8 simple habits that will make you read more

I have always been a huge bookworm ever since I was little (nerdy glasses included throughout my entire childhood). During summer vacations at my grandparents’ place next to the Black Sea I much rather preferred to spend my days at the library than at the beach! So reading is something that has always come naturally to me. Nevertheless, the amount of books I read per year has fluctuated a lot during my life. Obviously there is the university period, when you hardly have time to finish your assigned reading, so reaching out to a book “for fun” became less & less attractive. Even when I got a full time job & would have theoretically had more time, I still didn’t find myself reading much more.

4 year old girl in front of fountains at Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kiev, Ukraine
Shot in Kiev, Ukraine, when I was 4 years old

In the end, just one simple thing that happened in 2019 turned that year into a game-changer year for me. I made some small changes and have adapted some habits that have elevated my reading from about 15 to 30 books a year (writing this in mid-2020, while aiming at finishing 50 books this year). The most important thing for me was not to lose the quality of my reading experience over the quantity, which I have been successful at. I in no way promote speed reading as a technique for reading more, nor am I one of those crazy readers that manages to squeeze in a 100 books per year. I neither listen to audio books, nor do I read books digitally (but these are just personal preferences, so you won’t find anything like “listen to audio books while washing your dishes” over here 😀 ). All these little tips are completely personal & they have proven to be effective for me, so if you’re curious to find out what these are, feel free to read on 🙂 If you decide to use any of them, do let me know! If you have some other tips yourself, I’m always glad to learn something new!!!

You can click on any of the tips to read about each one of them in more detail:

  1. Always carry a book with you.
  2. Find your preferred book genre.
  3. Join a Book Club.
  4. Always have your next 2-3 books ready.
  5. Read your books upright.
  6. Keep track of the books that you read.
  7. Keep distractions away while reading.
  8. Create a rule for books you don’t enjoy.

1. Always carry a book with you no matter where you go.

I’ve been doing this for at least the last 15 years & this has not only made me read more but also made me more patient. Ever since I started applying the principle of ALWAYS bringing a book no matter where I go, no matter what I do, even the most annoying waiting times have turned into something pleasurable. Whether it’s a doctor’s waiting room, queuing in front of your little grocery shop waiting for your turn for half an hour (this has actually happened & yes, I did time it 😀 ) or even bringing your book along when you’re going out – that 45min public transport trip is going to be so much more relaxing!

I can already hear some male readers saying that they never carry a bag on them, but that’s not enough of an excuse 😉 (I used a similar one at times, saying that my bag was too small to fit my book). Simply bring along a tote bag and safely store your book in there – it’s light-weight & if you will coincidentally need to get some groceries on the way, you also won’t need to buy a paper or a plastic bag 😉

When leaving home, I always double-check if I’ve got my book with me, just like for my phone or my keys

2. Find the book genre that you personally enjoy the most.

There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself through a boring classic if you don’t really enjoy them at this point in your life. It takes time & effort to find your personal taste in books but once you do, you’ll see how much it will motivate you to read more. I feel like there’s a time & a place for each type of book. Yes, I am curious about Russian classics that I missed out on reading, having left Ukraine at just about 8 years old but this moment might come later on in my life. I have learned not to worry, all the Anna Kareninas & the Karamazov brothers won’t run away from me 😀

The most important thing is that you’re reading for your own pleasure, rather than to be able to exchange small talk with those who read “War & Peace” and the like. On top of that, don’t worry about “wasting” your time by reading “bad” books or books that you don’t necessarily enjoy. You can see them as the path on the journey of finding things that you really like. Remember that only by reading things that you don’t like, you will be able to find what you do like! Test your ground among fiction & non-fiction, classics, fantasy, sci-fi, memoirs, thrillers, poetry, historical or psychological books, the list is literally endless. While reading, make mental notes of what you enjoy, to better choose your future books. Whether you’re a fan of character development or a gripping story line, short or long chapters, a flowery language or more of a simple style.

My reading stack after a vacation in September 2019: In this case I decided to change it up between fiction & non-fiction, memoirs & classics

3. Join a Book Club (or multiple ones).

After you’ve found your personal “comfort reading bubble”, don’t forget to dare & stick a foot or an arm out from underneath that security blanket from time to time 😉 . Book clubs have been really useful in my own experience for doing that! I have joined my first one in October 2019 & this was exactly the moment in my life when I started reading much more! These automatically give you access to a wider variety of books, while at the same time helping you shape your own taste & opinion better, by having you express them during group discussions.

I personally am a member of 3-4 different “offline” book clubs, while “unofficially” following some online ones. Why so many you’ll ask? This has been more of a strategic decision 😀 Depending on the book club, it’s either just the organiser who decides on the book of the month or he/she lets the participants have a say in this decision. In any case, there have been times when I knew for sure I wouldn’t like the chosen book & decided to take a break during that month. It’s therefore quite convenient to pick & choose which book meetings you attend if you’re a member of multiple book clubs.

No matter whether it’s a digital/online book club or an analogue/offline one (where you get to meet in real life), the choice is up to you. If you’re wondering how to find book clubs & most importantly find the one you like, stay tuned! Two articles with Tips on How to Join a Book Club and Reasons for Joining a Book Club are currently in the making 😉

One of the video calls of the Paris Anglophone Book Club which was organised online instead of offline due to the COVID-19 virus lockdown in Paris

4. Always have your next 2-3 books ready.

I feel like it motivates me a LOT to have the next couple of books that I’d be planning to read after the current one lined up on my book shelf. It’s up to you, whether you purchase them as paperbacks or hardbacks, download them on your preferred ebook reader or on your audio book app of choice. I prefer to have them physically present, so that I know that the second I finish the current one, I can simply grab the next one & continue reading. It always gives me a push for even the most boring books to not drag on with the reading, knowing how many other exciting ones are waiting for their turn.

Anticipation is great fuel for staying consistent with your reading on a daily basis. In my case I saw it as being really effective to have a direct view onto that shelf with the couple of books lined up, so that they’re in my field of vision on a daily basis (I’m literally walking past them multiple times per day). What I found as a good balance, is to have a max of 5-6 of the next reads prepared. This way you don’t risk running out of things to read but the shelf doesn’t overwhelm you either, so that you don’t know where to start if you have dozens & dozens of them lined up.

If you’re struggling to find inspiration on books to read, there will be a whole separate article with Tips on How to Pick Your Next Read soon 🙂

I keep the books that I’m planning to read next on a separate shelf from the rest of my books

5. Read your books in an upright position.

Sounds so basic that it shouldn’t even be mentioned? But guess what, even the most avid of readers will probably fall asleep while reading a book lying down in their bed. This one I’m so guilty of myself! The change will even be huge whether you’re lying down or sitting up on your couch!

Reading is a great method to wind down after a long day (unless you’re reading some horror novels by Stephen King or the like 😛 ) & a much better solution for falling asleep easily than browsing on your phone for hours or watching movies/series on your computer screen. Nevertheless, it depends on the way that you do it.

If you really want to get some reading in at the end of the day, go through your routine for getting yourself ready for bed (whether that’s taking a shower, putting on your favourite PJs, making yourself a cup of tea or simply brushing your teeth) but then pick your book up on your couch (if you have one) or sitting upright with pillows propped up behind your back on your bed. This way you’re less likely to fall asleep & even if you’re feeling tired, to get at least about 10-15 minutes of reading in. Once you feel like you’re too tired & yours eyes are shutting instead of registering words, you’re already prepared to drift off straight into dreamland.

It’s only after moving to Paris that I have learned to appreciate the luxury of having a couch at home

6. Keep track of the books that you read.

Whether it’s in a spreadsheet, a Word document, a website, an app or written down in a notebook. Choose the method that seems best for you and don’t be afraid to change it up once you feel like it’s not working.

I actually use 3 of the methods mentioned above 😀 I’ve been tracking all the books that I read since around 2011 on Goodreads, on top of that I also use a spreadsheet. There I keep track of trends such as how many days it takes me to finish a book, how many books I finish per month & per year, my mix between reading female & male authors, between fiction & non-fiction, the nationalities of the authors & so on. If you want to give that a try, you can check out my Google spreadsheet template over here, if it’s helpful to you, let me know! I’d be curious to hear about it 🙂

To finish it all off, I also keep track of the pages I read on a daily basis using an app (Read More for Android is the one I use but there are tons of others). Even if it sounds a bit ridiculous, I can’t deny the motivational gamification effect. You’re more likely to read every day to keep your streak, even if it’s just as little as 5 pages a day (if you know Duolingo, you’ll be familiar with that feeling 😉 ). An added effect is that you will also understand your personal reading speed better (for example, how many pages you read per hour on average). This will be convenient for planning your reading if it’s linked to deadlines at some point.

The app that I use for tracking reading on a daily basis – “Read More”

7. Keep distractions away while reading.

As sad as it sounds, I always need to put any distracting digital gadgets away before I can launch myself into a reading session. Even if I keep track of my reading on an app, I usually launch it, put it in a different room or some “hard to reach spot” away from where I’m sitting & only reach out to it again during reading pauses. If it would be lying within the reach of my hand, I’d constantly have ideas popping up as in, “Ah, I’ve got to write back to that person” or “I need to put bananas on the grocery list!” If I really feel like I absolutely need to note something down in order not to forget it, I keep a notebook handy (where you’re less likely to fall into the spiral of going from the grocery list, to instagram, to facebook to forgetting why you even picked up your phone in the first place).

You obviously don’t need to go to those extremes though 😀 Even putting your phone on silent mode (without vibration) or airplane mode can already work wonders to make you pay attention to your pages rather than being nudged by notifications every other minute.

A little nook like this, somewhere higher up on a shelf, is where I usually put my phone away while reading

8. Create your own rule of what you do with the books you don’t end up enjoying.

It’s up to you whether you still force yourself through them while grinding your teeth or if you give them the benefit of the doubt & put up a rule of first reading 50 or 100 pages before putting the book down. Or how about trying to read for an hour in one go & see if you’re still enjoying it or not? I feel like setting up your own little rule makes you feel less “guilty” about not finishing a book & motivates you to try your luck with another one.

I personally set up a rule for myself to finish books no matter what. Since I write reviews after every single one, I also learn a lot about what I appreciate in a book & what I don’t. I do this with the goal in mind of learning along the way while planning to write one myself one day.

The all time favourite reading spot, cuddled up in a fuzzy blanket

To finish off, I just wanted to add that you should simply listen to your gut feeling 🙂 If you’re not a huge book person from the start, don’t force yourself! If you’re more of a movies person, watch those if you’re enjoying it more than reading! Take it easy on yourself, there will be months & years when you will feel up for reading & others when you won’t feel like it at all. Those are just personal tips of mine & feel free to use them as they suit you 🙂

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