How to Read More Books, Even If You Think You’re Too Busy

There’s nothing like a good book.  I used to spend hours getting lost in a well-told story or digging into a subject that interested me.  But as life happened, reading began to feel like a luxury I didn’t have time for.  Fortunately, I’m learning that’s not the case at all!  So join me in finding a balance and getting back into the habit of reading.

Doing what we need to do as moms takes up most of our time and energy.  And we all know that there are perfectly good and healthy things that get pushed aside along the way. That’s why the promise of finding balance is such a popular topic these days.  

Reading is one of those good things that can easily be edged out in all the busyness. Now don’t get me wrong … we all probably *read* a lot every day.  But blog articles and Facebook posts are not the type of reading I’m talking about. I’m talking about books. Books that take time to entertain, or educate, or inspire, or instruct.

I’ve fallen into this rut practically without even noticing it.  The results are all too common: Not remembering what I have read because I’ve been inconsistent or distracted;  Agreeing to read books and discuss with friends (which I really want to do) and then never getting around to it;  Feeling too overwhelmed to start because my reading list keeps growing.

Why reading faster isn't the answer.

My first thought, and maybe yours, was that I just needed to learn to read *faster*, as in speed reading.  That would be a huge advantage, right? Seems logical. And speed reading has been around for decades, promising that we can improve our speed dramatically while still retaining what we’ve read.

But it turns out that ‘speed reading’ is highly controversial, to put it mildly.  As attractive as the idea is, the results have not lived up to the hype.  Although some improvement in speed is possible, it requires no small amount of time and effort to achieve. And the fact is that as we read faster we understand and retain less.

Now, reading a little faster than our normal pace to get the basic idea of what’s been written, in other words skimming, can be helpful at times.   But skimming is limited in it’s usefulness, such as for getting a very basic idea of what’s been written, or to review content that you’re already familiar with. 

With this all in mind, let’s assume we’re going to be reading at our own natural pace.  

Reading is a habit, so let’s treat it like one.

When we read on a regular basis over a long period of time we’ll reap the rewards.  A little at a time is how we make big progress. In other words, it’s a habit worth developing.

Most habits are small things, but they have big impacts on our lives.  We do them over and over, often without even thinking about it. And this automatic nature can work wonders in our favor if we use it to our advantage. 

According to James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits”, there are three rules for sticking to good habits:

  • When you begin, do an amount of the activity that is very easy to complete.
  •  Every day, increase the amount you do by a very small amount.  Continue doing this until you’ve reached your goal.
  •  The activity should remain comfortable, even after increasing the amount.  If it becomes difficult, divide the activity into easily completed chunks to reach your daily goal. 

Start reading more in 3 super-easy steps.

The truth is, you just have to get reading.  It’s that simple, but not always easy (or you’d already be reading a lot more).  But following James Clear’s three rules (above), we’re going to make building a reading habit about as painless as possible.

Step 1:  Select your goal but start easy. 

  • What is your daily reading goal in minutes?  This is the amount of daily reading you’d like to work up to.
  • Then, select a number of minutes that you will start with.  It should be small and sound almost too easy to complete.

For example,  “I want to start with 15 minutes per day and work up to 30 minutes per day.”

Why we’re measuring by minutes and not pages per day.

There are lots of avid readers whose goal is to complete a certain number of pages each day.  And that is a good method to use. But not all pages are created equal, so from one book to the next there may be a big difference in how long a page takes to read.  

As moms, time is our most precious resource, so we’ll set our goal in minutes. We want to stay consistent and make our reading predictable to schedule. 

Does 15 minutes per day sound
like a slow pace?

It did to me at first.  How far would reading 15 minutes per day get me?  I did the calculation more than once before I believed the answer!

  1. The average reading speed for adults is around 250 words per minute.
  2. The average length of a novel is around 85,000 words.
  3. So, reading 15 minutes per day at an average speed, you could finish a novel in just over 3 weeks.
That’s 15 novels a year!

Step 2:  Increase the time you read by a small amount each day.

  • Increase the time you spend reading by one minute each day until you’re reading at your goal amount.

Since you started with a small, easy goal each day, you’ll be able to increase it bit by bit without being overwhelmed.

Remember, we want this to be as painless as possible so you’re more likely to be successful.

If you hit a point where your daily reading time becomes difficult, consider breaking it up into more than one chunk per day.

Step 3:  Mark your habit tracker each day, and don’t skip days. 

  • These are both key to building your new habit.

Marking your tracker acts as a small ‘reward’ that reinforces the activity.  Make it part of your routine because it really does serve to help build that habit.

And don’t miss more than one day in succession. One leads to two, which leads to three, and before you know it you’ve lost your momentum. Help prevent this by making your daily time easy to complete!  

Printable Reading Habit Tracker Bookmark
printable reading habit tracker bookmark

Your new habit will get stronger each day if you stick with these three steps.  Once you reach your goal, you’ll know whether you want to adjust it or keep it.  And if you find yourself moving backward, pick up with Step 1 again.

Help your new reading habit thrive.

Make your reading habit really stick with these simple tips.
  • Don’t save it until the end of the day.  You’ve probably heard lots of advise to do your reading first thing in the morning.  And that is really good advice. But if that just doesn’t work for you, still try to get to it before you’re too busy or tired.
  • Remove distractions.  Give yourself the luxury of focusing on only one thing for a few minutes. This may mean not reading on your smartphone or tablet, where email and Facebook are one click away.  But however and wherever you’re reading, use that short time to really laser focus.
  • Discuss what you’re reading with others.  Whether it’s with a friend reading the same book or a casual mention at the dinner table, it will help you engage the material and remember more of what you’re reading.

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