As of early 2021, Pew Research Center surveyed U.S. adults and found that roughly a quarter (23%) haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year. This statistic was accurate whether the materials were printed, electronic, or audio.
As someone who loves to read, that’s incredibly disappointing. Not only is reading enjoyable, but it’s also one of my favorite ways to decompress, learn something new, and stretch my imagination. What’s more, research shows that reading also has the power to;
- Strengthen your brain
- Increase your ability to emphasize
- Build your vocabulary
- Help prevent age-related cognitive decline
- Alleviate depressive symptoms
- Prepares you for good night’s rest
And, reading might help you live longer. In short, reading is one of the absolute best things that you can do for your overall health and well-being.
At the same time, I understand why so many don’t read as much as they should. It can be hard to find time to do much else when juggling work, family, and social responsibilities. But, no matter how hectic your schedule is, you can still make time for reading. And, it all starts with adding your book list to your calendar.
Set realistic goals.
“Before ever putting pen to paper and getting carried away with lofty ideas concerning how much you want to read this year, it’s important to open your calendar and take a few things into consideration,” suggests Madeleine Coyne for Verily. “Are there certain months or weeks during the year where you are particularly busy and would have little to no time for reading—for example, busy weeks of work, holidays, a wedding, or a major life event (such as having a baby)?”
List each book you want to read, and take it into account as you plan your year.
“There is nothing more discouraging than setting a goal and not reaching it; so, it’s essential that your reading goals be just as realistic as your health and fitness goals,” she adds. “Do you have time for a book a month? A book every other month? Two or three books a month?”
Let yourself be flexible regarding the number of books you’d like to complete. And, take the time to thoughtfully consider the number of books you can realistically complete.
Next, Madeleine recommends you do the following to set a yearly reading plan;
- After you determine how many books you plan on reading over the year, it can be fun to break down that number into different genres or types of books you are interested in reading.
- Tracking every book you read over the year is essential to staying on track with your reading plan. For example, adding a reading list to your planner or tracking your process online via Goodreads.
- Whenever you set a goal for yourself, it can often help to reward yourself with small incentives to encourage you to follow through.
Chunk your reading goals.
“Want to read one book in 30 days?” asks Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar article. “Chunk out your reading goals by deciding how many pages you want to read in a single reading.” It’s like giving yourself a deadline; that’s essentially what you’re doing.
As an example, one past summer, “I gave my son the task of reading a larger chapter book, and his goal was to read a chapter per day,” Maddox adds. “He was able to complete the book in three weeks if he followed this plan. Using this strategy can make you feel less overwhelmed by something altogether and push you to raise the bar with each sit-down.”
Block out reading time.
Want to make reading a daily habit? Determine the amount of time you can devote to reading. And, then in your calendar, block out this time for reading.
For some, this could be 15-minutes during their morning routine or the half-an-hour before bed. Others may decide to block out from 1 PM to 1:30 PM. For me, it may be a little more, a little less, depending on the day.
Regardless of the time you set aside for reading, the idea is that this block of time is booked for reading—nothing else. Personally, I turn off my phone during this time. And, if possible, I find a quiet and undisturbed area.
Actively establishing healthy habits is the first step toward creating them. And to encourage a reading habit, set a schedule for yourself where you’re only focused on the book.
Remember, it takes a while for habits to form–usually about one month. Try not to be discouraged. Continue to set aside time for reading, and eventually, you’ll find yourself a book without having to intentionally make the time for reading.
Establish a reading schedule.
“Despite your best efforts, it’s sometimes difficult to stick with your plan to finish that list of books,” writes Esther Lombardi at ThoughtCo. For example, the size of the book you’ve chosen may overwhelm you. You may be distracted by other projects. Or, you may have “just let the habit of reading slide or slip until you’ve forgotten much of the plot and characters; and, you feel that you might as well just start over.”
Here’s a solution,” Lombardi adds. “Create a reading schedule to keep you motivated.”
- Create a reading list of books you’re interested in.
- Set a date when you will start reading.
- Your reading list can be arranged according to your order to read the books.
- Set your daily reading goal. Assuming you will read five pages daily, count the pages in the book you’re reading first.
- Next to your chosen start date, write the number of pages (1-5) on paper. Also, writing your schedule on a calendar is a great way to track your reading progress since you can cross off the dates when you’ve finished the reading for that day.
- Track each stopping point as you go through the book. If you want to make the reading easier, you can mark the stopping points of your book with post-it notes or pencil marks.
- The book will re-order itself as you read through it, so at any point, you may decide to stop and start reading a new chapter or section of the book.
- The next book on your reading list can then be chosen once the schedule for the first book has been determined.
“Follow the same process of paging through the book to determine your reading schedule,” advises Lombardi. “Don’t forget to write the page numbers down next to the appropriate date on a piece of paper and on your calendar.”
Identify available time pockets.
Remember when you blocked out dedicated reading time? You most likely used time tracking or a productivity journal to determine when to read. For me, I enjoy reading before bed and also during productivity lulls like after lunch.
But, there’s another advantage to tracking your time? You can pinpoint small periods of time to squeeze in some reading.
You might want to pull out your book or open up the Kindle app on your phone before your dentist, doctor, or hair appointment. Then, while you’re commuting to and from work, take advantage of this time to read. Alternatively, if your children take sports or music lessons or karate, you can read while you wait.
We don’t properly utilize the time we have each day. But, by taking note of how you spend your time, you might be able to fit in more reading — even if it’s just five minutes a day.
Speaking of how you utilize your time, take a minute, go through your schedule, and find blocks of time there that are occupied by time-wasters. For example, instead of watching TV or scrolling through social for an hour after dinner, use that time to read.
You don’t have to necessarily completely eliminate these activities. However, you could at least reduce the time spent on them. As an example, cut back your TV-watching by 30-minutes so that you’re able to read and keep up with your favorite show.
Reduce information overload.
What exactly is information overload. It dates back to the 3rd or 4th Century BCE, but it means exposure to excessive amounts of information and data by today’s definition. It’s commonly caused by everything from email, social media, podcasts, videos, and workplace requests. Consequently, the brain’s activity plummets as if a circuit has been tripped.
You want to reduce information overload to boost your productivity in most cases. But, it’s also helpful if you want to read more often. After all, if you absorb information from random and pointless content all day, then you don’ have the energy or capacity to comprehend more from books.
But, how does a calendar help you resolve this? Well, you can set time limits for gathering information. For instance, only devote 15-minutes a day to review articles on news sites or social media.
Another suggestion? Use batching. For example, check your inbox only three times a day — before work, during lunch, and at the end of the workday.
Join your peers.
Seek out your community or online friends who are reading the same book. You’ll be motivated to keep reading frequently by following their discussions and ideas. I highly doubt that you would be the only group member behind on their reading, right?
When you find a group, book the meeting on your calendar to make it a priority. However, you don’t want to stress out over this if you’re crunched for time. In this case, you may opt to meet with a monthly book club instead of one that meets weekly.
Set calendar reminders.
You may want to set a reminder that you’ll receive on your phone on your calendar app. A reminder is handy if your schedule is intense, and you live by your reminders as I do.
You could, for instance, set the alarm for 9:30 every night to remind you to read 20 minutes before drifting off to sleep. Then, in the morning, put a phone reminder to nudge you to read — never hit the snooze button — it’s a time-waster. Better yet, have an audiobook queued up that turns on as you get up and when you start your car.
If you have a 30-minute window to spare between meetings, set a reminder to read for 15-minutes and use the remaining time to prep.
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