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Literary Gluttony – How to Consume More Books This Year

Literary Gluttony – How to Consume More Books This Year

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    Over 40% of Americans claim not to have read any books in the previous year. The survey was last conducted in 2002, and noted falling reading rates from previous years. I’m sure if you’re reading through lifehack.org that you probably don’t expect reading to stop after you graduate. Yet, with such dismal statistics, how can you beat the odds and read more books this year?

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    Why Bother Reading More?

    I’m sure you’ve seen the advertisements where famous celebrities sit next to a stack of books they haven’t read and tell you to read more. While I agree with the message, the posters take for granted that ordering you to read more is enough to convince you that you should bother.

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    I usually read 50-70 books each year and I believe it is one of the best investments of time and money I can make. But I wasn’t really sold on the process of reading in my spare time until a few years ago. I might only have read four of five books outside of class in 2002. My decision to build the habit of reading more books came from being sold on the benefits of reading more. Here are some of the reasons to start:

    1. Knowledge. It only takes reading 10-20 books on a subject until you know more on that topic than most of the population. Read 200-300 books on a subject and you’re an expert.
    2. Flow. Unlike the passive activity of television, reading takes mental effort. This mental effort results in keeping your mind sharp and engaged.
    3. Self-Improvement. A book doesn’t have to be in the self-help aisle in order to give you ideas for improvement. Great works of fiction, books on science, culture and philosophy are full of ideas that you can’t get just from skimming an online article.
    4. Awareness. What’s happening in the world? What trends are continuing into the future? Where is the world headed? Unfortunately just flicking through the 24-hour news programs on television are more likely to give you advice on the latest antics of Britney Spears than a broad perspective on the world.
    5. Power. Ignorance is not bliss. You can’t change something you don’t know about. Learning about yourself, science, culture and the world as a whole gives you a power most people lack–awareness.
    6. Pride. Not the most noble of benefits, but it still is a plus. Reading classic works of literature gives you the ability to know what people are referring to when they reference ideas like “doublethink” or quote Shakespeare.
    7. Changed Outlook. This one is harder to realize until after you’ve read a few dozen books, but reading great books can completely change your outlook on life. Books force you to think, and while you may feel you’re doing a good job of that already, they can make you think in ways you hadn’t even considered.

    There are many other reasons for reading and I suggest you come up with your own. But wanting to read more (like wanting to exercise, drink less or get promoted) doesn’t make it so. Reading more books requires forming the right habits so that reading becomes an automatic activity, rather than a chore.

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    How to Read More Books This Year

    Here are a few tips for boosting the amount of books you can read:

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    1. Speed Read. Speed reading has been attacked by all sorts of people for being fake, compromising understanding or based on junk-science. I think this is based on the misconception that speed-reading is all about a magical technique that allows you to blur through pages, rather than plain, common-sense habits to make reading faster. There are entire books on speed reading, but here are a few tips that have stuck with me since I first learned to speed read a few years ago:
      • Use a pointer. Run your index finger beneath the text on the page. This keeps your eyes focused on a specific point on the page. After a week or two of adapting to using your finger, this can boost your reading rate considerably.
      • Practice read. Practice reading means “reading” slightly faster than you can actually comprehend. While you won’t get any new information from practice reading, this trains you to read without needing to subvocalize (repeat the words in your head).
    2. Start a Morning Ritual. Recently I decided to set aside time for reading each morning. Following when I wake up at 5:30, I read for an hour and a half. This lets me squeeze in reading time on a schedule that would otherwise be too busy during the day. Even if you can only devote 15-30 minutes of reading each morning you can read 20-30 books each year.
    3. One Book at a Time. Trying to multi-task between books is wasting your time. My rule is that I should continue reading one book until I finish it, or decide to quit it entirely. Putting one book on hold to start another just crowds your to-do list.
    4. Carry a Book With You. If you plan on going anywhere, keep a book with you and you can read if you are forced to wait. Throughout your day there are probably many moments where you have to wait for a few minutes in lines, during breaks or when traveling. Having a book with you means those moments aren’t wasted.
    5. Audio Books. Most popular books have audio versions. While the audio versions are more expensive (use the library), you can have something to play in your car when you are driving or in your iPod when walking around.

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    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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