Reading was (very) boring when I was a teenager. I could never read more than a few pages without falling asleep. Literature exams were stressful since I used to either skim through the books or ask people around what the ‘story’ was about. It was just not my thing. Fast forward many years, and somehow I started enjoying reading. But what has changed? Maybe I just got old(er). Maybe not. Let me take you through what I believe drove change.
Understand why I disliked reading
When I was a kid, I used to read entertaining books at school. Then when I was 12 or so, I had to start reading classical ones. Written ages ago, those books were just not compelling to me. The language was archaic, and the stories were too introspective and sometimes cryptic. After years and years of having to deal with them, I couldn’t bear reading.
At that time, I didn’t realize that my problem wasn’t about reading. It was about the type of books that I was required to read. Once I understood what was deterring me from books, I allowed myself to try new topics such as business development and psychology.
Trying new topics was not enough though. I needed more activation energy to get me out of that get-this-book-out-here state. In my case, setting goals and challenging myself kicked off that change.
I’d been setting new year resolutions for several years, and it was time to set a goal for the number of books to read. The first year I set a goal of 12 books and read an impressive total of one. Not quite a success. I was being a bit unrealistic. The following year I set the goal to six and made it public using goodreads.com. Then it’s was not hidden in a private spreadsheet anymore. People could see it. I don’t think anybody looked at my challenge, but that pushed me anyway, and it made the difference.
Set a realistic goal, make it public, and find buddies or join reading clubs to make yourself accountable.
Read multiple books at the same time
Once I could read at least a few books per year, I had to be more efficient to double that quantity. I found that keeping multiple books in progress worked out great.
During the morning, I usually read a technical or development book. It can go from organizational culture to software architecture, but it’s about something that I want to retain to apply to my day-to-day job. At night, I prefer reading novels or something very light and entertaining. Those are books to have fun instead of accumulating knowledge.
I do recommend reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker to understand the reasoning behind this strategy.
Dedicate time to it
Unless you’re willing to dedicate time to reading, the previous tips won’t make a dent. I’m still looking for a book that makes my day longer than 24 hours. Since that didn’t happen yet, I had to choose what I was willing to give to allow for reading time.
Replacing screen time with reading time was the easy-to-pick-but-hard-to-implement choice. No phone after 9:30 PM and setting a resolution to do that at least five days a week was the way to go. That improved my sleep quality and freed up 5+ hours a week.
That helped with my novels, but what about the time to read those technical books during the day? Reserving 20 minutes/day before starting working addressed that issue. That’s almost 2 hours during weekdays.
By making these changes and adding the weekends to the equation, I could find around 10hs per week for reading. That was a game-changer.
Write about what you read
Writing about what I read happened to motivate me to read more. I was writing articles here and there on LinkedIn or on my blog to improve my communications skills. It turned out it had the pleasant side-effect of pushing me to finish books faster because I was excited to write about them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an article. It could be a more involved review on GoodReads or Amazon.
- Think about your past, bad experiences when reading and try to root-cause it;
- Set goals and find ways to make you accountable;
- Optimize your reading rate by keeping a couple of books in progress;
- Eliminate wasted time to allow for reading;
- Write about the books you’ve read;
- and have fun!
Curious about what I’ve read in 2021? Check it out!