There have been a few conversations I have had over the last few weeks about reading more. In more than one occurrence, I’ve been given the excuse that someone doesn’t read books because they don’t have the attention span. They cannot stay focused, they explain. Perhaps you suffer from the same dilemma.
Do you really have a deep desire to read? Might it be that you are coming up with an excuse to shirk your civic duty and responsibility to read more? A deep dive into a book or a big article will benefit and inform you more than a glazing over of several quick headlines or tweets. So what do you do in order to give yourself the focus and attention span you need to make one of those deep dives?
Prepare Your Space
The space in which you read needs to be quiet. If you glance up from your book for a moment, there shouldn’t be anything around to distract your thoughts. Get yourself a cozy blanket and pour a glass of wine. Get into a comfortable position that will not put you to sleep. Empty your bladder and relax.
Turn Off Your Smartphone
Your smartphone needs to be in a place and on a setting that will not distract you. Personally, I have my notifications customized so that my phone does not flash a light and will only go off for certain individuals. You don’t have to go to this extent, but you should at least put it on silent with the screen face down.
You may have more trouble with this than you realize. Cal Newport is a great author and source for reducing screentime and increasing your quality of life. I talked about it a little in my post More Life, Less Screentime.
Prepare Your Mindset
When you begin reading, you should have in your mind a vivid picture of the world, characters, and the story so far. If you’re just starting, read the back cover, inside cover, look through the contents, and try and paint a picture in your mind of the setting. This is something I have neglected and have only recently readopted and brought into practice. It only takes a few moments to get your mind in the mood to desire what is next!
Use an Index Card
Before you sit down to read a book or an in-depth article, have a pen and an index card (a small notebook or post-it would work as well) handy. I use a small journal and it helped me greatly last week when I was studying. Inevitably, thoughts come into your mind that are not relevant to the book. Sometimes they require actions. Write them down immediately to get them out of your head. You will return to the index card later after you are finished reading.
Also, it is highly likely that the thought of something will make you want to look it up on a smartphone. Keep a space on the index card devoted to things you will use your smartphone for once you are finished reading. When you are finished reading, you have an agenda for your smartphone use instead of a blank slate.
Increase Your Reading Speed
The quantity of my reading and the comprehension both improved when I used techniques to increase the speed of my reading. In my post Faster Reading, I explain how our minds wander and do not stay focused because we are not reading fast enough. That link includes this Tim Ferriss video in which he explains how you can triple your speed in about 20 minutes worth of practice. It involves using your finger the ways your eyes move: in blocks.
Start With The Right Book
If you’re just now trying to jump start your reading habit, you’ll want to start with something that is a page-turner and is quite fascinating to you. I recommend starting with something fiction in your favorite genre. Ask friends and family for recommendations. I just read The Outsider by Stephen King in record time because it was so engaging. The HBO series is worth watching afterwards, too!
Use Audio Books
Audio books are a great way to read even more! Or, for those having trouble getting started, audio books can be an easy entry into reading more. The benefits are that you can be reading (listening) while mowing the lawn, going for a walk, doing the laundry, etc. The downside is that you cannot easily pause and write something down when your mind wanders. You also cannot easily bookmark or highlight some amazing quotes and passages.
It Gets Easier
Once you develop good reading habits, you will notice that you can become much more relaxed with these methods. Reading becomes easier and easier as you find it becoming an essential part of your life (as it should be).