How you can read more with no effort


How many books do you read each year? Research from both Pew (US) and YouGov (UK) suggest the median is around four books a year (fewer for men, more for women). Four. Books. Per. Year.

Let's assume we're all going to live to ninety. If you're twenty now that means you're going to read 280 books in the rest of your life (assuming you're an average reader). At 30 that's down to 240, at 40 you've only got 200 more, so pick carefully.

To put that into perspective, around 700,000 books were published in the US in 2015 alone. The UK was a way behind, but still managed in excess of 200,000.

Most people don't read more for one simple reason: time. More specifically, a lack of it. So how can you squeeze in a few more books each year? One option is to learn to read faster, but that's not always practical.

I'm far from prolific and certainly don't fall into the category of voracious, but I keep track of what I read, so I can tell you that I managed to get through 19 books in the the 12 months starting July 2016. So how'd I do it? Well I thought I'd share a few tips.

Make it a habit

First of all, you need to commit to reading regularly, ideally every day. That means you can take the 'little and often' approach, rather than saving up your reading for one of those rare holidays that pass too quickly and are consumed by other things.

You don't have to commit to an hour a day or a certain page count, just make sure you carve out some time to read a few pages. The reason is that small bites add up.

Small bites add up

Of the books I read, seven were written-word, i.e. paperback, hardcover or ebooks. Rarely do I sit down and dedicate a few hours to reading, or read entire books on holiday. I generally read for 15-20 minutes each day before I go to sleep.

I keep a book on the nightstand and head to bed a little earlier. Once I've got myself sorted I use whatever time is left to read what I can. That may be a couple of chapters, it may only be a few pages.

It doesn't sound like much, but it adds up over the course of a year and allows me to get through a surprising number of titles. Look at it this way, the average paperback novel is around 300 pages. If you can manage 10 pages a night you're looking at a book a month.

Audiobooks

The remainder of the books I 'read' were audiobooks. They are the secret weapon for anyone looking to squeeze extra books into their schedule. We seem to associate them with kids and those with failing eyesight, but audiobooks are enjoying something of a renaissance.

A lot of titles, and seemingly all bestsellers, are available from a number of sources. You can even get free copies of the classics read by volunteers from places like LibriVox.

The benefit of an audiobook is you can listen while doing other things. The obvious one is while commuting, although I found it hard to do so in a car -- partly because of road noise, but also because you sometimes need all your attention on the road. Obviously if you're on public transport it's much easier.

I don't have a long commute, but with a set of headphones I can listen while preparing dinner and doing other chores around the house (cleaning, hanging out washing, ironing, etc). Switch your workout music for a book, listen in the shower, or relax in the bath with one. It's a very versatile medium.

Don't forget your local library either. They don't just offer books on CD anymore. Most have teamed up with online services to allow you to rent them through an app, all for free (in the UK at least).

Fill dead space

The other way to consume more is to use the time you don't consider for reading. Books are pretty portable, but few of us have one on us all the time. What do you have on you all the time? I'm betting you have a smartphone about your person.

There are a range of ebook apps from retailers (and others) that allow you to carry an entire library with zero extra weight. Next time you find yourself sat in a waiting room, or 'early' for a meeting, or providing a taxi service for your dependents, whip out your phone and see what you can get through.

I managed an entire article (I send long pieces from websites to the Kindle app) while standing in a queue recently.

Sacrifice something

Books had it easy for a long time, with few other mediums to challenge them, at least on a regular basis. These days we have 24-hour TV, hundreds of channels, video games, live sports, countless streaming options and instant access to pretty much all of it.

That makes it easy to ignore books, because we feel it's more immersive to lose ourselves in a video game, or that we're too tired and we'll just veg out in front of the TV, again.

Switch any of them off for a while and you'll have a lot more time to read. Watch less TV, don't try to binge the latest series, opt for the highlights show instead of live sports. Do that and you open up a lot more time.

You can read more

So there are a few ideas to help you find time to read more. For most people it isn't that they don't have time to read, it's a mental barrier that prevents them picking up a book. They think it involves getting into a special state of mind or involves some sort of ceremony, when all it takes it to open a book, wherever you are and no matter how small the slice of time you have. Do that and you'll soon boost your reading.

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