I was not always a fast reader although I have always loved books and the stories they told. I spent the early years of primary school in remedial English classes frustrated with my brain’s hesitation to latch on to the new skill. At the time, I was deciphering the words on the page so slowly that my mind struggled to string sentences together into a flowing story. Even if I was slow to catch on, the bookworm in me is alive and well and itching to gobble up more books in the coming decade.
While reflecting on 2019 (and updating my Goodreads account) I counted 30 books read. Now, I suspect that I forgot a few titles. Regardless, this is a slow reading year for me. I plan on turning the page in 2020 to dive into exciting new titles that are gathering dust on my reading list.
In my book club, A Novel Idea, we have been investigating what it means to resilient habits with the aid of Charles Duhigg‘s book The Power of Habit. This has given me a lot to think about regarding how we can effectively guide habitual action to our benefit. With the hope of luring more literature into my life, I will be employing many of his techniques to strengthen my reading habit and consume a more restorative form of media than the video vortex of Youtube and Netflix.
Without further adieu, here are my top tips for learning more in 2020.
Think of Yourself as a Reader
We tend to instantaneously categorize other people and even ourselves into neat little groups that fit our perceived notions of the world. This is an unseen habit where our personality quirks are typically observed. We think of ourselves as runners, healthy eaters, or film aficionados, attaching actions that define our sense of identity and in doing so send social cues to strengthen the connections we feel with peers.
The sense of identity coupled with action can be extremely helpful to maintain your momentum on existing habit and it can also help you pull new actions into your routine. Eliminate the emotional distance between you and the habit of reading by imagining yourself as an avid reading apt to or even itching to pick up the book. It can take a bit for this to start to feel genuine but it’s a great way to kickstart a reading resolution.
In her book Think Like a Leader, Act Like a Leader, Herminia Ibarra—a renowned professor at The London Business School—advocates being playful with your self-concept. Act like you’re a reader, even though you may not define yourself as one (yet). This helps you construct a new sense of self.
Do what book lovers do. Join a book club. Bring a book in your bag and read it over lunch. Go to a library. Visit your local used book store. Act like a reader, and you become one.
Make Reading the Answer to Boredom
For anyone familiar with their screen time app, it’s no surprise that we spend an excessive amount of time on our cellphones — and typically not in constructive ways. Endlessly scrolling through Instagram while waiting for your train or when you are feeling rather awkward at a social event can distract us from today’s problems. Tech entertains for a short while and steals time away right under your nose.
Make space for the habits you want to encourage. See what other forms of media you consume throughout the day and decide if they are worthy of your attention, or if your mind would be better entertained by a good book.
Swap time-eating apps into one folder in the back of your phone or delete them completely. Install apps to make it easier to read or listen on your phone (kindle, your library’s audiobook app, audible). Set your book on your bedside table to encourage reading right when you wake up and before you go to bed.
Remember the Joy
Through school, many of us dreaded starting a new novel because it came with assignments and exams. We didn’t read for pleasure or joy; we read because we had to. The stress of school squeezed the fun out of literature.
In adulthood, reading can become a chore if you only choose books on their productivity potential. Yes, a deep dive into artistic prose can be extremely rewarding. If you love debating diction, a book club can be an exciting place to engage that nerdy curiosity. However, if you are dragging yourself out of a reading rut, it’s more than OK to pick a book just for pure pleasure.
I want to excite my inner child when I read. I want to be pulled into another world where the characters are aspirational mentors. So I have kicked off my 2020 reading schedule with the epic fantasy world of The Light Bringer. Now, I don’t recommend these for the casual fantasy fan, as the page count, complexity of the plot, and word-building is more akin to what you would find in The Name of the Wind than Harry Potter, but if you are a fantasy fanatic and somehow missed this series I highly recommend you pick it up.
Whether you like sci-fi or fantasy or only have a stomach for classics, the aim is to be intellectually consumed by the material. To spark (or re-spark) your love of the story. If you want to read more books because you feel compelled to complete your reading list, I encourage you to reprioritize. Put the fun first and allow the momentum to pull you through the rather dry pieces with the knowledge that a new adventure awaits just around the corner.
A positive psychology professor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Barbara Fredrickson, calls this prioritizing positivity. When you feel good about what you’re reading and are enjoying the process, the more you will tend to do it.
Share what you’re reading in the comment section!
Here’s to a year (and a lifetime) of reading.
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