According to my Goodreads account, in 2017, I read a total of 30 books. A total of 9,717 pages. It was quite an accomplishment for me since just three years earlier I read a meager nine books.
To a select few, 30 books may not seem like much or may even be their mid-year goal as they seek to hit 75 or even 100 books in a given year. But for the average American, 30 books in a year may seem like a difficult milestone to reach.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2013, the average American read a total of five books. This data does include adults that opted out of reading entirely, so I would imagine that the average is a bit higher for those who do read. Even if we assume the average American reader finishes ten books a year, it is still less than one book a month. If we were to take the average book-length to be 300 pages, that would mean that the average reader is reading just shy of ten pages a day. With the average reading speed ranging between 200 and 250 words-per-minute and the average page having roughly 400 words on it, it would take the reader anywhere from 13 to 16 minutes to reach their daily quota of eight pages.
How to Read More
It may seem hard to believe, but all you need is 15 minutes a day to invest in yourself to accomplish reading ten books a year. That’s it. Anybody and I do mean anybody, no matter how busy they are, can find at least 15-30 minutes a day to invest in themselves by choosing to read. Think about how much time you spend on Facebook or Instagram in a given day, mindlessly scrolling through your feed. I bet you spend at least an hour or two doing that every single day ( admittedly, I am just as guilty as you are oftentimes).
So how do we make ourselves take 15-30 minutes out of our day to pick up a book in our modern world filled with constant distractions? Let’s first take a look at the most common excuses and see how we can overcome them.
The most popular excuse I’ve heard would have to be that you are too busy to read, that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get around to it. But what you are saying is that reading is not a priority. We all make time for the things we like and care about, no matter what. If you have time for Netflix, you have time to read. It is all a matter of priority. The key is to schedule your day in a manner that best serves you. Your self-education should always be a top priority along with your health, so learn to map out your days around these focal points.
Another favorite excuse used is that you don’t enjoy reading that you find it boring. That sounds like almost any high school student if you ask me. But that’s precisely why. We were groomed to dislike reading as kids because we were always told what to read. And if we didn’t do it, we would fail the test. Being told to do anything automatically makes it less enjoyable since we enjoy our autonomy.
Don’t let your school days taint the real pleasure of reading. No matter how much you dislike the idea of picking up a book, I promise that there is a subject out there that you find enjoyable. The key to finding enjoyment in reading is to read about things that interest you. Pick a topic of your interest and in no time will you have found pleasure in the activity. Once you feed your curiosity with your interests, you will find it moving on to other subjects, and before long, you will be reading a multitude of genres.
Reading 30 Books
So how did I accomplish reading 30 books last year?
By taking it one day at a time. There is no fast track secret. It’s all about establishing habits that you practice daily that allow you to reach your big goals. I did experiment with some shortcuts such as speed-reading, but ultimately, I found that I wasn’t retaining the material well enough to make it worthwhile. What is the point of finishing a book quickly if you don’t recall any of it? If anything, I probably read more slowly than the average person, because I often highlight and take notes while I read. Here are a few habits I have developed to accomplish my goal:
I wake up half an hour earlier than needed on weekdays to read in bed before I start getting ready for the day. By setting aside this time block for only reading at the very beginning of my day, I guarantee it will never get pushed back or rescheduled due to other events that happen throughout the day. I make it possible to wake up thirty minutes earlier than needed by prioritizing my sleep each night. I do my best to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night, as this is critical to being able to function to my fullest each day.
I also read during my lunch break at work. My job allows me an hour lunch break, of which I will typically allocate at least to reading. It is much more productive than skimming through email and social media. I make it a priority to home-cook most of my meals every evening so that I have a lunch to take to work the next day. Doing this frees me up from having to drive to and from some fast food place for lunch during my break, which eats up a lot of time during lunch hour traffic.
I take a book with me wherever I go. Every morning I take a backpack with me to work that contains notebooks, pens, various work material and a book I am reading. This way, I always have my book with me for whenever an opportunity presents itself to break it out. Instances of this could be waiting in the lobby at the doctor’s or dentist’s office, waiting for car repairs/maintenance, waiting to get a haircut., etc. There are many times in life when we have to sit and wait. Wouldn’t it be much more productive to have a book with you to break out while you sit and wait just like everyone else?
I spend some evenings reading before bedtime to help wind down the day. I will admit that I don’t do this all too often because I have found that reading in the evening makes me tired to the point where I can hardly comprehend what I am reading after a couple of pages. If you are someone that is usually more energetic in the evenings or maybe even has trouble falling asleep at night, then I would highly recommend reading as an evening ritual before bedtime.
Last but not least, I write out my personal goals every year. What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get managed. If you don’t write out your reading goals, you are likely to forget about them and allow life to get in the way of reaching them. By writing them out, you are confirming with yourself that you are serious. To make your goals stick, I recommend that you write out your yearly goal then break it down into quarterly, monthly, and daily goals. For example, if your annual goal is to read 12 books this year, then your quarterly goal would be to read three books, your monthly goal would be to read one book, and your daily goal would be to read 15 pages. Doing it this way makes lofty goals much more manageable and allows you to see if you succeeded or failed each day in your pursuit of reaching your goal. I think this last part is crucial because often I think we are susceptible to setting such lofty goals that we freeze from the beginning due to being overwhelmed. Breaking a goal down into small daily bites, it becomes much easier to tackle it and track our progress.
These are just a couple of the strategies that I try to use each day in my pursuit of my reading goals.
Discovering Your Next Book
I must note that while I do mostly focus on the numbers in this post, it is more important to me that I comprehend and gain value from what I read. I do not recommend trudging through a book you dislike because you have already gotten 50 pages in and feel that you are only hurting your progress by starting over with a new book. The only goal that truly matters is you grow as a human being through your self-education. It doesn’t matter if you accomplish it through reading hundreds of short books and stories or reading only a few 1,000-page classics in a given year. Read what you love and watch yourself grow.
Take responsibility for yourself and invest in your education. We live in a world where knowledge has never been cheaper or more accessible. Its amazing we can take the knowledge of the brightest minds to have ever walked this planet and have it distilled down into a couple of hundred pages you can buy on Amazon for ten bucks. To read is to be human; it not only makes us more intelligent, but also allows us to connect with others through ideas, find meaning, and better understand ourselves. Reading should become an extension of who you are, so stop making excuses and get it done.
Here’s to you discovering your next great book.