So You Can Finally Make That TBR Pile Vanish
A wealth of studies have proven that reading improves our vocabularies, reduces stress, increases our empathy, and maintains our cognitive function as we age.
If reading is so good, why aren’t we doing more of it? I admit that despite all the books I’ve devoured, that I feel like I’m a slow reader. Maybe that’s because I’m married to a speed demon of a reader. But I wanted to learn how to read more each day, so I set out to find some tips to help up my page count (even if I’ll never exactly be a speed reader.)
Make reading part of your routine!
The easiest way to read more is to read a few pages right when you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed at night (or before you turn on Netflix!) Morning and evenings hectic because of small kids? Try sneaking in some reading during your lunch break at work! It’s a great way to take a full break from your work and to distress.
Realign how you use your time!
Think you don’t have time to just sit around and read? The average adult watches five hours of TV a day! Read a chapter before you turn on Netflix. Put your phone in another room and enjoy the sweet feeling of not being interrupted digitally. I have a feeling pretty soon, you’ll savor this time.
Read with someone!
Join a club. Grab a reading buddy. Get a book subscription- preferably one with a built in club or app so you can track the books you’ve read and interact with other readers. All of these are a great way to eliminate decision fatigue and have books coming to you automatically to build that habit. It’s also a great way to find good recommendations and be forced to finish a book or two on a deadline.
Eliminate decision fatigue some more.
Instead of waiting to look for a new book when you finish the one you’re reading, always be looking and asking for good recommendations and write them down. I personally use Goodreads’ “Want To Read” list function as well as my Amazon wish list. Other readers use their Notes app or Evernote. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed while browsing through thousands of books online or in-store. Just whip out your list and pick a couple that look good! You’ve already vetted them.
Set a reasonable goal and keep it to yourself.
Goals are great way to make us strive for something more! Goals are amazing and useful tools. But something interesting happens psychologically when we tell the world about those goals.
Announcing a goal can actually demotivate you from embarrassment if you fall behind. Avoiding a public announcement of your reading goal means you’re more likely to do a reading sprint to catch up or to try again next year if life just gets in the way. (Plus no one wants to have to explain if they don’t hit that goal- it ain’t their business!)
Be careful setting your goals! Setting a big goal for the bragging rights alone sets yourself up for sludging through books you’d rather toss or blazing through novels that you love but not being able to enjoy the experience (which is kind of the point of reading.)
A goal is a good way to stretch yourself, but the stretch needs to be realistic. Of course, saying you’re going to read 50 books in a year if you usually struggle to read 20 is a hella’ ambitious. Aim for a more moderate increase and taste sweet victory when you hit it! The Goodreads Reading Challenge is a fun way to set reading goals since you can easily pair it with your Want To Read list.
Keep a log or use an app like Goodreads.
Seeing all the books you HAVE read and how you felt about them can be a big confidence boost. Plus, writing down your thoughts and impressions of your reads can up your recall and just make you feel… smart.
Have a comfortable, distraction-free reading space (that’s not your bed.)
It’s really hard to read if your back hurts, you have to squint in dim light, or the TV is blaring in the background. And reading in bed, where you sleep, triggers you to get too comfy and sleepy and possibly drift off…
So create a comfy reading nook with a chair or a couch with good back support and a nice light source. #lampsftw
Read what you like- then take a break!
Embrace the DNF- the “did not finish.” Do not feel like you have to finish every book you start, just because you checked it out from the library or spent money on it. Return it or regift it.
Also, try reading a variety of genres to discover what you love and to avoid the dreaded “book hangover.” And don’t feel like every time you read it has to be a marathon for it to be meaningful. You can read in tiny chunks! Heck, I read in line at the grocery store or waiting at the doctor’s office.
But when I do a reading marathon, knowing when to put the book down and get some sunshine and social interaction with the hubby is a valuable skill. It prevents book burnout!
Read multiple books at once.
Ok, this is a tip that may not work for everyone. But having a couple of books to choose from can help you have something that suits your mood at any given moment. Long, stressful day at the office? That heavy historical fiction novel may not be calling your name. But the comedic memoir could be just what you need! And if you come back to a book and realize that you really have lost interest in finishing it? Try reading a page or two and if it’s still not sparking anything- DNF it without guilt!
Budget a concern?
Hit up your library! Browse the sale racks or find your local used book store. Check out some Little Free Libraries near you (and bring a couple of offerings of your own from your DNF pile.) Find a free book swap near you – there are a ton of sites and apps just for this!
Get smart with HOW you read!
Keep a book with you at all times by embracing a variety of formats. Audiobooks can buy back your travel and commute time- or time stuck doing dishes or other tasks where your hands are occupied but your mind is free.
Ebooks mean you don’t have to waste time in lines reading the ingredients on the back of that cereal box… again. And having books stashed in good reading spots around your house means that in spare moments, you always have something close by to read.
Want to read more non-fiction? Skim smartly, with the Bookends Method. And if you really want to practice reading faster without losing comprehension, here are a few more techniques.
But above all, reading books you enjoy will encourage you to read more, so read curiously and don’t be afraid to explore!