Now, I'm going to guess that, if you're advancing your career or focusing on getting your startup off the ground, reading 200 pages daily might feel like a pretty tall order. But that doesn't mean you can't mimic what Buffett does in a way that's more realistic for your schedule, or that you can't start small and work your way up.
For Harry Bernstein, Chief Creative Officer of Havas New York, taking the Buffett approach currently means aiming for a very doable 10 percent (20 pages).
"My strategy was that, if I can be 10 percent as successful as Warren Buffett," Bernstein says, "I'd be set for life."
Powerful motivations to create a great habit
But Bernstein's new habit goes deeper than just wanting Buffett's financially stable lifestyle and influence. It's a very real way to keep balance in his life.
"Having started a social media company 9 years ago, Annex88, I spent a lot of time on social media and my computer for work but realized that, to be inspired and absorb information, noting was more powerful than an actual book. I have a whole philosophy of practicing a more analog life to offset all of the digital information I have to consume on a daily basis."
And Bernstein is clear that the habit is beneficial for business and creativity, too.
"When you're running and you're thirsty, it means you're dehydrated. Same thing goes for your mind. You need to be intellectually hydrated. [...] Reading helps me hydrate when I need the ideas to be there. When I am taking time to read daily and quiet my mind, I find that my overall mood is better, and my concentration and absorption improves. We are so inundated with information that, if you're not absorbing information and contextualizing, you become a reactor."
How to make 20 pages a day (or more) logistically simple
As my colleague Jessica Stillman argues, most of us really do have the time to read a ton and be happy--it's just a matter of mindfully selecting priorities and committing (hint, nix chilling out with the TV or Facebook). So to help you get started and establish better habits, Bernstein offers a few strategies for getting more pages into your day despite how you might feel about the clock.
Make physical books more accessible in your space (e.g., next to the bed, on your desk, in your bag for when you're commuting). The closer the books are in physical proximity to you, the easier it is to grab them to fill whatever spare moments you have.
Trade your phone for a paperback in the morning and before bed. "I try not to look at my phone the first or last 20 minutes of the day and instead pick up a physical book. I feel like I get a deeper sleep and wake up fresher, more motivated and inspired when I do this."
Science backs the assertion up--blue light from screens really can keep your brain from powering down.
And as a bonus, choosing books means you're not starting or ending your day with thoughts of what others want or need you to do. Ashton Kutcher famously skips the messages of others in the morning to keep a better sense of control and autonomy.
If you're already good about not using screens for the first and last 20 minutes of the day, try drawing another boundary and reading instead of hitting those after-hours emails.
Hop from text to text. There's nothing wrong with reading one book at a time if it helps you focus on the content. But Bernstein is a fan of having multiple materials going at once, because different types of publications can serve different purposes and be more appropriate for specific goals or moods through the day.
"In the morning after meditation, I'll flip through a couple of pages of eastern philosophy to center myself. When traveling during the day, I'll make sure a new magazine is close by to help contextualize information to where we are today, what I call grounding reading. And at night, I'll flip through some pages of fiction."
In addition to Bernstein's tips, I also recommend the following:
Take a look at your calendar each morning and seeing where you've got a break. Even if it's five minutes here, five there, make it another book appointment if you don't have to use the time for catching up on other jobs. Penciling in the time can help you feel more psychologically committed to it.
Suggest a lunch book club to your teammates. Half the time can be a free read, and the other half can be friendly discussion. You'll get to hear what your coworkers are reading and learn more about them in the process. Reading together means having some accountability, too.
Volunteer as a reader. Senior homes and hospitals always are looking for people who can read to the sick, visually impaired or disabled. The service is deeply meaningful for those who get it, since it means both information access and a few minutes of precious company. You'll meet your page quota, make friends and establish a reputation as someone who's willing to give back in your community.
And if you need a little inspiration for where to start, Bernstein recommends Ram Dass' Be Here Now, which addresses enlightenment and spirituality. You can take a break if you need it with the 10 Percent Happier podcast from Dan Harris.
The bottom line is, reading is its own kind of investment--Buffett and Bernstein both recognize this. So this article, 20 pages, 50, 100--whatever you can give, commit. The more you deposit, the bigger your return in a full range of life areas will be.