Sunday, January 23, 2022

How to Read More: A Guide from a Phone-Addicted Reader

Let's set the scene: It's the end of January, you've set yourself up with the intention of reading more in 2022, but find it hard to keep your focus (and interest level) on reading. You keep saying "I don't have the time today" three days in a row, which then turns into weeks, and eventually months. This is exactly the position I was in a few years ago until I discovered reading books can actually be fun. Gasp! 

Realizing that reading isn't something to check off a to-do list, but an activity that is supposed to bring joy and knowledge (of the world and of self) was probably the biggest game-changer when it came to reading for me. Of course, this didn't come to me in the form of an epiphany, but by inserting myself in situations that inspired me to read more, and more importantly, to read smarter. 

So, if you're finding yourself in a similar situation, where you like the idea of reading, but the execution itself is a bit hard, this is the blog post for you! I've compiled a list of 7 tips taken from my own first-hand experience over the last two years, where I went from reading 1-2 books a year to reading 25+ books each year. I hope at least one of these tips and tricks resonates with you and gets you back on track in your exciting reading journey!

1. Reframe the “I don’t have time” mindset 

When it comes to reading or any type of habit you're trying to implement, it's important to reframe your mindset. More specifically, the "I don't have time" mindset. The truth of the matter is, we'll never have time to do the things we want to do unless we take inspired action to make time

It all comes down to how much time you are willing to dedicate out of your day to this specific habit. I understand that we're all busy, and it's not so simple to just push reading into one's schedule, but that is when personal prioritizing comes into play. For me, book reading is a form of self-care, a way to relax the mind and let it sink into a new set of information that isn't all about me. That is why I prioritize it, and always find the time to get a bit of reading done at least every other day. 

No matter if it's 10 minutes per day or an hour per day, making time to read contributes to building the habit of reading, which only increases over time. Making the time each day, or every other day, can lead to a sense of accomplishment and encourage you to keep reading. Of course, if the book you're reading is interesting, it won't be such a struggle to keep up. 

2. Let’s play a game

A hack that might be just what some people need to get out of a reading rut is to gamify the whole reading process. And what does that mean in this context? Well, the best way to make reading a game is to set yourself challenges and rewards. For me, what has worked the most is setting up a reading goal in the long term and then tracking whether I'm behind, on time, or ahead of my personal challenge. 

A great way to do this is to set up a Goodreads Reading Challenge (mine is set to 30 books for this year) and then track each book you read in the year on the app. An alternative to Goodreads is Storygraph, where they have three different sets of challenges that you can join, with reading prompts that you can tick off in order to complete the challenge. 

Another way to really challenge yourself is to join reading marathons, or as they're called, readathons: a short set period of time in which you try to complete as many reading prompts as possible. I personally have not joined one yet, but I can see how this could get people out of a reading rut. Here is one example by With Cindy on Youtube, and her Yearly Asian Readathon

P.S. A little disclaimer here that this can easily discourage some readers, especially reading challenges. It's important to set achievable goals for this, as otherwise, it might lead to disappointment when you're constantly behind on your book count. So, for example, if currently, one book takes you around a month to finish, set your reading goal to 10-12 books so it feels achievable from the get-go. Ultimately, it's about challenging yourself, not making yourself feel miserable. 

3. Get Inspired 

When I first got back into reading, my Youtube algorithm started showing me Book-tubers, which was a Youtube niche unbeknownst to me up until that point. From book hauls to reading vlogs and monthly wrap-ups, I felt like I've entered a whole new world of content that makes me feel calm and inspired to read more, as well as find what might work for me and what might not. 

A friend once asked me how I choose the books that I do, and how I'm reading these authors she's never heard of. And the truth is, it's all the accumulative knowledge I gain through Youtube. I have my set selection of people I like watching, and feel like they relate to my personal reading preferences, so when they say that they love a certain author or a book, I put it on my TBR for future reference. Some of the people I like watching are: With Cindy, Emmie, The Book Leo, Jack Edwards, Noelle Gallagher, and UnCarley.

Another source of inspiration is, of course, Instagram - or better called, Bookstagram. These niche names are so funny to me, I can't even take them seriously haha. Anyhow, I personally enjoy Bookstagram for the aesthetics, which I believe is a big part of the reading experience. Of course, it's more than just pretty pictures: these accounts give recommendations, reviews, update their thoughts and reading progress via Stories, etc. Some of the accounts I like to follow are: @bookmateriality, @writingboutthebookiread, @literaryoverflow, @lydiathevirgo, @thelostlibrary 

And last but not least, friends. Nobody knows you like your friends, so if you've got a bookish person in your life, reach out and ask for a recommendation. I'd even add that you don't even necessarily have to really know the person in order for them to recommend you something. I've had girls message me via Instagram for book recommendations, and I wholeheartedly give them my honest opinions. Book reading shouldn't be a solitary hobby, in fact, I'd say the best part about reading is sharing opinions with others and building your own little community. 

4. It’s all about the mood 

For me, reading isn't something that can just be inserted into every part of my day. I've tried reading on the go and my mind always wanders, meaning it's useless to continue reading if nothing sticks. I've come to realize that I do my best reading when I'm in the mood to read - a shocking concept, I know. 

(P.S. If reading while riding on the bus/in a car sounds like something that would be the perfect setting for you, go for it!) 

The infamous mood depends on a person's preferences. I usually tend to reach for books when I feel like my eyes deserve some rest from the screens, or as a reward after a long day. For me, setting the mood to read means making a cup of tea, lighting a candle, playing a cute reading playlist, and curling up on my couch. This became a routine after a few months, and what I love about it isn't the routine itself, but the fact that my brain connects reading to such a cozy atmosphere that gets me excited to actually read. 

Another way to set a mood is to insert yourself in situations that feel perfect for book reading. IDK about you, but I've always found people who read (and work) at coffee shops super cool, so that's basically what I started doing. Plus, it's so much fun to find new spots that fit the pro-reading criteria which make you look at coffee shops in a totally different way. Another perfect setting for me is the park: whether sitting on the ground, on a bench, or on a hammock, you name it - I've tried it. And they're all main-character approved reading spots. 

Ultimately, it's all about what situations would inspire you to read. For some, it's right before bed, for others, it's a part of their morning routine. There's no wrong time and place, it's just about finding what works best for you. 

5. Slow and steady wins the race

I don't think I can stress this enough: It's not about the number of books you read! If you are trying to read for pleasure, it should be just for that. There's no one pointing a gun at your head to read one book per week, there are no deadlines, no assignments, no essays waiting to be written and marked.

Some books dictate the pace you read at. For example, non-fiction and literary fiction books tend to be more medium-paced or slow-paced, while fantasy or romance books tend to be more fast-paced. Another aspect that can affect how fast or slow you read a book is the page count as well, as naturally, we tend to finish shorter books faster than, let's say, a 700-page book. 

What I'm trying to get at is that it's never about if you're a fast or slow reader - it's about enjoying yourself and not putting pressure on an activity that's supposed to bring a new type of entertainment. 

6. You can’t enter a battle without a strategy

As with anything in life, you should always have a strategy in mind. I believe that reading only one genre/topic of research back to back can cause a bit of reading fatigue. The same goes for long books back to back, or books dealing with similar/same topics. That's why it's smart to disperse books of different lengths and different genres/topics of research, and always keep the brain feeling fresh when starting a new book. This can possibly boost your will to continue reading. I try to keep my genres pretty diverse, so if I'm reading a non-fiction book, I'll want to switch it up for my next read and perhaps read a short romance, or literary fiction. 

I also apply this to books that I can read with and without an accompanying audiobook. Over trial and error, I've come to the conclusion that listening to audiobooks on their own doesn't keep my attention. That is why I like to pair audiobooks with physical books (or e-books) because it makes reading an easier feat for the brain. It's like someone else is reading the book for you, so even though you're paying attention, you can let yourself have the luxury of looking around your room or closing your eyes for some rest, while your brain is still tuned into the story. 

Disclaimer: not everyone likes being read to, for example, some of my friends have said that it distracts them. So, take this audiobook tip with a grain of salt that it might not work for you. 

7. It’s not you, it’s the book

Sometimes, a book just doesn't vibe with your current headspace. I truly do believe that some books require you to be in a certain mindset in order for you to enjoy them. But, there's no way to really know that, and I'm sure we've all been in those frustrating situations where we pick up a book, the book starts feeling like a bore and a chore (nice rhyme Elena), and now you've found yourself reading a book you're not really enjoying and it's putting a damper on your reading mood.

If you're struggling to pick up a book, it might be because you've got that token energy-sucking book sitting there, waiting for you. So, in these situations it's not you, it's the book. When in these predicaments, I immediately pick up another book and put that one on the back-burner. Personally, I don't like to DNF books (book jargon for mark as did-not-finish) and will eventually finish them, but I don't give them a priority, and just continue with whatever else I like reading more at the time. 

In conclusion

Reading is never just about the act of reading words on a page. It's about fully immersing yourself in a different world and letting your mind roam free. It's about building habits that will last you a lifetime. It's about broadening your horizons. It's about learning, growing, and feeling. So, next time you think about picking up a book, remember that it's not just about reading a book, but an act of self-love. 

1 comment:

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