2020 was a chaotic year for too many people.
As strange as it sounds, I was extremely lucky enough to take advantages from the lockdowns. I quit my full-time job and started two businesses. I worked on passion projects. And among many other incredibly useful habits, I solidified my routine of reading.
I will surely write a blog about my favorite books from the year, but in the meantime…
Here are the specific tips and tricks I used to read over a book a week:
1) Read every day.
I don’t read particularly fast. You don’t have to if you read every single day.
The easiest way to do this is to make a routine of it. Make it part of your morning. Read a chapter as you sip your coffee. Read a chapter as you wind down for bed. Do both if you can.
There were many days where all I read was one chapter of Harry Potter. That’s about 20 pages. 20 pages every day for a year is 7300 pages. That’s like reading Infinite Jest 6 times and Moby Dick once.
Everyone has different schedules. I’m lucky to structure my own days so I give myself plenty of time to read. But all you need is 10 minutes a day and you’ll be reading way more than the average American.
2) Read what you enjoy.
This might sound like elementary advice. But you’d be surprised how many people approach reading as some sort of chore–traumatized by school assignments and essays.
I had a coaching client ask me to help him build a reading habit. He wanted to dive into all these business and personal development books, but he hated reading.
He kept talking about willpower and grit. I asked him, “Well, what do you enjoy reading?”
He said, “Honestly, my guilty pleasure is the Divergent series. I’ve read through them like 4 times. I love all the blockbusters. Harry Potter. Hunger Games...”
“Great,” I said. “We’ll start there.”
He was confused. He didn’t want to waste time reading simply for pleasure.
But if reading isn’t a part of your daily life, and you want it to be, then you have to attack the habit first, then the content.
Before worrying about best sales tactics or goal-setting techniques, we spent two months getting him used to just sitting down each and every day, and reading at least 10 pages of Lemony Snicket…or whatever he wanted.
This made it as easy as possible to build the habit. He looked forward to it. It wasn’t a chore. Then, slowly but surely, he replaced a few reading sessions with some of the denser books he wanted to read. After two months, he was reading for both work and pleasure every single day.
If you’re dreading what you read, you’ll never make a habit out of it. Turn your guilty pleasures into pleasures and embrace them.
3) Listen to audiobooks.
I fought this for the longest time. Books on audio just didn’t do it for me. I’m not exactly sure what flipped the switch but when it did, I was hooked.
You can listen at double, sometimes triple the speed. Depending on the content and the reader, this does nothing to stifle your comprehension.
(I typically don’t like to go too fast with fiction books––1.75x at the most.)
Laying down with your headphones in. Cleaning. Cooking breakfast. These are great ways to knock out chunks of audiobooks.
4) Get an online library card.
And a Kindle.
With this, you can borrow an endless supply of eBooks and audiobooks for completely free.
Connect your online card number to Libby, and you can place holds on what you want to read or listen to.
Since getting my Kindle and library card, I have read over 30 books in 3 months…without paying a cent.
5) Read with a pen or visual pacer.
If you leave it up to the voice in your head to set the pace, you can only read as quickly as you speak.
With a visual tracker like a pen, you force your eyes to move well above that rate.
6) Get a GoodReads account.
GoodReads is a social media that doesn’t rot your brain.
It’s a great way to connect with friends to see what they’re reading, what they think about what they’re reading, and what they want to read. It will also recommend books to you based on what you’ve enjoyed in the past.
My favorite feature though is the ability to set challenges for yourself (e.g. 20 books in 2021). This is like a subtle form of accountability. I liked that people could see that I was reading a shit ton of books. It made me read even more.
Tell me I’m good.
There’s not really any magic to it. Just sit down and read.
I don’t think you have to read anything you don’t want to, but I firmly believe that everyone could benefit from making it a consistent part of their lives. It makes me feel sharper, more articulate, and more aware of the world I live in.
Whether it’s People magazine, The Lord of the Rings, or 50 Shades of Grey…get out there and start reading.