How to develop a reading habit

I’ve always loved books. I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. I enjoy wandering around bookshops, looking at a well-designed dust jacket, reading the back cover, being inspired. We always took a book box with us on holiday. We’d sit outside the caravan on hot summers days and read novel after novel.

But somewhere, somehow, I lost the habit of reading books. I still buy books. My shelves are full of them. I have good intentions. I look at them and think ‘that’s a book I really want to read, I must make time’. I never do. Other things creep in and take my time. Some are very worthwhile, like spending time with my children. But others are not: spending too much time staring at screens, either the TV or social media, sometimes both. Not reading has become my guilty secret.

My goal is to develop a reading habit. I want to read at least two books every month, ideally a book a week, and blog about what I’ve learned from them.

As a business storyteller I thrive on hearing others’ experiences and insights. As a business owner, I have much to learn about running my own business and how to make it a success. I read dozens of articles a day, but that’s not the same as taking the time to sit and read a book about a subject. By reading more books by entrepreneurs, business writers and storytellers, be they historians (I studied history for my first degree and love it still), artists, or writers, I will increase my knowledge, gain new ideas and find new jumping off points for my own work.

Reading fits in with every element of Zig Ziglar’s Wheel Of Life. It will enable me to learn skills and develop ideas I need for my business and to help other people with theirs; it will help me be a better role model for my children because they will see me reading instead of looking at my phone screen; it will help me spiritually and intellectually; there will be financial benefits as I’m able to apply my learnings to build my business and there will be a positive impact on my mental health as I spend my personal time more wisely.

The obstacles to my reading habit are all the interruptions and distractions which currently stop me picking up a book. There’s working overtime (a habit I would like to break by working more efficiently in the first place). Then there is laziness and procrastination. It’s far too easy to passively look at social media or watch TV than it is to open my mind to the active process of reading, learning, and processing knowledge and then making use of it.

Time management will be the key skill I need to utilise to achieve my goal. I need to master the art of the SMART next actions list so I have free time available to spend with a book. My husband and I also need to support each other to create time for us to pursue our interests. How will I find new books to read. My altMBA cohort and business buddies from Drive The Network will have plenty of recommendations.

I will set aside time each week to read and mark it out in my diary. At least two evenings a week will be a TV-free zone. The phone will be put in a drawer and the laptop stowed away. I have plenty of inspiring books to be getting on with thanks to altMBA and the books I’ve picked up over the past year. I’m going to write a schedule, set deadlines and use the 12 Week Year process to ensure I stick to my goal. I should read at least six books every quarter.

I have already started working towards this goal. The first book I picked up was Steal Like An Artist and it strongly resonated with me. Not only does the author, Austin Kleon, talk about choosing your own teachers and immersing yourself in others work so that you can create your own, but he also writes on the benefit of getting away from screens. I have come to realise that screens are diminishing my creativity.

I know I can’t create my best work without getting inspiration from others. I need to make time for myself to learn from and enjoy other people’s work. I’m going to make Mondays and Fridays TV-free nights. I’m also going to have a book next to the sofa so that it’s easy to pick it up and dive in when I have a spare few minutes, rather than getting my phone out of my pocket and geeking. I write about business development, goals and stories on my business blog and this is where I will be writing about all the brilliant things I’m going to learn from the books I read.

Austin Kleon wrote about having a ‘swipe file’ so I’m stealing that idea. I also like that he started putting the book together using index cards. I’m going to buy a pack this week and start jotting down brilliant ideas. I’ve already got a brand new notebook and I’ve written a blog post about Steal Like An Artist.

If anyone has a book to recommend which they think I would enjoy, please leave a note in the comments.