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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.

        More by this author

        Niklas Goeke

        Student, Technical University of Munich

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        Last Updated on September 10, 2018

        Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

        Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

        We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

        Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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        Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

        Looking at images of loved ones

        While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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        In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

        Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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        Exercise

        Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

        Meditation

        Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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        In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

        When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

        With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

        Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

        Reference

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