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Tangible ways to get smarter about reading.

“How are you able to read so many books?”

Yes, I am a bookworm. I have been all my life. And since I keep getting this question in various conversations, I thought – I would write some more about it.

 

First of all – just to be clear – I don’t think reading an extraordinary number of books is crucial. I believe what a lot of people mean when they ask “how do you read so much?” is actually – “how can I read consistently, how I do it smarter and how can I actually use what I read”. And there is a set of simple answers, but – yes – they all require commitment and consistency.


Why read at all?


We all know reading has been proven to enhance our brains. To save you all the neuro lingo – imagine our brains are like muscles. Whatever muscles we train – they get better, stronger, and more efficient. When we read – we train our minds to slow down, to focus, to imagine, and to wait for the gratification that is not immediate. It’s not like with the movie that we watch – beginning to end – and within 1,5 hours, we get our prize, which is the feeling of accomplishment that we finished something. Reading requires some kind of system. It’s all about being intentional in making time – also in our minds – to focus on those pages before you.


Intentionality - which means - don't always finish what you started!


We live in a world where absolutely every idea has been already written about, there are countless books on each possible topic. I read yesterday that about 80% of Americans would like to write a book. Wow. I’m not sure about the exact methodology of this research, though;) Anyway – everyone and their mother writes books nowadays. It’s not complicated from the technical/logistical point of view. Especially when you self-publish. And while it’s brilliant and gives so many people amazing possibilities to express themselves and send their message out into the world – the quality of some of those publications is not the best.


Chances are you might have found yourself reading something you didn’t feel like finishing. And that’s where I’m going to. Whenever you think the book you picked up is not for you – either the topic or the writing or something else does not feel good – you have every right not to finish it. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but trust me – some people will force themselves to finish what they started even if they feel nauseous even thinking about it. So don’t do it. That would be my numero uno.


And here’s the whole list:

  • Think before you commit. Think about why you want to read this book. Is it because somebody recommended it? Maybe it’s a ‘must-read’, or you need it for some project? Whatever the reason is – at least try to get the ‘taste’ of the book before you buy it. When you have it in your hands in the bookstore or you’re browsing Amazon looking for an ebook or audiobook – just read/listen to a couple of pages. Make sure it’s written in a way that’s possible for you to digest. By the way – I’ve recently read a book by Marie Forleo – “Everything is figureoutable”. In it, she points out something that’s been dear to my heart for the longest time, and that is:

“don’t fall into the trap – I already know this”.

It may be the case that you do know a lot about the subject, BUT – you may ask yourself – “If I’m applying it to my life? How can I use what I’ve learned?”. It’s a reversed way of thinking that leads to a simple conclusion: It’s not how many books you read – it’s what happens with what you’ve read.

  • When you’ve already purchased it – commit – even as little as ten pages a day. This is the best piece of advice I’d give to anyone who wants to read more. It’s simple math really – 10 pages x 365 days = 3650 pages. Assuming an average book is between 200 and 300 pages:

By reading as little as ten pages a day, you will have read between 12 and 18 books a year (!).

And if you’re more like me, it’s not possible to stop at ten pages anyway so the number will go up. But even now – when you read it you probably said to yourself – “pff – that’s nothing! I can do it – easy”. The problem is, though – most of you won’t. At least not consistently. Why? Not because it’s too complicated, requiring too much effort. No. It’s because you won’t make it a priority. It is important to have a ritual that has to do with reading. So the next point is:

  • Make sure reading is your priority – try to make it a part of your everyday morning or/and evening ritual. Think about it this way. You never question brushing your teeth, right? (I hope!). Or taking a shower, or going grocery shopping. You do all those things automatically; because it’s the morning, or it’s the evening, or it’s a Friday. Reading can be part of your routine too. I know how it sounds. Every possible YouTuber has already done a video on “my morning routine”. But I encourage you to at least think about your routine – do you have one? An intentional one? One that’s tailor-made exactly to fit your needs? If you think about adding those ten pages (or more!) to your morning tea or evening meditation – I promise you, by the end of the year, you will have read plenty.,

  • When you feel what you’ve started is not for you – do not hesitate and ditch it. Just do it for your own sake, so that you eventually have time to read what feels right.

  • Make it yours. Make the book yours. Be it a kindle ebook, paperback, or even audiobook. Write on pages, bookmark, take notes, highlight, and do whatever you do – to make yourself remember why it was important for you.,

  • Read and think how to use it in life. We are so forgetful. We forget all sorts of stuff – no matter if it’s the eggs we were supposed to get from the store, the new words we learned in German or going to the gym. We forget, resist and repress. We also wait for another Monday or January to start anew. And the most important ideas, the most beautiful pieces of our life puzzle, need to be practiced – not only known – to actually work. So it’s great that you’ve read the book on “French for beginners” – but no one would seriously expect you to speak French simply because you went through that book. You need to really understand it and then keep practicing for the longest hours. I know this is an exaggerated example, and it matters when we speak about books that are to teach you something. When you read prose though (I assume there is some reason for it too, right?), I’d follow most of the points from this article regardless.

  • Finally, my last tip is to choose the format that’s right for you. We are so fortunate we live in times where we can read books however we feel like. We can get a hard copy, we can order an ebook or audiobook. Some people will only learn and will be able to focus when they listen to the text. If you’re one of them – listen to your books – why make it harder when you can simplify your life? Others, on the other hand – would never go for anything other than a hard copy. Let them do just that. Choose your format to make it possible and pleasant for you.

I am all about essentialism. I don’t particularly appreciate doing meaningless or repetitive things. And reading is no different. You do it because there’s a purpose for it. Don’t get me wrong; even reading a romance might be useful. Everything depends on what it is you’re looking for.


And that’s what I’d like to encourage you to do. YOU are the person who’s choosing why and, therefore, what to read. Just do it – choose based on your needs and commit to it.  By the way – have you ever had a problem finding the time to watch your fav Netflix series? I mean – really? I thought so;) And you know what the difference is? You actually WANT to watch the friggin’ series. And if you have the same motivation to get your hands on the book, you will always find the time.

As a little behind the scenes, I’ll share with you my reading ritual, that has worked for me for the longest time:


The reading ritual


Each morning when I get up and after I have brewed my tea, I will get the book I’m currently reading, and I’ll sit with it in silence – not doing anything else just reading it and drinking hot green tea for about 30 minutes (maaaaaybe to an hour sometimes, sometimes I only have 10 minutes). I don’t necessarily measure time – I try to read a chapter or two. Sometimes it’s 20 pages – sometimes 124. I’ll then continue with my morning – meditation, journaling, and so on. And for the last month – I haven’t been using any screen in the morning - for at least an hour – possibly longer.


I realize it's a pretty luxurious position to be in; I set my own hours, I work for myself, and I love reading. In a different scenario - even 15 minutes strategically found throughout the day can do. Again, the key here is to create a routine that works for you.


If the book is ultra interesting, I’ll go back to it for a couple of minutes before going to sleep.

Throughout the day – whenever I’m on my bike or a car running my errands, I’ll listen to an audiobook or a podcast. Usually, it’s a book. They can have between 3 and 16 hours of total time, so it will take me between 4 days and two weeks of regular bike rides to finish one up. Combined with the morning/evening read it gives me amazing possibilities to read however many books I crave:)



 



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