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12 Steps to Creating Your Reading Habit

Get a bookshelf.

If you have one and it’s full, get another. An empty bookshelf is a perfect excuse to buy some books to fill it (and having books around is critical – see Step 2). It’s also a great way to turn your reading habit into a display piece for your house. If your books are always in sight, there’s a good chance that you’ll pick one up each time you walk by.

2. Buy more books than you can possibly read.

But only ones you are genuinely interested in reading. Always having a book available is a great way to ensure that if you want to read, you’ll be able to. If you find yourself in the mood to read but don’t have anything on hand, it will damage your motivation. You’ll have to either order a new book and wait for it to arrive, or go all the way to the library before you can get one; and that creates resistance. And if you’re just starting out, you definitely want to take advantage of every moment you’re motivated to read by minimizing that resistance.
Also, having selection is important. By having a wide array of books and topics to choose from, you’ll have the ability to pick up what piques your interest the most at that time. And over time you’ll read more because of it.

3. Visit your local library, just to browse.

Get a library card and spend some time there just perusing the aisles for something you’re interested in. Don’t go in with a goal, just browse. You’ll most likely find yourself walking out with a stack of books that you wouldn’t otherwise have found just searching on Google or Amazon. Repeat this process on a bi-weekly basis and your reading motivation will be re-invigorated in no time.
Also library books are free and a great way to preview a book to see if it’s worth buying (so that you can have it for reference and/or to make notes in it (see Step 7).

4. Always carry a book.

Do you check your phone more when you have it in your pocket, or when you leave it in the car? The same logic applies to books. Having one in your hand will inevitably lead to more reading opportunities.
In those little breaks during the day where you would check Facebook or Twitter or find something to eat, you can read instead. Take 15 minutes per day and add that up over a month, and that’s a 2 books that you could have read. Read those 2 extra books.

Getting serious…

5. Create a bedtime routine that includes reading.

In my last post, I laid out some steps on how to create a routine for consistent healthy sleep. Reading can be part of that. Plan to read before bed, even if it’s only for five minutes. Not only will you get in some valuable reading time, it will also calm your mind and is a great way to cap off the day with some relaxation.
One thing to keep in mind: set up your routine so that you end up in bed before you’re totally exhausted. This will give you the chance to get through some of the book you are working on before you’re too tired to read or comprehend anything.

6. Read during lunch at work.

Same principle as Step 4. Bring a book to work and read during lunch. This can be the perfect mental break from the workday. Take your lunch outside with your book and read while you eat. If you can get in the habit of doing this every day, you’ll fly through books in no time. And as a bonus, you’ll probably bring some new perspectives to your work.

7. Take notes on and in your books.

Taking notes while you’re reading helps you to read actively. Have a notebook (my favorite) with you at all times so that you can capture your thoughts related to what you’re reading. It will deepen the experience and help you to retain the material so that you can relate it back to your life later.
Also experiment with taking notes in your books (*gasp*). If you have a good set of notes on key sections throughout a book, you’ll be able to quickly go back and reference important material, or refresh yourself on the topic in a short period of time.

8. Discuss with others.

Discuss what you read with others. Whether you’re just talking with friends at the bar, or actually participating in an organized book club or forum, talking about what you read will not onlydeepen your understanding of what you read, but will also motivate you to keep reading new things. Connecting with other avid readers will also introduce you to reading material you would never have come across otherwise.

Reading is my life…

9. Cancel your TV!

Now we’re getting radical (or so you think), but cancelling your cable or satellite TV is one of the best ways toguarantee extra time during the day to read. Do a quick mental calculation of how many hours you spend per week in front of the television. Now imagine how much you could have read if that time was instead spent reading.
I know what you’re thinking. That doesn’t mean you can’t watch your favorite shows. Hulu and Netflix are great alternatives so that you can watch your shows on weekends, or when it’s convenient for you. But you’ll almost certainly end up watching much less, because most of the things we watch on TV are really not that interesting, they’re just “on.”
Cancel your TV and amaze yourself at how much extra time you have to develop your reading habit.

10. Take on side learning projects.

A side learning project can be on anything you find interesting. Taking on a learning project outside your normal area of expertise will expand your perspective, will keep your brain active, and will provide a perfect opportunity to explore some new reading material.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years learning about sleep, psychology, and exercise physiology. Areas of knowledge completely unrelated to my work, or anything I studied during college. And those things have led me to lots of reading material that I would not have come across otherwise.
It can be the perfect way to re-invigorate your interest in learning and open up a fresh collection of books. And it’s also a way to encourage you to practice synoptic reading…

11. Practice synoptic reading.

Synoptic reading: reading a number of the best books in a relevant area of study in a short period of time. This type of reading will give you a complete perspective from all the top experts in the field and will give you a fuller, deeper understanding of the topic area.
It’s also a great method to use to inspire yourself to get through a large amount of material in a short period of time. You’ll have a specific reading focus, and will be able to pick and choose what material is relevant to your study.
In How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, Mortimer J. Adler outlines a complete methodology for this type of reading (which he calls “syntopical reading”). Try implementing that method, or create your own. Try some different things and figure out what works for you. Most importantly, identify and repeat one that keeps you most interested in the reading material.

12. Learn speed reading.

Speed reading is not necessarily learning to read faster, although you can learn to do that if you want to start getting through more books (mostly by training your eyes to move more efficiently). Speed reading is really about selectively taking in information. Used properly, you’ll be able to pick and choose what information is relevant to you so you don’t waste a lot of time on stuff that’s meaningless. And you won’t get bogged down reading useless filler text.
Speed reading also allows you to take in a lot more information and read lots of perspectives in a much shorter period of time. If you never feel like you can read enough, or you get stuck on one book, try learning to enhance your reading technique. As Abby Marks Beale puts it in 10 Days to Faster Reading,

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