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Ten Ways to Prioritize Reading

Prioritize Reading. Part 1.

In the previous Your Brain of Tomorrow, we discussed the importance of reading for the neurobiology and mental health of any individual. However, as we noted it is also very difficult to find time and space to read. Today we are going to delve into the click bait title which is…

TOP TEN WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR READING!

I lied. Today we are only going to talk about 5, because I want to give each of these some details and the time they deserve.

TLDR Version: (Has there ever been a worse phrase?)

  1. Set Specific Reading Goals: Define clear and achievable reading goals. Whether it's a certain number of pages, chapters, or books per day, having specific targets can motivate you to make time for reading.

  2. Create a Reading Schedule: Allocate dedicated time slots for reading in your daily schedule. Treat it like any other important appointment to ensure you prioritize it.

  3. Eliminate Time-wasting Activities: Identify activities that consume your time unnecessarily and consider cutting back on them. This could include reducing time spent on social media, TV, or other non-essential activities.

  4. Carry a Book Everywhere: Keep a book or an e-reader with you at all times. This way, you can take advantage of unexpected free moments like waiting in line, commuting, or during breaks.

  5. Establish a Reading Ritual: Create a pre-reading routine that signals to your brain that it's time to focus on a book. This could be making a cup of tea, finding a comfortable spot, or listening to calming music.

 

Now with some meat…

  1. Set Specific Reading Goals: “I am going to read more,” gets us no further down the road than “I am going to exercise more.” If we don’t know why we are going to do a thing, it is fairly hard to do it.

With this in mind I strongly recommend asking yourself the question why do I want to read more? Every one of the below are very good reasons and all of them can be considered valid on heir own, more so in combinations.

  • I have things I want to learn.

  • I want to change the world by the content I consume, and support the kinds of people I love to see succeed.

  • I want to expand my horizons, and just be generally more knowledgeable.

  • I want to learn XYZ to help my son/daughter learn about XYZ.

  • I want to know more about my partner’s hobby of ABC so we can talk about it more.

  • I just always wanted to read more.

  • Stories are just fun. (Yes, they are…)

 

There is no bad reason to want to read more. Now that you have some specific reasons why you want to read you can set goals that match them. For example, if you are choosing from the “Partner's hobby,” but you read a book that has nothing to do with that hobby, your goals and your actions may not match. You may have to change the goal, or change the topic matter. Similarly, if you say “I want to learn more about XYZ,” and instead you read about ABC you might have missed the mark

Why is this important? Because if you have a goal in mind, and you work toward it, or think you are, but you get no closer you might become frustrated with your lack of progress. Goals and actions need to match.

Goals also help us to know if we made progress. Ephemeral “Read more,” or “Exercise more,” or “Give mor to loved ones of my time…” are all good intentions but will lead in general to no predefined actions.

Your goal should be concrete and measurable.

“I want to read more,” becomes, “I want to learn about XYZ,” becomes, “I will read 1 book and 3 articles about XYZ,” becomes “I will read 1 book and 3 articles about XYZ in the next ABC weeks.” Did you hit your goal? Did you learn enough about the topic? You can decide after the fact. But it is a specific thing you can say you did or did not achieve and then re-evaluate.

 

2.  Create a Reading Schedule: “I will read 1 book and 3 articles about XYZ in the next ABC weeks,” will get nowhere fast if you have no time set aside to do the task. Everyone who has a busy life knows you only do a few things with your time:

  • Address whatever issue is screaming for attention.

  • Spend time on the habits which are unconscious

  • Spend time on the things which are necessary for biological survival.

 

This means our goal with item 2, is to make reading into something which is unconscious. “At 9:30 each night I read for 20 minutes.” Or “On the train on the way to work, I put in a headset, block out the world with white noise, and read for 40 minutes.”

If reading is not prioritized the book we bought will sit on the shelf unread. Remember that it takes time to build habits, and it takes time for something to become normal. That means we will need to engage in this new habit for up to three weeks before it starts to feel normal. That is ok.

“I don’t have time to work in reading.”

See the next item.

3. Eliminate Time-wasting Activities: We waste a remarkable amount of our lives on things we didn’t mean to do, didn’t want to do, or forget we did. Did you derive more un from listening to YouTube shorts for that 20 minutes, or would you derive more long term fulfillment by reading and moving toward your goal?

All the science says you will be happier in total with the second, but it is hard, which is why we need to make habits of it. But that also means we need to move the other item out of the way. Did the video game for 5 hours beat the video game for 4 hours and 1 hour of reading? Did you need to binge watch the entire season, or can you stretch it out over the course of a week, and add 20 minutes of reading a day?

Do you really need 8.5 hours of sleep? Science says that the odds are ridiculously close to zero. Shave off thirty and fit in a novel.

There is more time in a day than you can imagine, but we need to move the clutter out of the way first. Be specific and find the things in your day you think are not adding value, and are taking up your time. Make a list and then slowly start to remove them. Fill that time with something intentionally, so that it remains your and reserved for what you want to read.

 

4. Carry a Book Everywhere: We must enable our habits. Smokers need to carry cigarettes to smoke, readers need to carry a book to read. This has never been easier than it is today. Digital books enable us to have books on our phone all the time.

I am old fashioned. I almost always still have a pocket-sized book on me when we travel or I have any reason to believe I might have a spare ten minutes where I am going. My wife reads 90 percent of her books digitally. But we both have the book on hand. Enable your new habit.

 

5. Establish a Reading Ritual: Create a pre-reading routine that signals to your brain that it's time to focus on a book. This could be making a cup of tea, finding a comfortable spot, or listening to calming music.

All habits need a trigger. “I smoke after dinner.” Dinner is the trigger. “I exercise after I wake up.” Maybe morning coffee is the trigger. “I watch TV after I get home from work.” Sitting on the couch might be the trigger. If you don’t step outside after the meal you don’t smoke. If you don’t drink coffee, you don’t work out. If you don’t sit on the couch, you don’t watch TV. Move the trigger you can remove the habit.

Similarly, if you want to start a habit you need to build in a trigger that you like. One reward triggers the other.

I like tea, and I like my pajamas. I am going to put those on, sip away while I sit in location XYZ and read. Not only do you build the trigger for you, it sends a signal to everyone else in your life too. You are reading now, when you are in spot ABC. Everyone knows to let you read, or at least knows what they are interrupting if they do.

Establish your ritual, your reading safe zone, and let the world know about it.

 

Next time, five more tips on how to make time for more reading. Until then, go build your habits, pick your goals, head to a library, grab those books, and lets all get reading.

Prioritize Reading. Part 2:

Today we are only going to talk about the next five methods of increasing your reading volume.  

TLDR Version: (Still… just such a cringe worthy phrase.)

  1. Join a Book Club: Being part of a book club can provide motivation, accountability, and a sense of community. Discussing books with others can enhance your reading experience and make it more enjoyable.

  2. Use Audiobooks or Podcasts: If finding time to sit down with a physical book is challenging, consider listening to audiobooks during activities like commuting, exercising, or doing household chores.

  3. Limit Screen Time Before Bed: Reduce your exposure to screens (phone, TV, computer) at least an hour before bedtime. Instead, use that time to read, as it can also improve your sleep quality.

  4. Prioritize Reading Over Multitasking: When you have dedicated reading time, try to focus solely on the book rather than multitasking. This will help you absorb the material more effectively.

  5. Choose Books Wisely: Pick books that genuinely interest you. If you're excited about the content, you're more likely to make time for reading. Don't be afraid to explore different genres to find what captivates you the most

 

Now, with content.

1. Join a Book Club:

Some of what it means to be a reader, or be an XYZ, whatever moniker you want to assign is to belong to that group by means of time. If I call myself a writer but I do not write, I am not a writer. I am a person who wants to be a writer. If I call myself a reader but I do not read, I am only a person who wants to be a reader.

Just like bowling leagues of old, and baseball pick up teams, basketball teams, or mountain climbing groups, skiing groups or any other activity we engage in, reading can be a group activity. Making it into a group activity will do a few things. First you have guaranteed mutual interest. Guaranteed interest means someone to talk to about the book, your feelings about it, and someone to indirectly hold you accountable for reading it.

You also have a time in which you are at a place to do a thing. You are going to be reading a piece over a fixed time with possible meetings weekly, bi weekly or monthly where you are expected to have found the time. Just like many actions in our lives, when we are required to find the time, we do.

Book clubs can also guide our reading to what to grab off the shelf next, which is not always easy and takes time of its own.

Finally, there is the ineffable quality, that humans simply are social creatures, and belonging to a group matters.

 

2. Use Audiobooks or Podcasts:

I have talked on this channel before about the use of audiobooks. Some people find that this is not reading, but I lean in the direction that it is. It is not my favorite means of book consumption, and I do not retain books as well, but that is not true for everyone. Audio books if we are truly busy give us the advantage of multitasking. Specifically on the way to or from work we will be able to listen to books we otherwise could not read.

My wife listens to hordes of books during her exercise routines each week, getting through almost 2 a week just during that time frame. (She’s buff.)

Don’t downplay the use of audiobooks, which can be on your phone with you anywhere at any time.

Reading before bed is good for you

3. Limit Screen Time Before Bed:

Sleep, and our ability to do it well, is biologically tied to the activities we do before bed. Smartphones, tablets, computers, television screens, and some e-readers give off short-wavelength blue light that is very similar to sunlight. Not only does this light make people more alert, it also deceives the body into thinking it is still daytime.

In response, the body produces less melatonin, interfering with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. The longer you spend on your screen, the greater the impact on your sleep.

If you were to swap out the last 30 minutes of any given day with reading instead of screen time, or cell phone time, not only will you sleep better, increasing your energy throughout the day you will also be making time for reading.

In a related study, not only did reading before bed reduce screen time and improve sleep, reading regardless of the time of day, improved sleep.

So shut down your cell phone, and hit the books!

 

4. Prioritize Reading Over Multitasking:

If you have the time, read in a dedicated manner. One of the pleasures of reading is that we hear a story and we are transported to somewhere else, or we learn something we couldn’t otherwise learn. However, if we lose the ability to read in a manner which gives us these gifts, or can’t make the time for it, we are reading without most of the benefits.

Multitasking reduces retention of the story and the data we are trying to gather, so consider dedicated time for your reading as a priority. Unless there is of course no other option, then see item 2 above!

 

5. Choose Books Wisely:

Similar to item 4 above, careful selection of the books we read is very important. We sat down to read because we wanted something from it. To learn, to expand. If we don’t pick books which match that goal, we have detoured from the SMART goals we talked about last week.

Make sure you are picking materials that come from your reasons for reading in the first place.

 

BONUS.

We behave in the manner which is most normal for our local group. We pick up on social cues and the behaviors of people around us. If we surround ourselves with people who value TV over reading, we will too. If we surround ourselves with readers, we will value reading more. Talk to people about reading to spread reading as a normal, entertaining and healthy way to spend your time. It might just come full circle for you.

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