Nowadays we are continuously coming across more and more interesting reading material, and every day the pile of “to-read” books or material grows bigger and bigger. A good reading habit will help you get through the pile and has additional benefits like reducing stress, improving memory, and enhancing creativity.
The first part of this article will deal with improving your reading and making it more effective. The second part will identify tips to make reading into a habit.
Part 1: More effective reading
Most of us have ineffective reading habits that are based on misconceptions formed during our time at school.
You don’t actually have to read every word to understand it. You should get in the habit of selecting and prioritising what’s actually important.
you don’t have to remember everything you read to get something from the material. Consider writing down the crucial information or highlighting and important bits.
Bad reading habits and how to fix them:
Have you ever been reading and gone to turn the page only to realise that you were thinking about something else the whole time? This is called passive daydreaming. You need to practice “active mind wandering”– a type of thinking that links the information you are reading to our own experiences. This will bridge different types of knowledge and enhance your retention because it acts like a glue to an existing neural connection.
Another bad reading habit is regression, that is, rereading the same lines and wasting time. One of the most obvious ways to fix this is to cover the text you’ve just read and a cardboard bookmark is perfect for this.
Another bad reading habit is subvocalizing. This is mouthing along to the words that you read or mentally whispering the text. Our brain can process words much faster than our mouths (around 3x faster) so if you stop subvocalizing, you’ll be able to process more words per minute.
To stop subvocalizing, focus on the keywords and skip over the rest.
Okay so that’s saving some time and stopping the inefficiencies but how can you speed up your reading?
Try these simple steps to speed up your reading (without speed reading):
Have a clear purpose in mind and choose what to read and what to skip over. Don’t read the ‘forward’ and pre-view all the sections or chapters before actually starting to read in order to get an idea of what it’s about, as well as which parts will be relevant and interesting to you. Often it’s the first few chapters where the value actually lies.
To identify the relevant parts, begin by reading first the first few introductory paragraphs to get an idea of where it is heading. Next, read the subheadings, titles and subtitles that are usually larger and bolded. Finally, read the first sentence of each paragraph in order to get a better idea of what each section is about.
Pre-viewing provides you with background information and a more complete picture which will help to comprehend the text faster and reducing the tendency to reread.
Pre-viewing will give you around 40 percent of the material’s key information. The rest is just elaboration, explanation or fluff.
Speed reading is obviously one of the most effective techniques for powering through those books. Unfortunately, speed reading is not something you can learn from my post. I highly recommend learning speed reading.
The final tip is to take a break every 20 minutes. Research shows that people can only concentrate effectively for about 20 minutes at a time, so don’t overdo it.
Part 2: How to make reading into a habit:
Set times. As with all habit formation, consistency is key. Identify a time that you will be able to read every day and use habit stacking to remind you.
Set a minimum target. Whilst you may want to read a chapter or more each night, you need to set small targets so that you can achieve them even when time is not ideal. Two pages per night should be your minimum target. Its so small that you can’t say no.
Always carry a book. Wherever you go, take a book with you. If you get a spare few minutes, you will have your book ready to go instead of reverting to that mindless social media that does not aid in self-development.
Make a list. Create a list of the books that you have or want to read and identify the time required to get through all the books.
Make it pleasurable. Make your reading time your favourite time of day. Have a hot cup of tea or coffee while you read, and sit in a comfy spot during sunrise or sunset. It’s such a simple way to relax and escape the world.
Give It 50. If after 50 pages, the book’s not floating your boat, move on. You don’t have to finish every book you start.
Now here is the reading habit that I swear by:
Yes, listening to a book whilst reading, showering cooking etc is a great use of your time. Audiobooks can be bought on discs but the most well-known audio book provider is Audible. Audible has a huge range and some great prices but I have discovered Blinkist and I think it is excellent.
I love Blinkist (click here) because you can read the key lessons from 1000+ nonfiction books in 15min or less and you can listen to most of them in audio format. It’s a subscription service that is tremendous value for money. Blinkist extracts the most important information and lets you take it all in quickly. I use Blinkist to assess if it’s worth buying the hard copy or the full audiobook.
I am affiliated with Blinkist and they give you a FREE TRIAL.