Once upon a time, I read more than 100 books a year. Several years in a row.
But then a few years ago this little thing called divorce happened, and all my healthy habits like exercise and reading and not finishing an entire wine bottle in one sitting? They disappeared.
Even after my life got back on track, my reading habits didn’t pick back up to the same level. Now, I consider it a win if I finish one book a month. But honestly, even that hasn’t happened very often lately.
I know how to develop a reading habit, but I haven’t made it a priority. Should I care?
I don’t necessarily want to get back to reading 100 books a year, but I know all the benefits of reading books. A good reading habit will help reduce stress, improve your memory, and make you more creative. Not to mention reading everyday can help ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia. (And as it turns out, reading actually does make you sexy!)
How to Develop a Reading Habit: 8 Easy Tricks
With the start of the new year, I’ve been reflecting on how I used to be so successful at incorporating reading in my daily life—and what’s stopping me now.
As with anything, it’s not about finding the time to do it but about making the time. With that said, my former self had discovered some pretty good tricks for fitting in a lot of reading.
If you want to read more books, these tips will help you cultivate a reading habit so you can be smarter, less forgetful, and apparently—sexier too.
Go old school and visit your local library to find a good book.
Why? Because deadlines set by other people are great motivators. Getting a book from the library gives you a built-in deadline for reading the book.
If your library’s web site has an email notification feature for due date reminders, use it. And if you’re lucky enough that your library system participates in Library Elf, you can configure exactly when you want to receive those due date reminders. Otherwise, you can set up reminders on your phone or whatever calendar system you’re already using.
2. Do It Everywhere
While I was reading the Harry Potter series for the first time, I would bring the book with me everywhere.
Nowadays, I have the Kindle app on my phone, so it’s super convenient to pull out my phone and read a paragraph or two here and there. For example:
- Bring your book along to appointments and show up early so you get a little extra time in the waiting room. Plus, you won’t have to stress about being late to your appointment because you’ll already be there!
- If you find yourself alone for lunch, don’t just eat at your desk and catch up on email. Run out to grab a quick bite, and bring a book to read while you eat.
- Read while waiting in a long line.
- Listen to the audiobook version while driving. Pro tip: Get an Audible or Libro.fm membership for access to the best audiobooks. (By the way, Libro.fm is the same price as Audible, and you’ll support a locally owned bookstore with every audiobook you choose!)
- Read while your kids are in the bathtub.
- Read in the elevator so you don’t have to make uncomfortable small talk.
Side note: I once saw a guy riding a bicycle while reading a book. Extra points for his commitment to reading, but he wasn’t even wearing a helmet!
3. Read to Your Kid
As soon as my eldest daughter Abby could sit still longer than it takes to read Moo Baa La La La†, I started reading chapter books to her at bedtime. And nothing that would drive me crazy like Junie B. Jones, either.
4. Make It Social
There’s nothing like peer pressure to get you to do something. Book clubs give you that, and they also impose deadlines.
Start a monthly book club. Just make sure there’s at least one person in the book club who is committed to finishing the book. Because if your group is made up of a lot of people who won’t actually read the book, your book club will quickly devolve into a wine-and-cheese club. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not going to get you closer to your goal of a daily reading habit.
5. Choose Carefully
Life is too short to read books you don’t really want to read. Don’t try to read books that you think you should read because they’re classics or because you think it will make you look smart.
Read the books you want to read. Read the books whose front cover descriptions get you excited to the point of drooling.
If you’re not sure what to read, sign up at Goodreads and see what your friends have read and enjoyed. Every time you come across a book you want to read, plop it into Goodreads for safe keeping so you’ll remember it later. After you use Goodreads for a while (see tip #8), it will start to learn your literary tastes and give you personalized recommendations for which books you’ll enjoy reading next.
6. Give It 50
If after 50 pages, the book’s not floating your boat, move on.
This is a lesson I’ve had to learn, and I still struggle with feeling like I should finish every book I start. But why waste your time slogging through something that isn’t grabbing you? Reading should be fun, not a chore.
In my experience, if it doesn’t grab me in the first 50 pages, it’s not going to turn around. So give yourself permission to move on to another book.
7. Make a Deal
Make a deal with yourself that you won’t do some essential daily task until you’ve read for 10 minutes. For example, you are not allowed to brush your teeth until after you read. Or maybe you can’t blow-dry your hair until you’ve read.
Not that reading should be a task on your to-do list, but you’re just trying to establish a daily habit right now by setting an action trigger. The joy will come right after you start reading, I promise!
An action trigger is when you decide in advance when and where you’ll do the task. For example, you could tell yourself: “Right before I brush my teeth every night, I’m going to read for 10 minutes.” From Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard:
…what action triggers do is create an “instant habit.” Habits are behavioral autopilot, and that’s exactly what action triggers are setting up.
Here’s the proof of the “instant habit” concept: One study showed that the single biggest predictor of whether women gave themselves a monthly breast examination was if they had a habit of doing so. When another group of women who didn’t have such a habit were asked to set action triggers, they ended up doing just as well as the women with longtime habits. By preloading a decision, they created an instant habit.
8. Track Yourself
If you want to stay motivated to meet your life goals, you need to feel like you are making good progress.
I kept a spreadsheet of which books I read, including titles, date finished, and a rating 1-10 of how much I liked it. I also used Goodreads to keep track of my reading. Goodreads has the added benefit of showing your friends what you’ve read and seeing what they’ve read—for a little extra peer pressure to keep your reading habit going.
Before you go, get my FREE cheat sheet: 75 Positive Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear
To get more advice on forming new healthy habits, check out 5 Ways for Busy Moms to Start a New Habit That Will Stick.
Do you wish you read more? Or if you’re happy with how much you read, what advice would you give someone who wants to know how to develop a reading habit? Share your tip in a comment below!