book lives on my night stand, to be read at home, and I carry a smaller, lighter book with me, to read when I’m running errands

    Another related issue I have discussed with reader friends is the content of what you read. Some people seem to have the idea that reading means reading the “right” type of book, i.e. sophisticated, cultured “literature”. And if you can’t read or are not attracted to that type of material, then you don’t read at all. In reality, if you love reading, any book you enjoy counts. When I am very stressed for work, I tend to read short stories rather than novels, lighter and more predictable fiction rather than a book that demands more of my attention and mental abilities.

  3. posted by Retha Morr on

    These are so true… especially the little free time that i tend to overlook. I should definitely work on that. Thank you 🙂

  4. posted by Eric Kasimov on

    Like the message of this article. It’s the first article of yours I read. Ironically I learned about your blog from the book “Manage Your Day-to-Day”. In the last 5 years I’ve read more books then ever. Last year was a drastic increase and the pace keeps increasing. I’d also recommend Audible. It allows for books while driving, walking or working out. Great article and thanks for more ideas.

  5. posted by Jean on

    Question for your readers: At what point do you give up on a book? When you read a book, is it from front to back, only the good or relevant parts?

  6. posted by Deirdre on

    I have a “100 page rule.” If, at the end of 100 pages, I don’t care about a single character or situation, I can abandon the book. Some people think this is overly generous, but I’ve read some books that didn’t start easily but were great when they got going. For short books, you could choose another number.

    Once I found myself, on page 68 or so, looking forward to page 100 so I could put the book down. I decided then and there I didn’t have to wait!

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