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11 Ways Busy People Make Time To Read

11 Ways Busy People Make Time To Read

Some of the busiest people on our planet are also avid readers. Reading sparks your creativity, helps you grow your understanding of complex problems and grows you intellectually, while at the same time, reading is a very relaxing activity. But how do we make time to read?

News articles report that we are reading less and less. A study in 2004 found that the average number of books read in the US per year is 12, while the median value is only five books. If you want to beat this sad statistic and increase the number of books you read per year and make time to read, then keep reading.

The year in which I finished my PhD, moved across the globe, and attended conferences in every single continent of the world to present my research (except Antarctica), I logged 69 books into my GoodReads account. Many people have wondered how I managed to find the time to read so many books while having such a busy year. If you want to increase the number of books you read each year, I have gathered 11 of my best tips for reading:

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1. Borrow more books than you can read

If you enjoy borrowing books from the library, borrow more than you think you’ll actually read. Having physical books piled up in your house that you know need to be returned will encourage you to read more than you might initially have planned to.

If you are a digital reader, make sure you download a stockpile of books onto your e-reader,so you always have a wealth of choices right at your fingertips that you are eager to read.

2. Read more than one book at a time

Some people prefer to read one book at a time, but others benefit from working on several books at the same time. Some books are more suitable for reading at night (like fiction novels), while other books, such as non-fiction analyses, can be more suitable for reading during your commute.

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I typically have a number of books that I am working on available on my nightstand in my room, as well as one fiction and at least one non-fiction book in progress on my e-reader. For personal development books, it might be advisable to space out your reading session over time, so that you get a chance to work on the recommendations in the book.

3. Set a goal per reading session

If you don’t have the habit of reading big chunks of text at a time, set reading goals per session. For example, you can challenge yourself to read 50 pages before putting your book aside, or to finish the chapter before you move on to the next task. Set the bar a little higher each time. Reading a little bit extra every day will add up to reading more books on an annual basis than before.

4. Ignore what you “should” be reading

While you might find inspiration in lists of “best” books, read for yourself. Read for your own pleasure and education. Putting pressure on yourself in terms of reading what the rest of the world tells you to read only brings you so far. If you read based on your own interest and joy, you will find yourself making more time to read out of excitement for the book or topic.

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5. Practice speed-reading

The idea is simple: if you want to read more in a short amount of time, you can teach yourself to read faster. There are different techniques for speed-reading in which you can train yourself. These techniques include grouping words instead of reading word per word, forcing your eyes to move more quickly by moving a ruler or pen across the page, or holding your breath and trying to finish a paragraph in that time (this technique suppresses sub-vocalization, our tendency to “hear” the words we read in our mind).

6. Read digitally across all your mobile devices

If you read digitally, make sure you have a reader app on all your mobile devices so that you can read whenever you have a free moment. The books on my e-reader are synced with my smartphone and tablet; I can read when I am waiting in line in the bank, while the cleaning lady takes care of my office, or while I am taking a break during the day. Having a book synced across all devices will help you to read a few pages here and there during the day. By doing this, when you check back on your e-reader at the end of the day, you will see that you will have easily read 20 pages just by reading in snippets of time.

7. Read before going to bed

Reading fiction or enjoyable non-fiction at night before falling asleep is a proven method to relax, put the day behind ourselves, and prepare ourselves for a good night’s sleep. By the same token, you can make it a habit to read a few pages first thing in the morning, or read a chapter after lunch while you are digesting food and getting ready for a productive work session in the afternoon.

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8. Join your peers

Look for people in your community or online who are reading the same book as you are reading. Keeping up with their discussions and ideas on the reading will help you move forward with your reading. You wouldn’t want to be the one who missed out on last week’s chapter, would you?

9. Track your progress online

Several websites can be used to track your reading process throughout the year; my personal favorite is GoodReads. An online account in which you keep an overview of the books you are currently reading, and your progress in these books, will help you focus on your reading. Moreover, you can keep track of the books that you would like to read later on, and add reviews of the books you have read. Many of these sites can also make recommendations based on the books you’ve read and enjoyed.

10. Quit reading random news articles

If you want to make more time to read books, you will have to cut down on time from other activities to free up time for reading. One of the methods you can follow is by cutting down on the number of random articles shared on social media platforms that you read, and replace this time by reading more in-depth analyses in the books that you are working through.

11. Join a reading challenge

Similarly to point three, you can join a reading challenge and set a goal for the number of books you would like to read in a given year. To really challenge yourself, set the limit just a little above what you would think is feasible. Giving yourself a specific challenge can do a lot to hold yourself accountable and motivate yourself to reach the goal. You’d be amazed at how much reading you can do in a single year.

Featured photo credit: books/ henry via flickr.com

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How to Fight Information Overload

How to Fight Information Overload

Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

  1. Set your goals.
  2. Decide whether you really need the information.
  3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
  4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

The Nature of the Problem

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

Why information overload is bad

It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

1. Set your goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. What to do when facing new information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

3. Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

In Closing

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

(Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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