- Keep a distractions list. Whether internal or external, it’s hard to prevent distractions and interruptions from coming up when you’re in the middle of something. That’s why I keep a notepad next to me during my reading ritual. When distractions come up—whether I remember something I have to do, a brilliant idea strikes me, or my phone rings in the other room—I simply make a note of it so I can continue reading and deal with it later on. This lets me immediately quit worrying because I know I’ll deal with it after. Over time, this has let me dive deeper and deeper into the book in front of me.
- Totally disconnect. Because I’m a weirdo, I like to track how many pages I read every day. I find I invariably read more, and enjoy what I’m reading more, when I totally unplug before I jump into a good book. Instead of spreading my attention in a thousand directions, I channel it in one and enjoy myself so much more.
- Remember: you have more time than you think. No matter how busy you feel, chances are you have more time than you think. Life has a tendency to expand to fit how much time we have available for it—that’s why that curious phenomenon exists where, no matter how busy you are, as soon as the new season of House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black drops, you miraculously find time to watch the entire season in just a few days. You have the time—you probably just spend it on other things.
- Make it a habit. Forming new habits is my favorite way to level up to become more productive automatically. When you read each day at the same time and place, you ritualize the practice and over time you’ll automatically level up to enjoy your day that much more.
- Shrink your resistance. I love to read—next to butter chicken, reading is one of my favorite things. But sometimes, for whatever reason, my mind resists the ritual—especially when I find myself reading something tedious, like a book that’s dry and academic. When my mind resists a book (and I want to keep reading it), I simply shrink the amount of time I spend reading until I no longer feel that resistance. For example: “Do I want to read for 60 minutes today? Naw, the thought of it puts me off. 45 minutes? Better, but still…Okay, 30 minutes? Sure—I’ll read for 30 minutes!” Chances are, once you reach that initial limit you’ll want to keep going anyway. This same tactic also works wonders for other habits, like working out or meditating.
1. Always read with a pen in your hand. This has become my favorite way to process books deeper. While reading a book, I underline what will be most valuable to revisit later on, and whenever I’m finished with a book, I go back and read everything that’s underlined. Re-reading everything that’s underlined takes just a few minutes to do when you’re finished, but this simple habit will let you re-process the most valuable nuggets from the books you read. I do this for nonfiction books, too, and underline my favorite sentences so I can become a better writer. Never read a book—fiction or nonfiction—without a pen in hand. (If you like to capture thoughts as you read, it’s worth also revisiting the notes and thoughts you scribble in the margins when you’re finished.)
2. Borrow reading time from something less important. Reading for two or three hours a day is quite a bit of time. But it’s actually pretty easy to borrow that time from something else less important. For example, the average American spends five hours watching TV every day. If you’re average, and you cut your TV time down to just two hours—a much more reasonable amount of time—you free up quite a bit of time for books, and other things that are more productive and meaningful.
3. Capture book notes on index cards. I don’t personally do this, but many of my smartest friends do, so I probably should. When reading books, capture the most valuable nuggets you process from each book on a set of index cards, as you’re reading. This will also let you process what you’re reading deeper, and revisit a short summary of each book later on. The cards serve as a great reference if you’re looking to revisit what you learned from each book afterward, too.
4. Keep a notepad nearby. When you sit down to read a book with few distractions nearby, an incredible number of valuable thoughts will bubble in your head—both related to what you’re reading, and totally unrelated. I find that this is especially the case with fictional books, which stimulate a different part of your brain than nonfiction books. Keep a notepad handy to capture any thoughts, ideas, or distractions that bubble up to the surface of your mind so you can get back to reading, undistracted, and act on the ideas later.
5. Leave potential distractions in another room. Not all distractions are possible to deal with ahead of time—some interruptions, for example, have mouths and can’t be ignored, unlike your smartphone. But whenever possible, it’s worth leaving potential interruptions and distractions in another room when you sit down to read. This allows you to process a book deeper, because you don’t spread your attention out across so many different things, and lets you read faster, because you’re able to become immersed in what you’re reading that much easier.
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