This is embarrassing, but I feel like I've got to come clean. I call myself a writer. But I read a pathetically small number of books each year.
I was a voracious reader growing up, spending entire summers at the public library plowing through series after entire series of books. But then I became an adult, and I just didn't ... I guess ... have time. Lame excuse, I know.
"Books are the gateway to imagination, to worlds we may not be able to access physically, but can emotionally," says Srinivas Rao, author and host of the Unmistakable Creative podcast. "Books help us to expand what we're capable of being and experiencing."
I miss reading on the regular, so recently made the decision to do it more. So far it's going splendidly, and I like to think my brain is reaping enormous benefits. Just because I've read a couple of books in the last month, I feel like I'm dominating life.
Then I came across Rao's post on Medium. He says by year's end, he will have read 100 books. And it's not like he reads full-time for a living. The guy is an author and the founder and CEO of Unmistakable Media, and he has interviewed more than 600 fascinating creative people for his podcast. He's a busy guy.
Think you don't have time to read? Think again. If Rao can manage to do it, so can you. Here are his top tips, plus a couple of my own.
1. Pencil reading in
Your calendar is full of family commitments, work commitments, and maybe even me-time commitments like trips to the gym. Throw some quality reading time in the mix. Rao finds his calendar to be his most effective to-do list, and he schedules reading along with everything else. So as not to overwhelm yourself, he recommends starting with just 10 minutes a day.
2. Strategically place books around your home
Have you heard about how Google optimized healthy eating in its offices with behavioral economics? Accessibility was key in motivating people to grab an apple over a candy bar. People were more likely to eat food that was easy to see or easy to reach.
You can use the same approach with books. Put them where you can see them, and you'll be more likely to pick them up and crack them open.
Put a book on the coffee table. On the night stand. Why not even keep one in the bathroom? The more access you give yourself to books, the more likely you'll choose reading over grabbing your smartphone.
3. Keep a book on your person at all times
Carry a book with you, and you'd be surprised by frequently you have the chance to read a few pages. Think of all the times you've been waiting for a friend, the doctor, or your Uber driver. Instead scrolling through Instagram, whip out your book instead.
In his writing memoir, aptly titled On Writing, Stephen King recommends the same strategy to make life's dullest moments more interesting. "Books are a uniquely portable magic," King writes. "What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life."
4. Set a daily reading goal
Many writers set a word count goal. If they haven't written a certain number of words, their day's work isn't done. Rao recommends also setting a daily reading goal. Commit to reading a certain number of pages a day.
"If you read 50 pages a day, that's 350 pages a week," he points out. "It's roughly the equivalent of two books. Multiply that times 52 weeks in a year, and you've read 100 books."
You don't need to read all 50 pages in one sitting. Maybe you read half in the morning, half at night. Or break it up some other way. As long as you hit your goal, you've made good progress.
5. Get an Audible subscription
Think audiobooks are cheating? They're not. Cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham explains the same mental processes are being used whether we listen to books or read them. You get the same benefits from listening to novels and business books as you do from actually reading the physical book.
I'm a huge fan of audiobooks. Just this month alone, I've logged 17-plus hours of reading via listening. My favorite time to do so is while walking the dog. We're both getting exercise and I'm exercising my brain. It's a triple win.
6. Pick up old favorites
Now for a tip of my own. When I committed to reading more, I wasn't exactly sure where to start. There are billions of books out there, and I was overwhelmed by the possibilities.
I went back to books that first ignited my joy of reading, starting with Beverly Cleary's Ramona series. Picking these familiar books back up felt like riding a bike. The characters were just as lovable, the stories just as compelling. I've progressed beyond children's books for now, but it was a great place to start to remind myself why I loved reading so much in the first place.
7. Swap social media breaks for reading breaks
As a self-employed content strategist and copywriter, I spend long stretches hunched behind my computer banging out copy. Since I don't have co-workers to break up the monotony with chitchat, I use short social media breaks on Facebook or Twitter instead.
Lately, I've tried taking reading breaks instead. After a couple hours of writing that seem to have turned my brain to mush, it helps to turn away from my screen completely to read a chapter or two. I find myself more refreshed and ready to get back to work.
When I do steal a peek at social media, I find I haven't really missed anything. On any given day at any given hour, my Facebook feed pretty much looks at the same.
At the moment, I'm nose-deep in a page-turner, and getting back to it is motivating me to finish this post so I can reward myself with another couple of chapters.
Have any reading hacks of your own to share? I'd love to hear them! For Rio's full list of tips, check out his Medium post.