Reading is one of those important (but non-urgent) habits. Since it is not urgent and there are so many other entertaining options vying for our attention, it can be a challenging habit to build. So how do we cultivate a love for it? Well, first we must develop discipline, but even before that: curiosity, experimentation, and self-compassion. So, here are my five tips for how to develop a consistent reading habit:
1) Gather several titles that interest you and keep them in sight...
That's right, more than one PHYSICAL book. No kindles or e-readers yet if you're not a regular reader because it's way to easy to forget or skip because you're not in the mood. So, gather several old-school paper books that interest you and keep them somewhere you will see them everyday.
2) Experiment to find your energy rhythm.
When is your mind ready to absorb new information? Try reading in the morning, try it in the afternoon as a break or transition with lunch, and maybe even before bed. (BUT-- big caveat here-- if you have not started a consistent reading habit yet, do not rely on the before bed method to begin.) Since my work schedule varies, so does my reading session each day. Generally I enjoy it in the morning or early afternoon before I work with clients, but it varies. What's important is that you try different times and find a rhythm that works for you.
3) Start with 10-15 minutes per day.
The goal is consistency. If you are expecting yourself to read 30-45 minutes per sitting, it's likely not going to happen daily. But, 10 minutes is very doable. It doesn't sound like much, but even just 10 minutes per day can amount to a lot of books over the years. The cool thing is: the more consistent you are, the more you learn to enjoy reading and it compounds. After a few months, suddenly you're looking forward to it or on the rare day you skip it, you can feel it! Some days I'll read for longer if I have time (sometimes even more than once per day), but some days all I can manage is 5-10 minutes. The days when it's less don't make me feel 'lame' (anymore) because I know I will return to it tomorrow and likely want to read for longer.
4) Set an alarm.
This can take two forms to support your success: one) set a timer for your reading session and remove all distractions. Two) Set an alarm in your day to target different times to read. Try reading during your lunch break or immediately after you finish a shift before as a way to transition into something else. The hope is that you will begin to locate small pockets of time in your day and capitalize on them with reading.
When I commuted to multiple sites in a day, I kept a book in my car (yes, I had a car only book) that I would crack open if I got to a site early or had a cancellation. I read completed many books over the years this way.
5) Give yourself grace.
Habits ebb and flow depending on where you are in life. If you used to be "a reader" and find that you fell out of the habit, have grace. If you have never been a regular reader and want to pick up the habit, celebrate your desire! Treat each day like a fresh start to honor your desire to grow and dedicate 10-15 distraction free minutes. Also, if you're really not into the book and it feels like a boring chore... change books! Just because you started it doesn't mean you have to finish it. Do it for the joy.
Reading is magical. It has become a significant part of my self-care routine, but it wasn't always a daily habit. I'm grateful for the years I struggled to find my rhythm and persisted to build a self-reinforcing habit. Now, I get joy from the learning through reading AND I get joy from the rituals I have in place around reading (a candle and palo santo, tea or coffee, and journaling).
In fact, I'm realizing that the rituals in place that prompt me to feel ready for reading are worth sharing so, here's one more bonus hack in case it doesn't seem as obvious to you as it does to me:
6) Make your reading time as enjoyable as you can. Get cozy or sprawl out in the sun. Have a cup of tea or coffee. Light a candle or some incense. Take yourself on a full out date. And if you would like a list of 30 books to inspire you, check out my previous 3 posts on 10 Life-Changing Books (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced lists).