Many people long to read but cannot seem to get into the habit. Reading a book requires focused attention as well as enough time. Often, we are so busy with our to-do lists and our daily responsibilities that we rarely have enough space in our lives to have the luxury to pick up a book and curl up with it.
It took me a long time to get into the habit of reading again. When I was younger, I read voraciously. I loved getting immersed in a story and getting swept away by the writing. I lived in my grandparents’ home growing up, and luckily for me, my aunt left all her books behind when she left the house. When I ran out of my books to read, I would scavenge in her library and was never at a loss for what to read next.
I remember telling my mom that I was so thrilled I was going to college and that I would have access to the campus library; I could not wait to read my way through the entire collection. But that never happened. Once in college, I got overwhelmed by the amount of studying I had to do, and I lost the habit. After graduating, I started to work and then went to grad school, which was an even busier time of my life. I’d pick up books here and there during that period, but I never fully got my habit back.
I struggled for years, trying to get into a habit. As an adult parent, it was impossible. I had to find a way and a space that would work for my life as a working mom. I tried different things, such as leaving books on my nightstand and buying a Kindle. Finally, something clicked, and after years of trying, I set an impossible goal for myself (see An Impossible Goal This Year Will Make You Achieve Amazing Results) to read 50 books in a year. And it worked.
After many failed attempts, here are some of the strategies that I can recommend for anyone wishing to get into the habit of reading.
Set a Goal
If you are like me and are motivated by objectives, this can work for you. Set an “impossible” goal, one that feels very ambitious yet realistic, for the next few months or year. I find the use of the word “impossible” strangely motivating – it acknowledges how hard the objective is while pushing me to go further. Try setting a goal for a set number of books in a year and then work backward. Calculate how many books you would have to read in a month and per week to arrive at your goal.
Then, set up a mechanism that will help you keep track of whether you are achieving your weekly or monthly goal. One way to check how far along you have come is to set up a weekly task to review your progress during the week. This practice will help ensure that you will not lose your intention to read a certain number of books in a year.
You can also try something different. Set a manageable goal for yourself every night before going to sleep, such as a chapter. Chapter by chapter you will finish the book in no time.
Create a Habit
Reserve a physical space and designated time for reading. Not all times in your schedule are made equal: some periods are better suited to reading than others. Most people I know read at night before going to bed – not only is this a time when our responsibilities have slowed down but reading has the bonus of helping us go to sleep with more ease. Other people prefer to read during the weekend.
Once you have a time and a place reserved for your reading, stick to it. Add a special reward for yourself when you reach milestones – the brain responds to the prize and will more likely help you make your reading a habit, according to The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Perhaps you make a strong cup of tea and reward yourself with quiet time after your busy days. If you are consistent, reading will become a habit, and then it will call you.
You might also want to start with enjoyable fiction. I have a friend who has been reading fun novels rather than watching Netflix. Little by little, you can move into other genres once you have created a habit.
Join a Book Club
Some people find it easier to read if others are supporting them. I think this is one of the reasons that book clubs are so prevalent. You can join one locally or virtually and get into the rhythm. Not only will you read more, but you will also find a community of other readers with whom to discuss your books. Book clubs are also a great way to learn about books that you may not have heard about previously, or they might introduce you to genres that have you have not explored yet.
If you prefer something smaller, you can find a friend committed to reading more with you and start reading together. The advantage is that you will be able to have more power over what books you choose and will probably move faster.
Little by little, you will begin to create a habit, which will then pull you as you read more. Happy reading!