Some of the busiest people on our planet are also avid readers. Reading sparks your creativity, helps you grow your understanding of complex problems and grows you intellectually, while at the same time, reading is a very relaxing activity. But how do we make time to read?

News articles report that we are reading less and less. A study in 2004 found that the average number of books read in the US per year is 12, while the median value is only five books. If you want to beat this sad statistic and increase the number of books you read per year and make time to read, then keep reading.

The year in which I finished my PhD, moved across the globe, and attended conferences in every single continent of the world to present my research (except Antarctica), I logged 69 books into my GoodReads account. Many people have wondered how I managed to find the time to read so many books while having such a busy year. If you want to increase the number of books you read each year, I have gathered 11 of my best tips for reading:

1. Borrow more books than you can read

If you enjoy borrowing books from the library, borrow more than you think you’ll actually read. Having physical books piled up in your house that you know need to be returned will encourage you to read more than you might initially have planned to.

If you are a digital reader, make sure you download a stockpile of books onto your e-reader,so you always have a wealth of choices right at your fingertips that you are eager to read.

2. Read more than one book at a time

Some people prefer to read one book at a time, but others benefit from working on several books at the same time. Some books are more suitable for reading at night (like fiction novels), while other books, such as non-fiction analyses, can be more suitable for reading during your commute.

I typically have a number of books that I am working on available on my nightstand in my room, as well as one fiction and at least one non-fiction book in progress on my e-reader. For personal development books, it might be advisable to space out your reading session over time, so that you get a chance to work on the recommendations in the book.

3. Set a goal per reading session

If you don’t have the habit of reading big chunks of text at a time, set reading goals per session. For example, you can challenge yourself to read 50 pages before putting your book aside, or to finish the chapter before you move on to the next task. Set the bar a little higher each time. Reading a little bit extra every day will add up to reading more books on an annual basis than before.

4. Ignore what you “should” be reading

While you might find inspiration in lists of “best” books, read for yourself. Read for your own pleasure and education. Putting pressure on yourself in terms of reading what the rest of the world tells you to read only brings you so far. If you read based on your own interest and joy, you will find yourself making more time to read out of excitement for the book or topic.

5. Practice speed-reading

The idea is simple: if you want to read more in a short amount of time, you can teach yourself to read faster. There are different techniques for speed-reading in which you can train yourself. These techniques include grouping words instead of reading word per word, forcing your eyes to move more quickly by moving a ruler or pen across the page, or holding your breath and trying to finish a paragraph in that time (this technique suppresses sub-vocalization, our tendency to “hear” the words we read in our mind).

6. Read digitally across all your mobile devices

If you read digitally, make sure you have a reader app on all your mobile devices so that you can read whenever you have a free moment. The books on my e-reader are synced with my smartphone and tablet; I can read when I am waiting in line in the bank, while the cleaning lady takes care of my office, or while I am taking a break during the day. Having a book synced across all devices will help you to read a few pages here and there during the day. By doing this, when you check back on your e-reader at the end of the day, you will see that you will have easily read 20 pages just by reading in snippets of time.

7. Read before going to bed

Reading fiction or enjoyable non-fiction at night before falling asleep is a proven method to relax, put the day behind ourselves, and prepare ourselves for a good night’s sleep. By the same token, you can make it a habit to read a few pages first thing in the morning, or read a chapter after lunch while you are digesting food and getting ready for a productive work session in the afternoon.

8. Join your peers

Look for people in your community or online who are reading the same book as you are reading. Keeping up with their discussions and ideas on the reading will help you move forward with your reading. You wouldn’t want to be the one who missed out on last week’s chapter, would you?

9. Track your progress online

Several websites can be used to track your reading process throughout the year; my personal favorite is GoodReads. An online account in which you keep an overview of the books you are currently reading, and your progress in these books, will help you focus on your reading. Moreover, you can keep track of the books that you would like to read later on, and add reviews of the books you have read. Many of these sites can also make recommendations based on the books you’ve read and enjoyed.

10. Quit reading random news articles

If you want to make more time to read books, you will have to cut down on time from other activities to free up time for reading. One of the methods you can follow is by cutting down on the number of random articles shared on social media platforms that you read, and replace this time by reading more in-depth analyses in the books that you are working through.

11. Join a reading challenge

Similarly to point three, you can join a reading challenge and set a goal for the number of books you would like to read in a given year. To really challenge yourself, set the limit just a little above what you would think is feasible. Giving yourself a specific challenge can do a lot to hold yourself accountable and motivate yourself to reach the goal. You’d be amazed at how much reading you can do in a single year.

Featured photo credit: books/ henry via flickr.com

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