I have not always been an avid reader
There was a time where reading was the very last thing I wanted to do. Sitting down to read a book was painful and vexing like intentionally stubbing your toe over and over again.
It was in high school that I really came to resent reading. Teachers would assign reading for homework and then we would have to write essays and complete assignments to check that we didn’t skimp on our nightly reading.
For me, however, that just meant I became a little too familiar with SparkNotes, among other online hacks for reading.
For a good portion of my life, reading was burdensome and I avoided it like a middle seat on an airplane.
And now to jump ahead: in the last four years, I’ve read over 250 books.
Within four years I went from someone who was passionately anti-book to someone who sees books as an inextricable part to their identity. But it did not start out with a sudden, impassioned switch.
The transition took time, as all good things do.
I realized when I was 18 years old that there are hardly any successful individuals in the world who do not consider themselves bibliophiles.
All leaders are readers, as the saying goes.
I was preparing for college at the time and wanted to begin habits that would help me get ahead in school and, fundamentally, in life.
Every single self-help book, personal development article, and piece of advice from an elder echoed the same sentiment: read as much as you can.
How was I going to read more if I resented the idea of it? I decided to do it first thing in the morning, every single day. I blocked out one hour each morning from 6:30AM to 7:30AM reserved exclusively for reading.
I aimed to get my reading done first thing in the morning because it was something I wasn’t keen on completing in the first place. I gave myself the early morning start because, this way, I would not have an excuse to skip it.
Nobody was out socializing at that hour, there were no sports events or movies to see at 6 in the morning.
My reading block became a non-negotiable part of my day. And at that hour, there are few distractions or notifications because most of my friends and family were just waking up and getting ready for the day.
And so it began. I read each day for one hour before school. I read fiction, non-fiction, history and science, short stories — I began reading widely, anything I could get my hands on.
Once I started reading as if it mattered, I began to realize that, yes, it did in fact matter.
I treated it like it was my job, and in turn, reading opened up the world to me. After a few months, I found myself more adept in the classroom and in social settings — I could articulate myself better and I could enter a conversation about a far wider range of topics.
Reading became my self-help weapon of choice. Soon enough, after some months of practicing my morning habit, I came to love reading. My favorite part of my day was my morning block of reading.
The single most productive way to read more books is to block out time each day reserved for reading
When you implement this, it helps if you arrange it at the same time each day. Then it has more chance of becoming a reliable and regular habit.
Habits take some time to fully develop, so taking out guesswork from the routine helps: same time, same location, same coffee — whatever you may fancy.
Making the reading block non-negotiable is absolutely key. It cannot be a time that you only sometimes aim for; it must be daily and regular. This creates a schedule and routine for you to fall into.
Remember: we are what we do everyday. Habits take care of us because they become the building blocks to our achievements and successes (or they become the shortcomings underlying our failures and regrets).
If you do not enjoy reading, or struggle to read regularly, build the habit first.
Passion and enjoyment will follow.
For me, it started as one hour a day, seven days a week. Then it increased because I began reading throughout the day as well, becoming more and more voracious and finding small pockets of free time during the day for reading.
I began to read faster as I began reading more often. This will happen to anyone — the more you do something, the better you become at it.
As I got through more books, I was also beginning to get through each book at a quicker pace while retaining the information. I wasn’t aiming to speed read (I’ve tried it — I retain far less information) but reading faster became a natural consequence of reading more often.
Reading more often helped me read more, which helped me read faster.
A win-win-win all stemming from the initial habit of a non-negotiable block of reading time each day.
With this technique, reading can become a routine part of your life. Soon enough, you too can look back one day and remember how old you were when you became an avid reader.
And, as another saying goes:
“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read” — Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones
Good luck to you, my soon-to-be fellow reader.