How to read more in 2021
Posted on December 30 2020
I used to be that kid who got regularly admonished for bringing a book to the dining table during meals. I miss that nerdy kid sometimes. Actually, I’ve missed her a lot lately. As the year comes to a close, I inspect my very ambitious 2019 year-end reading goals on Goodreads and mentally rebuke myself for not setting more realistic reading goals. Suffice to say, I got nowhere close to my ambitious 2020 Goodreads goal, despite a pandemic lockdown that ensured that most of us spent time indoors. But then I tell myself that this year has been particularly challenging. A worldwide pandemic, a parent who hasn’t been keeping well, and whose condition waxes and wanes, and a business that I am running alone that pretty much takes up all my waking hours.
2020 has been a year of seeking out the things that comforted us as kids, as a way perhaps of making sense of a world that feels increasingly surreal. As a child, I used books to escape into an own imaginary world all the time. In 2020, with a lockdown in place, I’ve found myself drawn back to physical books versus the Kindle on my nightstand.
Realising that there is a very direct correlation between the amount of books I read and the amount of pages I write, has been motivation enough for me to try and create a better reading framework. I decided that instead of making pointless goals based on numbers, I needed to create a system that allowed me to read more; indeed made it easier to read as a daily habit.
I’ve tried a whole bunch of things in the past but listening to Life Kit, a podcast from NPR helped me put a basic framework in place to get better at reading.
Listen to the podcast here or read along for the tips listed in the podcast:
1. Read in the mornings: If that’s possible, of course. If you, like me, struggle with not diving into your phone first thing in the morning, then coaxing yourself to read instead could be a worthy habit to build. As all habit building frameworks go, it would be a good idea to try and do this for seven days in a row before you graduate to doing this for a longer duration.
2. Read wherever you can (make it really easy- carry books everywhere- on your Kindle and the podcast suggests variations like reading on the phone or listening to audio books while commuting or doing any other banal task that requires waiting for any amount of time) As podcast host Julia Furlan rightly points out, we all have this unrealistic notion of wanting the perfect setting in which to read- in that comfortable cosy chair at home at the end of a tiring day but that’s an ideal situation so let go of that idea and just read wherever you can.
3. Match the kind of book you’re reading to the amount of time you have: A Kindle is best suited for this rule because I can’t imagine carrying different books around in an already teeming handbag. I used to carry my Kindle around a lot last year. Not sure why I stopped. Selecting something heavy when you only have a short window to read feels ineffectual. Reading something lighter during a ten minute wait makes a lot more sense.
4. Track your reading
Finally, not sure how many people would like to invest in tracking their reading but I know what a sense of achievement we feel from our Fitbits and our Garmins. So why not track how much you have managed to read in a day/ week/ month? Quantifying things is always a great motivation to dive deeper into a task. I started keeping a digital note on my phone to track what I’ve read in a week / month and plan to migrate that to my monthly to-do list which I maintain in my journal.
Note: I discovered Life Kit on NPR recently and found a lot of other fascinating life hacks. Consider subscribing here if this interests you.
In addition, I put together a bunch of online links to resources about reading more. Here they are, in no particular order
1. Neil Pasricha in HBR on 8 ways to read a lot more books this year.
2. Author of Atomic Habits James Clear on how to read more.
3. NY Times article on the 6 steps to become a better reader.
Some ‘Best of 2020 Reading lists’ I scoured for you from the internet
1. Best books of 2020 according to NY Times.
2. Best Children’s books of 2020 according to The Guardian
3. Best books about Ideas of 2020 according to The Guardian
5. Austin Kleon on the 20 great books he read in 2020
I put together an Amazon wishlist of the books I've read that a lot of you might enjoy and books I would like to read; you might find something useful in there too:) Click here to view the wishlist.