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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 23, 2020

        How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

        How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

        Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

        Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

        Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

        Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

        Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

        Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

        Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

        In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

        Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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        After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

        What can we learn from this historical lesson?

        1. Focus on the Consequences

        Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

        So was Moscow not an important target after all?

        Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

        When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

        • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
        • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
        • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

        The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

        This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

        2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

        Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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        Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

        If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

        Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

        This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

        Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

        • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
        • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
        • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
        • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

        Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

        3. Ask for Advice

        Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

        Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

        A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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        Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

        4. Beware of Biased Advice

        Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

        For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

        • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
        • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
        • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
        • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
        • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

        However, most purchases are unnecessary.

        Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

        Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

        After all,

        • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
        • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
        • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
        • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
        • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

        There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

        Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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        Bottom Line

        It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

        You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

        Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

        Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

        Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

        Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

        Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

        More Tips on Thinking Clearly

        Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
        [2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
        [3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
        [4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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