7 Ways I Have Been Reading More Books Per Month
I listen to the Deep Work podcast by Cal Newport regularly. I am constantly challenged to think about how I work, whether my formal professional job or my day-to-day life, and self-improvement. One area that has particularly hit home is the habit of reading. For my professional and academic life, I read pretty often. I generally schedule some time during the workweek to read in the areas of leadership, management, and online education. These topics also happily overlap with my academic life. But there is always more to be read, and, as Newport says on his podcast, “the reading life is a deep life, and the reading life is a good life.”
With all that being said, in the last couple of months, I’ve dedicated more time to read a variety of genres in both non-fiction and fiction. As with many things in life, the practice has snowballed and slowly becoming a part of my life, something I’m drawn to rather than a burden trying to find the time. During these past 45 days of making this commitment, I’ve noticed that my mind is much more active. I’m thinking about new ideas, creating mental pictures of the different stories I’m reading, and learning from characters in both the good and the bad.
- Dedicated reading on the Amazon Kindle. I’ve always had this fantasy of the perfect reading experience, a physical book, sitting in a comfortable chair, lighting that is dim but not too dim to read, highlighter in hand, and a cup of fresh coffee by my side. In reality, this fantasy situation frequently hinders my reading. I wanted the setup to be perfect, and I always had to have the book with me. The Kindle has vastly changed much of this. I always have it with me. It’s ready to go, no matter the lighting situation. I can easily read the Kindle in all different locations and highlight passages without needing a writing utensil by my side. After dedicating reading on the Kindle, I’ve actually come to enjoy the reading experience on it. I know it’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
- Default to reading a book rather than getting my phone out. This point is an expansion on the first one. Still, having the Kindle always with me allows another default activity in down times rather than mindlessly wandering on my phone. While I’ve taken steps to rid distractions, such as deleting my Twitter and Facebook accounts and removing the Instagram app on my phone, I could still find myself pulling my phone out to do something. Also, if I don’t have my Kindle, I can read on my iPhone in emergencies.
- Scheduling specific times to read. At night, my wife and I generally watch a couple shows after putting our son to bed. I talked to her about my desire to read more, eliminate one show each night, and dedicate that time to reading. I know everyone can’t read with the TV on, but it doesn’t bother me, so if she’s like to go ahead and watch a show, she can, and I’ll read in the same room for about 45 minutes. She has also begun to read more, and we often take that time to read and then make progress in our current shows afterward. It’s truly amazing how much progress you can make by reading at these set times each week.
- Baseline reading goals. In whatever book I’m reading, I try to set a goal for a reading baseline. In some books, this makes sense for it to be just a chapter (if they’re a bit longer), but in other books, it may make more sense to try to read a couple chapters every day. Suppose I don’t have a specific time scheduled at night because of a previous commitment. In that case, I make time during the day to get my baseline reading in.
- Audiobooks before podcasts. I’m a podcast junkie, I’ve always listened to many podcasts, but it often becomes just background noise. While it is highly entertaining, and I learn quite a bit about them, I also look back to all the time I listen to a podcast and think that a lot of that time is useless and just purely for checking out and entertainment value. I cut down my podcast feed to only a few that I wanted to keep up with and defaulted to audiobooks.
- Using my local library for ebooks. Another handy reason to use Kindle is to check out books from my local library and read them on the Kindle app. I use Readwise to sync my highlights to Obsidian (a blog post for another day). I get the best of both worlds: I can mark up a book, and I don’t have to purchase it. If I like the book, I can then decide to purchase either an electronic or physical copy.
- Marathon reading. When I get to the end of a book, I go ahead and finish it in that reading session. So instead of reading maybe 40-60 pages of a book, if I’m almost at the end, I may read the extra 40-60 pages in that reading session. Cal Newport talked about this on his podcast (I can’t remember the episode), but he calls them “closing pushes.”
The reading life has definitely been more satisfying. The time that was often spent on my phone or doing something else has been filled with reading. None of this is new or noteworthy, but it does take intentionality. In November, I made my way through over 10 books. That would have seemed impossible, but small changes really do add up.