How to Read and Enjoy More Books in Less Time (and Still Have a Life)

Kaye Ramos
Aug 14, 2018 · 14 min read

You love books. You know how important it is to read. In fact, you can’t leave a bookstore without at least one.

But there’s an on-going problem lately.

You have a tendency to buy or borrow books but not actually read them. They sit on your shelf or bedside table silently screaming for you to open them.

Now, your reading pile grows higher and higher as you promise yourself to read them. Maybe this summer. Maybe this fall. Maybe this winter. Oh, maybe when you find the time to do it!

Life is busy. You badly want to read. But it’s becoming extremely difficult to squeeze time for it. And you’re hearing about these people who read one book a week or 50 plus books a year.

You’re starting to wonder, “Is there a magical way to read this much?” “Do they even have a life aside from reading?”

What if I told you:

Leveling up your reading game is not impossible. You can actually read more books than you thought.

While reading more books does not automatically equate to learning, it has its own benefits too.

Just like a writer who has to do several drafts before he can complete his novel or a painter who needs to repaint a canvas a hundred times before he can produce a masterpiece, a reader has to taste tens to hundreds of books before he can find one that satisfies the soul.

The more you read, the bigger the chance you’ll meet the right book for you. The book that can offer the answers you’ve been looking for. The book that can awaken your senses. The book that can unleash your imagination.

With few changes in your lifestyle and planning, you can read and enjoy more books, savoring each and every one.

Here are some tips on how you can improve your reading habits:

The Behavior That Can Transform You Into A Reading Winner

Reading a book becomes worthwhile when it provides you joy and value, and isn’t something to labor through. When it starts feeling like a chore, it becomes less fun. It repels you from doing it. The excitement and joy fade.

Sometimes you start a book but it doesn’t feel like you’re going in the direction you want. It becomes heavy and finishing it becomes a chore.

Just because you’ve started a book doesn’t mean you have to finish it. Don’t feel obliged to finish a book. Don’t feel guilty for not finishing it.

It happens to most of us. Maybe the context doesn’t fit in your current situation. Maybe it does not tickle your interest. Maybe it can give you a different perspective at a later time.

Move on to the next book knowing that you can give it another chance when you are ready.

Enjoying a book is a subjective experience. It can be based on the feelings it gives. Or the value you get. Or the satisfaction.

James Altucher shared, “ Only read the books you enjoy, that make you happy to be human.

Find any literature that you actually enjoy reading. When you like what you’re reading, you’re more likely be excited to read it. You’ll be more motivated to find time to read it.

A Simple Tweak That Can Usher You Into A Different Level of Reading

It’s hard to focus when there are simultaneous stimuli that steal your attention.

While other people can perform well even with many on-going distractions in the background, it is best to limit them when you’re just starting to establish your reading habits.

Design an environment that allows you to get in your zone and be lost in the wonders of reading.

Your environment can serve as a trigger to do something. It’s only you who can tell if the environment is conducive for you. Experiment on different scenarios and places where you feel comfortable reading .

Establishing a good reading habit requires a willingness to sacrifice some things or habits that you’ve been accustomed to do.

No one can make you read unless you truly want to read.

It could be turning off your phone when you are about to read. It could be going to a library or coffee shop. It could be going to a part of the house just for it.

How You Can Transform Procrastination Into Your Greatest Reading Ally

Nothing makes you work faster until you have a deadline to meet. Suddenly, your energy elevates and ideas start sprouting everywhere.

There’s an inner rush that forces every cell in your body to work and do their thing. It could result in good or bad outputs.

Having a clear deadline or target when it comes to reading is very helpful. Set a realistic number of books or deadline to finish a book.

By setting a goal, you are able to prioritize time for reading. You reduce your time spent on things that do not contribute to your growth. When you have a clear description of what to achieve, you have a sense of direction on how to get there.

Create a daily page goal but if you feel inspired to read more, then go on.

Imagine reading 20 pages a day, then 20 pages the next day, and so on. If you read 20 pages each for 6 days with one extra day for rest, you’ll get to read 120 pages in a week. That’s like half of most books or it could be an entire book.

Another trick is to put some sticky notes on the target page you are aiming to stop for the day.

When you reach it, reward yourself so you get excited to do it again. Pretty soon, you’ll find that reading is already the reward itself. Just like what Neil Gaiman said:

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”

The “One Thing” That Can Sabotage Your Reading Goals And How to Avoid It

One of the blocks that can hinder your reading habit progress is “decision fatigue.” There are just too many books to read. It can be overwhelming to choose which one to get.

Barry Schwartz, the author of Paradox of Life, says, “When people are overwhelmed, they decide not to decide for fear of choosing the wrong one.”

Reduce the decision fatigue by preparing your reading list in advance.

Ask people or trusted source that can recommend you great books to read. Entrepreneurs and bloggers have their curated list of books that you can check.

Not every book is right for you, even those with raving reviews. Sometimes those that are not heard of can impact you in a different way.

Find what interests you at the moment and then search for books that match those.

Through experience, I have refined my strategies in selecting books by asking myself these questions:

  • Interest: What am I dying to know right now?
  • Leisure: What would make me feel relaxed right now?
  • Functionality: What adds value to my current work or project?
  • Motivation: What area do I need help right now?
  • Curiosity: What makes this book a classic? a best-seller? controversial?

Once I know the answer to my question, I then look at genre and books on that category and decide from there.

It’s very important to have a personal connection with the book you’re reading.

The more you see yourself in the book, the more relevant it feels. The more relevant it feels, the more you can understand the content. The more you can understand the content, the more you remember it in the future.

When you have a list of books to read, nothing holds you back on your reading habit. Instead of aimlessly searching for thousands and thousands of titles, you already have a clear target of what to read next.

As you close a book, you know you can open a new chapter and experience new adventures in the next book.

The Experience That Can Tremendously Elevate Your Reading Game

In today’s age, it is very easy to have access to the various amount of information. Books that are considered as a luxury before the time of Gutenberg can now be accessed at our fingertips.

While ebooks and audiobooks are undeniably convenient and helpful, physical books have a different feel especially when you are making your reading game strong.

There’s a physical representation when you actually hold a book in your hands.

You can feel it. You can smell it. You can thumb through the pages. You can hold it like holding a sweet companion’s hand as you go through the journey together.

I personally prefer reading physical books. Holding an actual book gives me a sense of peace and freedom as if I’m saying:

“Hey life, I did all my responsibilities today. Now I’m entering my personal space and silence yourself until I get out of my cave.”

When you read a physical book, you tend to interact with it more. The conversation becomes more alive as you highlight, underline, comment or doodle on the pages as you go through it.

Don’t be afraid to write on the pages. When you do, you’ll understand the text better. When you come back to it for your second read, you’ll be amazed at the insights you have.

In fact, studies suggest that reading comprehension increases when you read the physical book as opposed to digital devices.

The Surefire Way to Strengthen Your Reading Habit

With so many demands in today’s world, it can get pretty overwhelming to find time for everything. And to squeeze time for reading seems nearly impossible.

The thing is:

There are actually hidden minutes every day that you can use for reading if you really want to.

It sort of works like the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon. When you see it, you cannot unsee it. That’s because you are noticing it more.

When you purposely look for hidden minutes in your day, suddenly, you’ll find them everywhere. You’ll be amazed at how many extra minutes you have that you can use for reading.

You might find yourself laughing that you didn’t spot them right away but they’re actually right there, in front of you.

To make the best use of these minutes, make sure you always have a book at hand wherever you are. Occasionally, we are put in situations where we have to wait. Making the best use of this time by reading can be very helpful to kill off boredom and learn at the same time.

Ruby Granger, who read 102 books in a year, shared:

“When you have a book with you, you find yourself picking up a few pages every now and then and it really does accumulate and you end up reading so much more.”

A Clever Analogy That Can Impact How You Look At Reading

If you find reading to be challenging, make it a part of your daily routine. A routine like brushing your teeth, taking a shower or driving to work.

Schedule a regular time of the day where you read anything you want. It may be for fifteen minutes each morning or before you sleep.

The key is consistency.

When you stay on a task long enough to be completely ingrained in your system, it becomes a routine. You don’t need to look for motivation to do it. Your body is so used doing it that picking up a book becomes a no-brainer task.

It becomes a part of you. It shapes who you are. It naturally squeezes itself into your schedule no matter how busy you are.

Once reading becomes a habit, you don’t force yourself to look for extra minutes in your day. It will be non-negotiable. It is an automatic appointment in your day — you sitting there with your book entering into a different level of intimacy.

This is how Stephen King improved his writing — by making reading as the creative center of his writer’s life. As he shared in his memoir On Writing Well:

“Reading offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying on a page.”

Warriors Don’t Go To Battles Unprepared, And Why You Shouldn’t Either

When you go to a grocery store with a list of things to buy, you are drawn to do the task faster and more efficiently as opposed to mindlessly wandering over different aisles thinking what you need to grab. It’s like warriors preparing for a battle ahead of time.

It works the same way with books.

When you know your objective why you are reading the book, you get the most out of it. It will also help you craft a reading strategy to meet those objectives.

Before reading a book, ask yourself:

  • What am I reading this book for?
  • What am I aiming to get from it?
  • What are the exact points that I am hoping to spot on this material?

When you have a clear idea of what to get from the book, you can spot those points easily. You don’t wander and get lost from a sea of information by mindlessly reading and going anywhere.

Knowing your reading objective can help you stay on task as you focus on relevant information that is helpful for you. It helps you save time and effort.

Before reading the entire book, test if it’s right for you. Skim through the pages, the tables of content, sub-headings, and the hook to have an idea about the subject.

As Dr. Bill Klemm mentioned in Sharp Brains, “Depending on the purpose, you should slow down and read carefully only the parts that contribute to fulfilling the reading purpose.”

Your reading strategy will differ based on your purpose for reading so nail it before you start the battle.

How Marketers Use This Trick to Lure You And How It Can Motivate You to Keep Reading

Curiosity can lead you to many places and answers you’ve never expected. When you are curious, it’s like an itch that you have to scratch — pronto!

Marketers are experts when it comes to taking advantage of our curiosity. When you are watching your favorite show, they like to stop at the most exciting part.

And you end up cursing, yelling, or screaming in front of the screen because you’re dying to know what happens. Well, too bad! All you can do is wait to find out the answers.

This is actually a good strategy to motivate yourself to continue reading.

When you are at the most exciting part of the chapter, put the book down. When you are about to find out the answer to your questions, rest and meet the book the next day.

This strategy can benefit you in two ways:

  • It will foster your critical thinking skills.

Because you are dying to know what happens, you are forming different conclusions in your mind. In the process, you are connecting the other parts of the book, analyzing the motives of each character, and how the plot ties together.

  • It will motivate you to pick up the book again.

Since you are dying to know what actually happens or if your conclusions are right, you will likely pick up the book again.

This will work both for fiction and nonfiction. For nonfiction books, you can stop at the most interesting point. This will give you chance to reflect on the ideas mentioned by the author and can inspire you to think of the possible key points that will come next.

You’ll Be Surprised How This Excuse Can’t Hinder You From Leveling Up Your Reading Game

Books are not actually pricey compared to the effort and experiences distilled into it. Imagine, you can get a decade of experience for more or less than twenty bucks. I call it a deal!

Tom Peter said it well:

“If I read a book that cost me $20 and I get one good idea, I’ve gotten one of the greatest bargains of all time.”

When you are improving your reading game, you won’t just read one book. The more you are drawn into one book, the more you’ll likely look for more books. However, piling up twenty bucks would be costly in the long run.

The cost doubles when you end up not reading them.

I have a budget for books. I reread books that sweep me off my feet. Books that give me a different perspective that I would never get on my own. Books that give me a sweet escape from the harsh realities of adulthood. Books that uplift, lecture, or bring me back to my senses when I go astray.

My process seems like a waste of time for others but it works for me. I mostly borrow books from our generous library and read those that resonate with me. If they “sweep me off my feet”, I put them on my “to-buy list.”

I look for thrift books and most of the time, I get lucky to get unused copies of the books I want when our library has “fill a bag for six bucks” sale.

That is truly an unbeatable deal!

Going to thrift bookstores and library sales can open up a lot of opportunities to see great books. Sometimes you’ll even discover books that you’ve never heard of but attracts you like a magnet. And these books can even transform you and give you new eyes to look at things.

Having an inventory of books can help you grow as a person. It is like building a community on a bookshelf.

When you have well-curated books on your shelf, you’ll always have something/someone to consult to when problems arise. You’ll have an immediate access into the insights and ideas of others who were once in your situation and succeeded. You’ll always have a great company when you’re longing for one.

I like how Carlos Maria Dominguez says it:

“To build up a library is to create a life. It’s never just a random collection of books.”

Don’t make lack of money an excuse not to build a library. There’s always a way if you’re willing to find a way.

Tackle Your Reading Goals Like A Boss

Now that you are equipped with tips to keep your reading game strong, you can face your reading pile headstrong.

You’ll open a book and start reading a few pages, then a few more, and then a few more. Before you know it, you’ve finished one book already.

Now you are set to read another book.

Instead of accumulating dust, your books are alive once more.

Imagine enjoying your favorite dessert or sipping your favorite beverage with a book in your hand. There you are — smiling, laughing, crying, nodding — as if the author is right in front of you.

You can’t believe you are actually enjoying reading. You can’t believe that these books lying on your bedside for so long can provide you a different kind of comfort.

Before you realized it, you’ve finished your reading pile already.

And now you’re on your way to buy and borrow more books.

The reading goals that used to be impossible is now very possible. Who knows? You might even exceed those goals.

Simply because you love reading and now it loves you back.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 358,974+ people.

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Kaye Ramos

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Sharing things that Matter and Deliver. I aim to inspire you through my writing.

The Startup

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