How to develop a sticky reading habit?

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Reading a book is a long-term commitment compared to scrolling through a news feed and liking stuff without even reading 140 characters completely. So it isn’t surprising that a lot of people don’t prefer reading books. With the insane amount of content being generated every second on the Internet and no instant gratification, swipe, scroll and click takes over the slow and deliberate act of reading.

I have been a book-worm since I was a kid and despite that, I went through periods of not wanting to pick up a book.

Reading the same content rephrased in myriad ways on Medium and other blogs give a false sense of achievement and appease the FOMO monster.

Credit: GIPHY

Over the last year I have made some key changes to my reading habits and things have gotten better:

1. Drop it like it’s hot

If I do not find the book interesting at any point in time, then I drop it and move on. This could be the first 20 pages (a good rule of thumb) or midway through a book. Being ok with not completing a book seems a small thing but initially, it was difficult to change years of conditioning and mindset. When I look back at my dry spells of not reading, one major reason was forcing myself to read things I don’t like.

Life is short to read all the books that I like, so what is the point in forcing myself to do something I don’t like?

The key is not to judge the book or the writer — maybe the cover a little bit. I am not the right audience for the book at this point in my life. Maybe if I pick it up after a year, I would find it interesting. Being on a best-seller list should not be the reason to read a book. And being different ain’t wrong.

Credit: GIPHY

2. Theme based reading

This is something I have been experimenting in the past few months and works like a charm. At different points in life, certain topics pique my interest and I spend most of my time and energy on it. I went through phases of reading only about health & nutrition, spirituality, psychology or design. I devoured through books at an astonishing phase and reading never felt like a burden.

For the past 2 months, I have been focusing on improving my leadership, communication, and public speaking skills. So I have been reading blogs, books, watching videos all about this one central idea. I call it the ‘Leadership Track’. What a nerd right? 🤓

I like the way my brain connects the dots across different ideas picked up from various books. Also when you try to master one area and a read couple of books, patterns around the core idea start to emerge and you can skim through some books.

It isn’t cheating if you already know what you are going to read 😉

If things get too intense, you spend all your time on reading books and you start ignoring life, work, family, friends, showering — maybe just take it down a notch and cool off for a few days. Schedule cheat days regularly to avoid reader burnout.

HABIT FEEDBACK LOOP

The reward that keeps you hooked to a regular reading habit is IMPLEMENTATION. There is no point in merely glossing over pages and accumulating words in your head. The brain expects a treat each time it does (or thinks it does) some hard-work.

So do something after you read a book — implement some learnings in your life, organize your notes, write a book review or narrate the story to a friend (doesn’t matter if they aren’t interested). Pick what feels natural to you and the context of the book. If you feel shy about posting your thoughts online or sharing with other people, then keep it private.

The point is not gathering social validation, but convincing your brain that there is an ROI for the time spent in reading the book and it is worthwhile to keep doing it.

Try out this technique and let me know how it goes. Tweak, twist or toss it away and create your technique. You are the author of your life story.

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