How to create and maintain a
There are few things more enjoyable than spending some quiet time with a great book. However, keeping a reading habit can be hard, either due to lack of time or motivation, overall tiredness or failure to find a book exciting enough to keep you turning the pages.
If you're struggling to wake up the bookworm in you lately, here are a few ideas for you to try:
1. Read with others
Did you know that reading wasn’t always an activity done silently and alone? In 18th century England, for instance, because literacy rates were lower and books weren’t so widely available, reading was very much a community event.
People would gather around a book and read aloud to each other, and in fact it became something of a matter of pride to be a good performer when reading to others.
Taking some hints from the past, over the last year I’ve been experimenting with shared reading, with very good results. It all started with a family project of reading Homer’ “Iliad” together, one day per week, which then expanded into creating a shared reading group on Zoom during quarantine, as a way to spend some quality time with friends.
In this group, which is still going, we vote on a book to read and then have weekly online meetings in which we read one or two chapters at a time, taking turns in reading aloud to each other. At the end, we share our thoughts on what we’ve read.
Reading together has been a wonderful way of incorporating reading into my weekly schedule and it has also helped me tackle books that I wouldn’t necessarily read on my own.
So, for tip # 1, I would encourage you to get together with your family and/or your friends and bring back the long-lost art of communal reading.
2. Read within a theme
Another thing I’ve been experimenting with recently is reading books within a theme.
Notice I did say theme and not genre. Indeed, this is not about reading only romance novels or murder mysteries. What I am suggesting is that you find a topic that you are interested in and read a few books of different genres that relate to it.
For me, the topic is currently Ancient Greece and Rome. I’ve always been interested in that historical period and in Greek and Roman mythology, so the theme came naturally to me. My goal is to read books written during or set in that period of time.
I find that as my reading of different books progresses and my understanding of my chosen theme both widens and deepens, so does my interest in reading more books on this topic, which in turn helps establish a reading habit.
3. Share your thoughts right after you finish
Creating an outlet to share your impressions on a book serves both as a stimulus to carry on reading and as a way to organise your thoughts and retain the key takeaways more easily.
So, for tip # 3, I suggest that you create a space to blog about books (Yoors is a great place to do it!), use an existing platform such as Goodreads, or share a brief opinion on your social media (I’ve been doing it on Instagram, where I created an account to share book reviews and recommendations in Portuguese).
4. Turn your social media into a book club
Since I started sharing book reviews and recommendations on Instagram on a regular basis, creating a dedicated account for that purpose, I also started following several other similar accounts.
This means that I now have an appealing Instagram feed, where every day I get to read about new books and other people’s opinions on them. It has also been a way of turning reading into a more social activity, which definitely makes me feel more engaged.
5. Read when you're most energized
Many people think of reading as the perfect activity to unwind and fall asleep to at the end of a long day. While there is nothing wrong with that, for me it doesn’t really work, because I am often too disengaged at that time of day to pay attention. What ends up happening is that I read a couple of pages and then either move on to something else or fall asleep, which makes my reading slow and unproductive.
In order to incorporate reading into your daily routine and make the most of it, I would suggest picking a time of day when you feel most awake and energized.
For me, this is the morning. It could be right after waking up or it could be midmorning, as a reward for getting some tasks done. This works for me because I am self-employed and have a pretty flexible schedule. Of course, every person’s life is different and so this may not work for them. The important thing is finding a quiet time when your senses are alert and ready to be engaged. Finding something that works for you.
Perhaps this means waking up half an hour earlier to read or taking a book with you during lunch break. Or perhaps it means blocking out some time during the weekend to do it. Whatever the solution is, the main thing is to decide in advance what part of your schedule you will block and sticking to it.
6. Have a glass of water (seriously!)
Drinking enough water, therefore, is key in being at your best when picking up a book (and in general, of course). And since it is something I am often guilty of neglecting, I wanted to include it on this list as a reminder to both you and me.
If you find yourself having trouble focusing on a book, feeling too tired or too foggy, try taking a glass of water with you to where you are reading and drinking from it regularly. This might just help you feel better and concentrate. At the very least, it will boost your health, so I’d say it’s a win regardless.
7. Try a period of "mental fasting"
In our day and age, things are quite different. The ready availability of books, movies, Internet articles and videos, and other similar things has detracted from the perceived value of all them. At the same time, our brains are overworked with all the input we willingly and unwillingly throw at them, so we can’t really blame them from making us lazy and unfocused as a way of trying to get some well-deserved rest.
With this in mind, for tip # 7 I’d suggest bringing back a bit of controlled scarcity into your life, by going a week without any sort of external input in terms of information and entertainment. This means cutting out anything you could read, watch or listen to, from books, to tv, to cinema, to newspapers and magazines, to podcasts, to music.
It might seem unbearably hard to do, but it can be done. In fact, I did it earlier this year, as a part of the 12-week program to stimulate creativity prescribed in the book “The Artist’s Way”, by Julia Cameron. And I did find that after one week of “mental fasting” I was much more keen on engaging with and truly enjoying books, podcasts, music and other similar content.
8. Listen to audiobooks
There is a bit of a debate over whether listening to audiobooks is as good as reading books in print.
But one thing I think we can all agree on is that audiobooks are at the very least a good way of still experiencing new books when you feel like you need to give your eyes a rest or when there are tasks you need to attend to (such as cleaning the house) that do not require your brain to be fully engaged.
9. Decide on your reading style
Some people do really well reading a few books at a time. In fact, they get bored and discouraged when reading just one book, and they actually draw energy and momentum from switching between different genres and themes. Variety certainly is the spice of life for this type of reader.
Other people become scatterbrained and disengaged with too many ongoing reading projects and end up dropping one or all of them before they finish. This type of reader will excel when fully committed to one book that he or she must finish before moving on to the next.
For me, I find that I do better if I commit to one book when solo reading, though I can have a couple more going in shared reading endeavours (see tip # 1).
But there is no one answer that is right, only the one that is right for you. What’s important is that you stick with it once you’ve found it.
10. Learn to let books go
Sometimes, no matter how committed you are to reading a book, it just doesn’t speak to you. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad book. It does mean, though, that it is not the right book for you at that moment in time.
If this is the case, despite you investing some real time and effort in reading it, then it is also important to learn to let it go in order to create space for new books that will perhaps be a better fit with your current interests and needs.
Interestingly, the more committed I’ve become to reading books and sticking with them by using tips # 1 to 9, the less guilty I've felt about dropping a book that just isn’t speaking to me.
Not only do I know that I’ve given that book my best shot before quitting, but I also remind myself that one day I’ll be able to come back to it and truly enjoy it then.
These are my Top 10 tips for reading more and creating a reading habit. What are the ones that ring most true to you and you think you will try? Would you add any of your own? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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