In my adolescence, I rated reading as much as I did gaming and play sports; between the ages of 10 to 12, I estimate that I split my recreation time doing all three in equal measure. Like many others, reading fell out of favour when it became mandatory thanks to the high school english class. I did an audit of all the books of I “read” between the start of high school and the end of university (a 10-year period mind you) and I was shocked to discover that I read a total of 20 books with 15 of them being for school and only 5 ones I read for pleasure.
Deciding I wanted to build reading habit
If you want to do anything consistently, you have to make a habit out of it. So when Covid-19 struck and lockdowns became a reality, I made a conscious decision of wanting to build a habit out of reading. My motivations at the time were that, given I was not able to explore the world physically via traveling, the next best option was to travel the imaginations of authors.
In hindsight, I don’t think that I would have built my reading habit were it not for the space and time that lockdown provided. I had exhausted other forms of entertainment, and ways I could spend my time. I watched all the Netflix, all the YouTube, and played the daylights out of my PS4. This binge ended up last two weeks before I was so bored that life forced me to consider reading. Even under different circumstances, I do think that I have learnt a few things that I think would be useful for anyone who has the same desire of learning to love reading.
The actions I took to build the habit
When I was first starting out, there were two important forces that I paid a lot of attention to. I had done a lot of reading around best practice for building a reading habit, the most valuable resource being James Clear’s Atomic Habits. To get the ball rolling on a reading habit, I found it important to pick “easy” books and to schedule in pockets for reading throughout the day.
Scheduling in the time to read seems trivial but is probably the highest-value step you can take to build the reading habit. The reason why this is because our minds have been conditioned for focus in short spurts and context switching thanks to the world of social media, instant messaging, and email notifications. On a given day whether you are studying or working, our phone or computers will disrupt our attention to notify us of something, this is just how the world is. In contrast, reading requires your full-attention for an extended period of time. This takes some getting used to, and the best way to do this is to schedule in time to read as short as 5 minutes.
It doesn’t matter necessarily when or where in the day this occurs, the idea is that you want to be able to do this consistently. Over time, the 5 minutes you schedule in to start reading will naturally extend to 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, and before you know it, you will have finished a 400 page book in a single day. Early on, the important thing is to read consistently whether it is one page or ten. That should be the only focus, this reading time will sort itself out if in the long-run. There is no value in reading for an hour if you only can keep it up for a couple of days, it is better to read for 10 minutes but do that every day.
The other crucial to pick books that you think have the highest chance to enjoying. For me, these books were non-fiction books in the self-development space. That was where my mind was at the time of the initial lockdown, and genre I thought I would have most success in. Long story short, I was right, I need look no further than the five books I read first:
- Big Dreams, Daily Joys by Elise Baha Cripe
- Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
- The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
It was not until the sixth book that I read my first piece of fiction for the year, and in the 50 or so book since then, I feel like I have been able read a diverse range of fiction and non-fiction.
Reading becoming second-nature
One of the proudest moments I have had this year was when I found myself picking up my phone and opening the Kindle app as opposed to any social media. That is certainly not something I anticipated myself doing when I first started reading again, but boy am I glad it turned out that way.
While I don’t read necessarily for the same amount of time everyday, I haven’t failed to pick up a book and read for at least 20 in a day since I started on the low end. On the high end, during two different 30 day periods in July and September respectively, I read about 15 books each. If you told me that this would have been possible just last year, I would have thought you joking … crazier things have happened I suppose.
I am so happy with where I am at now with my reading. I can say unequivocally it is one of my favourite parts of my day, not to mention all the value I have gotten from pairing it with a writing habit. If learning to love reading (again) was possible for me, then I am confident that anyone can.