When I asked myself that question recently, I realized that there were some simple reasons I wasn't reading as much as I would like to, and I developed a reasonable system that is helping me read more than 30 books per year.
When I looked at my own reading habits, I realized that my reading habits were mostly reactive, not proactive. If an interesting link flashed across my screen on Facebook or Twitter, then I would read it as a reaction. I wasn't proactively making time to read books each day. I was simply reading interesting ideas that were pushed in front of me.
As a result, most of my reading was done online. Now, there are plenty of excellent articles on the web, but generally speaking, the quality of good books is better. Books typically have better writing (more tightly edited) and higher quality information (better fact-checking and more extensive research). From a learning perspective, it's probably a better use of my time to read books than to read online content.
I usually wake up, drink a glass of water, write down 3 things I'm grateful for, and read 20 pages of a book. For the last 10 weeks, I have followed this new habit. As of today, I'm 100 pages into my 7th book. At that pace (7 books per 10 weeks) I'll read about 36 books in the next year. Not bad.
Here's why I think this pattern works: 20 pages is small enough that it's not intimidating. Most people can finish reading 20 pages within 30 minutes. And if you do it first thing in the morning, then the urgencies of the day don't get in the way.
Most people spend it getting dressed, getting ready, and rushing out the door. What if that time was spent making yourself a better person? What if you woke up an hour before you needed to each day and worked on yourself? How much better would you be at work, in your relationships, and as a person?
That's essentially what this reading strategy is asking you to do. Before you move on to the normal bustle of the day, invest in yourself. Before your life turns into a whirlwind of activity, read a book that will make you better. As with most habits that can greatly impact your life, this will never feel urgent, but it is important.20 pages per day. That's all you need.
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James Clear writes about habits, decision making, and continuous improvement. He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits. The book has sold over 10 million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 50 languages.
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What does this have to do with reading? I think of having a TV in your main living area as a plate of chocolate chip cookies. So many delicious TV shows tempt us, reducing our willpower to tackle the books.
When do I read now? All the time. A few pages here. A few pages there. I have a book in my bag at all times. In general I read nonfiction in the mornings, when my mind is in active learning mode, and fiction at night before bed, when my mind needs an escape. Slipping pages into all the corners of the day adds up.
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