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7 Steps to Becoming an Avid Reader

7 Steps to Becoming an Avid Reader

You’re convinced that books are magical (they are) and you want to be part of the reading family (and why not) but there’s one small problem: Where do you start?

How do you turn an interest in books into a lifestyle that supports your avid reading? Or if you’re new to this whole reading-for-pleasure thing, how do you know which books are wins and which are wimpy?

Here are the steps you can take, gleaned from my 29 years of readership.

1. Start with topics or genres you love.

If you don’t care about it, you’re not going to enjoy reading about it. Why waste your own time? This isn’t school; there is no test. There is no official reading list.

All your friends love Jane Austen? That doesn’t mean you have to love her. Maybe all your friends are into sparkly vampires, or young sorcerers, or heroines with a thing for archery, but… that’s just not appealing to you? No problem.

Start with what does appeal to you. What do you love talking about? What do you love learning about? What do you love doing? What kind of people do you enjoy talking to? What topics do you never, ever get tired of?

Jot down a few of those and then go on a book hunt.

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2. Hunt down the books that you like.

Back when I started reading, in the 1980s, the Internet was not around so much. We had a little thing called a card catalog at the local library.

Lucky for you, Dewey and his decimal system do not have to figure into your search for the perfect book.

Instead, use some of these great websites to find a book that you will love:

  • WhatShouldIReadNext.com: start with an author or book you love, click the closest match from the list that pops up, and then this site will generate a list of books you’ll probably like based on your initial author/title. Pretty cool.
  • GoodReads: This is social networking for readers. Join (you can use your Facebook credentials) and then find friends and see what they’re reading, find interest-based groups, search book lists, or join a discussion.
  • BookBrowse.com: The “Read Alikes” service here is similar to WhatShouldIReadNext but the lists of comparable books is handpicked by other readers.
  • WhichBook: Choose your book by mood or other fun factors, like Happy or Sad, Beautiful or Disgusting, Conventional or Unusual.

3. Use these book lists for even more reading options.

You can also make use of the plethora of booklists available to you. I’m currently reading through NPR’s Top 100 Sci Fi & Fantasy list with some friends.

Here are some great lists you can use to find your next read:

4. Skim, baby, skim.

There’s a classic book on reading, aptly titled How to Read a Book, written by the illustrious Mortimer J. Adler. In it, Mr. Adler gives a recommendation about how to approach a book you’re about to start reading:

“First, you do not know whether you want to read the book. You do not know whether it deserves an analytical reading. But you suspect that it does, or at least that it contains both information and insights that would be valuable to you if you could dig them out. Second, let us assume—and this is very often the case—that you have only a limited time in which to find all this out. In this case, what you must do is skim the book, or, as some prefer to say, pre-read it. Skimming or pre-reading is the first sublevel of inspectional reading. Your main aim is to discover whether the book requires a more careful reading. Secondly, skimming can tell you lots of other things about the book, even if you decide not to read it again with more care.”

What’s neat is that, O Internet Reader, you already know how to skim; it’s what you do on social media and sites like this all day long.

Use that skill on each book you pick up. Read the introduction; scan the paragraph headings; flip through and a read a line or two here and there; read the back cover; look at the blurbs.

Does it sound interesting? Do you want to know more? Then start reading. But what if it doesn’t sound interesting? Put it down and find another book. There are plentyout there.

5. Use the 50-Page Rule.

Once I’ve skimmed a book enough to know that I want to read it, I put this little rule into place. This is a personal rule I developed as I found that sometimes a book looked great but just really didn’t do anything for me; but I would feel weird about quitting the book.

As if the book cares.

I also have found that sometimes a book that is a little difficult to start can turn out to be amazing if I just stick with it.

Hence, the 50-Page Rule.

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50 pages is usually a good enough chunk to know whether this book is worth it or not. If you’re so into it at 50 pages that you don’t even notice you’ve passed the fiftieth page, well, awesome! Keep reading.

But if you’re struggling to stay interested, or to keep up with the vocabulary, or to relate to the characters, or understand the backstory, or care about the information, give it a full 50 pages. If you still don’t care when you hit page 50, you’ve got a legitimate case of “Not a Good Fit” and you can pass the book on to someone else, knowing you gave it a fighting chance.

6. Start a Reading Notebook.

This doesn’t have to be an actual notebook. It could be a Pinterest board, a note on Facebook, a list on your phone, a folder of photos, your GoodReads account etc.

Or it could be an actual notebook.

There are two lists I recommend keeping in your “notebook,” whatever format you use. The first is a list of books you’ve read. Pin an image on your board, jot the title on your note or list, or take a photo of the cover, or write it in your notebook. Give it a rating, and, if you feel like it, a few words about it: what you liked or didn’t like, anything that stood out, a quote or character, whatever.

The second is a list of books you want to read. The more you read, the more you’ll discover new authors, genres, and series that you want to dig into. Keep track of these, somewhere, because it’s oh-so-easy to forget. If you have a list handy, though, you can always refer to it when you’re at the bookstore, going by the library, or ready to download another ebook

7. Find the time to read.

You don’t need a lot of time to read. You just need to start using those in-between times.

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How many times a day do you need to check Facebook, really? Do something better. Read your book.

The key is to have your current read with you at all times. Throw it in your bag and next time you’re on the train, on the bus, waiting in the office, waiting at the restaurant, or enjoying the sunshine for a few minutes… pull out your book.

Wind down at night with a book. Studies show that the blue light of computer and tv screens can actually disturb your sleep.

You know what doesn’t disturb your sleep? A book.

Unless you get so interested you can’t put it down, and find yourself still awake at 4 a.m. because just one more chapter. Yeah, that could happen.

But hey. That’s why we have coffee… which, you know, is really perfect to sip while reading a book.

Featured photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

More About Working From Home

Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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