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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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        Last Updated on January 13, 2020

        7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

        7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

        Throughout the ages, there have been many beliefs in various tricks to boosting brain power, yet when held up to scientific scrutiny, most of these beliefs don’t add up.

        When I was a child, for example, my mother told me if I ate fish it would make me more intelligent. Of course, there’s no scientific proof this is true.

        Today, there is a myriad of games you can download to your phone that claims to improve your brain’s cognitive skills. While we are still waiting for a conclusive scientific verdict on these, recent studies by neuroscientists at Western University in Ontario[1] and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia appear to contradict these claims.[2]

        So, how can we really boost our brain power? Well, it turns out there are a number of simple things you can do that will improve the function of your brain. Here are seven to get you started.

        1. Do Your Most Difficult Tasks in the Morning

        Our brains work at their best when they are fresh and energized after a good night’s sleep.

        If you have a task to do that requires a lot of thought and focus, the best time to do that task would be first thing in the morning when your brain is at its freshest.

        This is one of the reasons why checking email first thing the morning is not a good idea. You are wasting your brain’s best hours on a simple task that can be done when your brain is not at its freshest

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        Throughout the day, you will find the amount of time you can focus for will fall. Your decision-making abilities will also begin to weaken as the day progresses. This is called “decision fatigue” and that means the decisions you make later in the day will not be as good as the decisions you make earlier in the day.

        It’s far better to do your most difficult, creative tasks early taking advantage of your brain’s higher energy levels.

        Try to avoid meetings first thing in the morning and schedule work that needs higher creative energy and concentration.

        2. Get Enough Breaks

        Our brains are not very good at maintaining concentration and focus for much more than an hour. Once you go beyond a certain amount of time, doing focused work, you will find yourself making more and more mistakes. This is a sign your brain is tired and needs a break.

        Taking the right kind of break is important. Switching from working on a complex spreadsheet to checking your social media feeds is not going to give your brain the right kind of break. Instead, get up from your desk and head outside. If that is not possible, go to the nearest window and look outside.

        Your brain needs a break from the screen, not just the spreadsheet, so leave your phone behind so you are not tempted to look at it and just savour the view.

        3. Read Books, not Social Media Feeds

        There are no shortcuts to improved knowledge and you are certainly not going to improve your general knowledge about anything useful by reading social media feeds. Instead, make reading books a regular habit.

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        When you read good quality books, you increase your ability to use the knowledge you learn to solve problems as your brain will apply the knowledge you learned to existing situations.

        Learn about economic theory, history and psychology. All these topics have real practical applications for us all today.

        4. Exercise Regularly

        Humans did not evolve to be stationary animals. You need to move.

        Had our ancestors spent their days sat around, they would not have survived very long. To survive and find food, our ancestors had to keep moving. Our brains have evolved to function at their best when we are exercised.

        In his book, Brain Rules, Prof.John Medina explains when we exercise, we increase the amount of oxygen in our brains and this helps to sharpen our brain’s functions.

        In studies, when a previously sedentary group of people began a light exercise programme, their cognitive skills improve as well as reaction times and quantitive skills.

        This is why you are more likely to find the solution to a problem when you are walking somewhere or exercising rather than when you are sat at a desk in front of a screen.

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        5. Get Enough of the Right Food

        You probably have experienced the afternoon slump at some point in your life. This is when you feel tired and fatigued in the mid-afternoon. This is a result of the carbohydrates you ate at lunchtime, stimulating your body to produce insulin which then causes a drop in your blood sugar levels.

        When you go into an afternoon slump, concentrating for long periods become almost impossible and you just want to curl up and go to sleep.

        To prevent the afternoon slump, try to eat a protein-rich lunch such as a tuna or chicken salad without pasta, rice or bread. Keep some healthy snacks such as mixed nuts and dried bananas around your workspace and when you feel a little peckish, eat a few of these.

        Not only will you avoid the afternoon slump, but you will also improve your overall general health and feel a lot more energetic.

        6. Drink Enough Water

        Your brain is made up of about 70% water, so without enough water, your brain will not function at its best.

        When you are not drinking enough water, you will find your ability to concentrate, make decisions and stay alert will reduce. You will feel sleepy and lack energy. Your brain functions at its best when it is properly hydrated.

        The solution is to keep a large bottle of water at your work station and sip regularly from it throughout the day. This will increase the number of trips you need to make to the bathroom which is a good thing. It will keep you moving and taking regular breaks from your screen.

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        7. Don’t Deprive Yourself of Sleep

        You probably don’t need a long scientific study to convince you that if you are not getting enough sleep, you are not going to function at your best.

        You just need to go a couple of days without getting enough sleep and you feel your abilities reduce. Your decision-making skills become erratic, your energy levels drop and your ability to stay focused on your work diminishes.

        If you want to improve your brain’s ability to function, then start with getting enough sleep. The number of hours you need will depend on your own circadian rhythms, so find what works best for you.

        Six to eight hours is usually enough for most people so make sure you are hitting that number of hours per night as a minimum.

        The Bottom Line

        Improving our brain power is not difficult. All we need to do is develop a few simple habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

        These seven tips will go a long way to helping you to become more alert, able to focus longer and make decisions. All simple common sense tricks anyone can use.

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        Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

        Reference

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