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Creating a Daily Reading Habit in 4 Steps (A How-To For People With No Time)

Creating a Daily Reading Habit in 4 Steps (A How-To For People With No Time)

Back in July, I asked my newsletter subscribers what their biggest struggle with reading was.

Over 50% of the 163 responses I got were related to finding TIME. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

It never occurred to me that addressing a problem and solving it are two different things. People don’t want you to help adjust to their problems. They want you to solve them.

Yes, many people over-complicate reading. But it’s also not black and white. There are things you can do to make regular reading easier.

Over the past two years, I’ve worked with over 300 people to help them improve their habits. I’ve also read my fair share of books (and book summaries, of course!) during that time. When I saw the results of my survey, I knew I had to bring those two things together to help you solve this problem.

1. Slowly turn your attention towards books.

Spending 30 minutes immersed in a book seems like an eternity to a non-reader. In today’s fast-paced, technology-laden world, it’s easy to fall off the reading wagon, even for a voracious reader . I should know; it happened to me too.

Once you’re off, you’re off for a while and the time issue soon goes from cause to cover-up. It becomes a welcome excuse for something that runs deeper:

You don’t think you can read. At least not for long stretches at a time.

That’s why the first thing you need to know is that your attention span isn’t as bad as you think. It still helps to start slow. So just start by re-introducing books back into your environment.

Wherever you spend most of your day, make sure there’s a book with you. If you read primarily on a Kindle or ebook reader, the same principle applies. Keep it around to expose your attention to it on a constant basis.

Notice I’m not talking about reading yet. I don’t care if you open the book or turn on the reader at all. This is about making room in your life for something that’s important to you, nothing more.

2. Prove yourself wrong about your limiting belief.

As long as you think you don’t have time to read, it’ll be really hard to actually make time for it, let alone do it.

This is where the media diet comes in. Try going on one for 24 hours. Here are four different levels to choose from:

Level 1: No news. Don’t consume any kind of news today. No newspapers, no seven o’clock news on TV, no opening the CNN app, no staring at the stock market reporter while waiting at the DMV and definitely no flipping through tweets about politics.

Level 2: No news, no TV. This includes everything from level 1, but removes TV completely. No movies, whether on Netflix, cable, or DVD, no documentaries and no TV shows (yes, you can watch Game of Thrones tomorrow and the world will keep on turning).

Level 3: No news, no TV, no video in any form. Level 2, but now the entire medium of video is removed. If you now think “Where’s the difference?” that’s a good sign. Youtube junkies, you know what I’m talking about. No music clips, no funny cat videos, no dancing GIFs and no vlogs.

Level 4: No news, no TV, no video, no audio. This is the ultimate media meltdown. Level 3, plus eliminating all sources of audio other than mother nature. No radio, no listening to CDs, no audiobooks, no Spotify, no podcasts, and no calling in on a teleshopping show to listen to the jingle when placed on hold (bored minds get creative).

Whatever level most reflects your daily life, pick the one above that.

The only way to show yourself there’s still time to read in your day, and that missing out on something else for it won’t kill you, is to make this a challenge.

3. Randomize your starting point, so you can start fast and keep adjusting.

What’s the hardest part of creating a new habit? Doing it for the first time. Whatever friction you can take out of actually reading again, remove it.

In this case, let me remove some for you. With habits that can hardly cause physical damage, like reading, where you start matters much less than how well you keep adjusting afterwards.

So why not pick a random reading time and try to spend that amount reading your book?

Just click one of the three gifts below and give yourself the gift of reading. You’ll be randomly assigned one of the following numbers of reading minutes: 5, 15, 25.

t2r-gift-box-small

    t2r-gift-box-small

      t2r-gift-box-small

        Since the risk of picking a reading time that’s too ambitious is essentially zero, just go for it. Based on whether you manage to read this long or not, you can then adjust to the next higher or lower level tomorrow.

        4. Anchor your reading habit to an existing one, so you don’t have to remember it.

        Setting up a trigger, habit anchoring, implementation intentions; there are several names for this, but the goal is the same:

        Putting your new habit on autopilot.

        Doing this only takes two steps:

        1. Pick a habit you’re already doing every day (good or bad).

        For example, if you know you have a Snickers bar every day after lunch, always check your email before you go to bed, or pick up your kids from school every day, these are routines you can use.

        These can be bad routines just as much as good ones, like running on the treadmill, shutting off your electronics or brushing your teeth.

        2. Anchor your reading habit to that habit.

        Now all you have to do is anchor your reading habit to that existing habit. Place your book on the candy shelf, keep your reading app next to your mail app or drop off your Kindle next to the key tray in the lobby.

        To make this more powerful, write it down.

        Use this simple recipe: After I [existing habit], I will read for X minutes.

        (X is the number you got above)

        Since it’s better to be safe than sorry, setting up an additional, external trigger can be helpful. This could be a simple alert on your phone’s calendar saying, “It’s Time 2 Read!” at the same time each day.

        Pro tip: Many phones now even have location-based reminder functionality, which allows you to be reminded every time you enter your home, for instance.

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        Niklas Goeke

        Student, Technical University of Munich

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        Published on November 18, 2019

        How to Think Critically: 5 Powerful Techniques

        How to Think Critically: 5 Powerful Techniques

        Critical thinking is the art of filtering through information to reach an unbiased, logical decision that guides better thought and action. It can be learned through powerful techniques listed in this article.

        Before you read further, it is important for you to know that critical thinking is a state of mind, not a tool or strategy.

        If you are bogged down in the trivial day to day matters of your professional and personal life, learning skills to develop your ability to think critically can help you rise above these issues and focus your energies where they are needed – to solve problems and accomplish objectives.

        It stands to reason that the better the learning techniques, the better critical thinking and reasoning will be. My experience in helping people grow means I know exactly what is needed to teach critical thinking (hint: it’s not just pondering over the problem).

        There are 5 powerful techniques that form the base of critical thinking:

        1. Analytical thinking
        2. Communication
        3. Creativity
        4. Open-mindedness
        5. Problem-solving

        Once you learn the techniques listed and start employing them in your daily life, you’ll quickly start to notice a change in the way you approach problems and consequently, how you resolve them too.

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        1. Analytical Thinking

        Analytical thinking is the gathering and breaking down of information into small bites that help make sense of it.

        To use it for critical thinking:

        • Be very clear on why you need the information. This is to recognize your limitations and employ foresight to overcome them.
        • Gather information from as many sources as you can: peers and experts, podcasts, relevant literature and any other place you can think of.
        • Rephrase questions multiple times to get different perspectives on data available and possibly arrive at different solutions.
        • Break down the data into factual subsets and relate each to the issue at hand.
        • Think on paper to make new connections. Write, doodle, make mind-maps or use spreadsheets. Data presented visually can help you make new connections make sense of emerging patterns.
        • Tidy up the workplace. Once data has been gathered, your workspace and your brain will both be cluttered with excess information. Neaten the physical space and clear your mind with meditation. The change in focus will help you view the information in a new light, potentially helping you reach newer, better conclusions.

        Want more information and tips on adopting this powerful technique? What Are Analytical Skills and How to Strengthen Them For Success has all the information you need.

        2. Communication

        Communication is a key technique for critical thinking as it gives you access to the thoughts of people around you.

        Data can be communicated through audio and visual means and in many cases, through careful observation of body language:

        • Ask for different points of view and seek justification for the same thing. When you invest in the matter, you will be able to explore all options to reach the best solution.
        • Listening without interrupting and only asking questions or voicing concerns once the speaker is done helps you make better connections.
        • Be 100% focused on a verbal or written discussion, you can better hear/read the opinions of the people involved.
        • Paraphrase the speaker/writer’s point of view and ask for affirmation. This enables you to pay full attention and use the input to think critically.
        • In a meeting, subtle communication cues are given by the body language of fellow attendees. An imperceptible frown, a small nod, pencil tapping etc. will all give you clues to what they are really thinking, just in case their actions are not in sync with their words!
        • Active observation, where you are watching and listening intently helps you know what to make of the information that is being passed around. It gives you clues to the general opinion about the topic under discussion and opens up new possibilities.

        The information you gather through such communication will be invaluable in thinking critically to arrive at a decision that is holistic and unbiased.

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        3. Creativity

        Critical thinking is an art, and like any art form, its lifeblood is creativity. To really learn critical thinking, you need to include elements of creativity in the process!

        • Brainstorm with your team in an all-new location or work-shadow an industry expert to step out of your comfort zone. You could be surprised by the ideas that flow at a picnic or a game of billiards!
        • Gather data and tabulate it in the form of colorful, eye-catching charts, graphs and mind maps. The simple exercise makes your mind bring data together in different ways and presents them so multiple unique conclusions can be reached, giving you the flexibility to choose the best one.
        • Play brain games such as Sudoku or chess to appreciate how different factors can be manipulated to reach a preferred outcome. These games help make connections between previously disconnected nerves, giving your brain the power to find multiple pathways to answering problems.
        • In a similar vein, you can forge new neural connections by learning a new skill, a new language or even a new recipe!

        I break down creativity in my other article What is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It. If you want to be good at critical thinking, you need to adopt creativity!

        4. Open-Mindedness

        It’s easy to say you’re open minded but is your mind really open?

        To get an idea,

        • Be brutally honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and how these will impact the matter at hand.
        • Hear an opinion that conflicts with your own without forming a response before the opinion is fully voiced.
        • Acknowledge that there may be more than one approach to solving a problem and that they may all be right in some way.
        • Consider your true feelings when you will implement any required changes.
        • Disregard your long-held beliefs and assumptions and let go of habits.
        • Imagine the decision-making factors placed on weighing scales. Are they balanced?

        Open-mindedness is a powerful technique for critical thinking. New possibilities can be uncovered, helping you resolve personal and professional matters in a manner that doesn’t frustrate you or alienate the other party.

        5. Problem-Solving

        Critical thinking is heavily dependent on problem-solving. An effective critical thinker will be a problem solver with the foresight to anticipate roadblocks and negative outcomes, and the experience and presence of mind to resolve them quickly and move on.

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        One of the most effective problem-solving methodologies is the 5 Whys Analysis. Invented by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Motors in the 1950s, it has been used successfully by the automobile giant to get to the root cause of problems.

        The idea behind this is simple: start with the end problem and keep asking why until you get to the root cause of it.

        The general idea is that asking why 5 times from the effect is enough to get to the cause, hence the name. However, the methodology does not limit the questions to 5, and why can be asked as many times as need to peel away the layers until a satisfactory answer is reached.

        To use the 5 Whys Analysis, start off by listing the problem and writing why in front of it. The next point in the list should be answer to the first why with another why in front of it. Continue answering the question asked above followed by a why until you’ve asked the question 5 times and answered it six times. 99% of the time, the last answer will be the root cause of the problem stated in the first point.

        For example, consider the a commonly given scenario where a vehicle does not start.

        1. Vehicle will not start. Why?
        2. Battery is dead. Why?
        3. The alternator is not functioning. Why?
        4. The alternator belt has broken. Why?
        5. It was old and worn out. Why?
        6. The car is not maintained according to manufacturer’s recommendation.

        By this example, it is clearly demonstrated that 5 whys were asked to reach the root cause of the problem.

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        The 5 techniques discussed here are important for effective critical thinking. When employed regularly they will become a habit and will definitely improve your critical thinking skills so you can get better at predicting and resolving issues that concern you and your environment.

        Over the years, the 5 Whys Analysis has been adopted by millions to reach the root cause of their personal and professional problems. Industry giant Six Sigma has also incorporated the 5x Why Analysis in the Analyze phase of their DMAIC methodology.[1]

        Final Thoughts

        Is critical thinking a new-fangled notion? Not at all. Its history can be traced back to Socrates who questioned commonly held beliefs. This practice was carried forward by leading scholars and thinkers from different times such as Aristotle and Plato, Colet and Moore, Descartes, Galileo and Newton.[2]

        Today’s world is dependent on critical thinking to resolve all sorts of issues. It is now indispensable for issues ranging from personal relationships to professional jobs and those involving the global community.

        The 5 techniques discussed here are important for effective critical thinking. When employed regularly, they will become a habit and will definitely improve your critical thinking skills so you can get better at predicting and resolving issues that concern you and your environment.

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        Featured photo credit: Mariya Pampova via unsplash.com

        Reference

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