Habit of developing Habits

My journey with the reading habit

Like a million other millennials, if you asked me what I was reading up until last year, I would infamously reply “I am a visual person”, somehow trying to imply I don’t read much. If I had a dollar for the number of times I had used that phrase, I would be sitting on a silly fortune. Yet, I did have a reading resolution for 2016. It involved researching ‘famous favourite’ lists from Huffington Post and picking up The Rosie Project from my sister. Let’s not talk about how many books I read in 2016. Mostly because I’ve already mentioned all of them and you probably didn’t need to keep count.

To spur myself into action in 2017 I decided that maybe I lacked the ability to read fast, so I decided to first learn techniques of how to read. Heard of speed reading? Yup, tried that. Reading about reading is like trying to understand the mind through the mind. Err …. nevermind.

Luckily, while hiding behind the “visual person” facade, I did watch a lot of TED talks. I was first introduced to TED talks by my cousin in 2009 who used to watch one every morning. What a wonderful thing to wake up to, I thought (in contrast to reading/watching the news, which I find mostly disturbing and end up avoiding till later in the day). This is how I first stumbled upon BJ Fogg’s golden nugget. Forget big change, start with a tiny habit. If you haven’t watched this talk, pause everything and proceed to change your life.

Fogg’s model describes how to influence a person’s behaviour using a combination of various factors namely motivation, ability and trigger at the same moment.

B = MAT

What was my motivation to read?

I wanted to be well read. Ok, for real. I didn’t want to sound like a fool. Fear. Yes that was my biggest intrinsic motivator.

Did I have the ability to read?

Well, I knew how to read, I think. Like the thing you and I learnt in kindergarten? I had that figured out. However, I was attempting to read eloquently strung, extremely long sentences in Midnight’s Children and failing miserably. Now you know why I’m keeping it short.

What was my trigger to read?

Up until 2017, it was every time I got on an airplane. I would stop at the airport bookstore, pick up a book and read it by the end of the trip. Unfortunately, I didn’t travel consistently by airplanes, so the trigger wasn’t reliable. I tried clubbing reading with bedtime. It only made me fall asleep faster.

This is where the video changed everything. Fogg says something very key to develop a new habit. Make it simple. Make it tiny so that it is really easy to perform.

“But most importantly place it after a habit you already have.”

This blew my mind. I started with having a tiny reading goal. 10 pages a day. I coupled my reading time with my afternoon tea. This placement ensured that I would grab a nice cup of ginger tea (courtesy reward/pampering @ ChaiPoint), sit in the office reading nook that I had created and read in peace. The book I choose to begin with was incidentally Hooked by Nir Eyal. It was perfect because it was relevant to what I did for a living and it took Fogg’s theory forward and applied it to building products that get users hooked. I started with 10pages a day and slowly increased both volume and speed of reading. I was done with the book in a week. I can’t remember the last time I had finished a book. The method was working out!

I’m on a 7 day reading streak, have nearly 30 books lined up for 2017, and writing about this hoping to help other lost causes. What habit do you want to develop this year?