If you’d like to know how to read more books, thought I’d share with you how I completed the book-a-week challenge last year.
Jim Rohn said, “when you learn more you earn more” and “work on yourself more than on your business”. Rohn has some incredibly successful students like entrepreneur and philanthropist Tony Robbins and Publisher of Success Magazine, Darren Hardy, so I figured he must be on to something. While the internet is a wonderfully rich resource at your fingertips, it’s also a minefield of distraction, so I set myself a target of reading 52 non-fiction books over 2016. Here’s how I managed to read 56 last year.
How to read more books
Know your end goal
This might seem like a dumb question, but what is reading? According to Tony Buzan, whose students include a six-time winner of the World Speed Reading Championships, reading comprises seven parts: recognition, assimilation, comprehension, understanding, retention, recall and communication. The end result is transformation. You read to get a result.
Having a clear goal was a bit of a light-bulb moment for me. Before, the end goal was finishing the book, but I realised I wanted to take away key applicable learnings. Well, d’uh! When I was clear on this, I didn’t feel guilty while skimming through repetitive stuff. There’s a tonne of repetition in non-fiction, mostly because publishers set word-count targets. I can’t tell you how many times books felt like they could have been written in a blog post. So, don’t feel bad if you find yourself skimming over stuff, you got the point, move on.
Have a game-plan
Just like any performance endeavor, you need game-plan. For reading, it’s simple: ask yourself, “what do I want to get out of this book?” Be clear about it and make sure to do this before you start reading. As you roar through the pages, those parts related to your objective will jump out allowing you to focus more attention on that content. Seek and you shall find.
Also, don’t be afraid of skimming through books. Too much repetition is one of the biggest complaints you’ll find in non-fiction book reviews yet publishers continue to demand minimum word counts for specific genres under the illusion that a book of a certain thickness is a greater perceived value to the reader. A lot of books in the non-fiction domain can be published in half the words so skim away!
Do you still sound-out words in your mind ?
Next, you’ll need to address how you read because chances are, your reading speed isn’t fast enough to achieve the results you want. When we’re taught to read, we are usually trained to sound out each letter or syllable. The vast majority of adults go through life with elementary reading habits like reading one word at a time or back-skipping. This approach is inefficient and unnecessary.
The need for speed
Often I’d read whole paragraphs not knowing what on earth I’d read. So I decided to learn how to speed-read. Within three weeks of reading Tony Buzan’s The Speed Reading Book, my reading speed accelerated from 250 words-per-minute (which is average) to 850 words-per-minute. As a result I devoured a 250-page non-fiction paperback in under five hours over a weekend.
Speed-reading technique teaches you to broaden your “visual-gulp”, using your peripheral vision to take in more words on a page at a time, enabling you to get the gist of what’s being said. It’s unnecessary to read each and every word an author writes.
Before you read each page, quickly skim down the entire page. Then, using a pencil or your finger as a guide, zig-zag down the page, letting your eyes take in more words at a time. Using a pointer helps you focus, capture the words around your pointer and accelerate your reading speed.
Carve out time
You have to schedule time to read daily otherwise other activities will take priority; this is especially important early on, as you’re developing the habit. Before setting my reading challenge, I was addicted to my phone, frequently reaching for it on commutes to and from meetings, thumbing through page upon page of social networking sites.
I diarise 45 minutes reading time every morning. I set a count-down timer and read with my coffee. It has become a delicious morning ritual that yields almost five hours of reading time a week. Assuming you achieve a reading speed of 500 words-per-minute, double the average, five hours a week is more than enough time to finish the average 80,000-word book every week.
Reach for your book instead of your phone
If you use public transportation, you can probably gain two or three hours a week of reading time during your commute. To eliminate the temptation to reach for my phone, I removed all social media apps. Instead, I now reach for my book or use the Kindle app on the phone. Soon enough, reading on journeys became a habit.
Invest in education, eliminate entertainment
Another major time sap is TV (or Youtube or Netflix or Amazon Prime). We waste so much time watching TV. According to this New York Times article, in the U.S.A. daily viewing per person in 2015 was 5.4 hours, and the U.K. it’s 3.6 hours a day, 2.6 hours in China. Social networking accounts for nearly 2.5 hours of daily online time as a global average. And reading time? The international average is a mere 24 minutes.
Stacks of research show TV does not give us the joy and satisfaction we think it does. But reading does. Take an audit of how much TV you watch and time spent social networking on a daily basis and halve it — in the UK that’s over twenty hours a week! Replace it with reading and you will more often than not get way more satisfaction.
Set yourself up for success
Keep your phone, Netflix remote, laptops, tablets and any other distraction devices in another room from the one you’re in. Keep your book nearby, lying on the table, within reach. Studies show, if you put a barrier in front of bad habits that take more than 20 seconds to get to it, increases your chances of letting it go. 20 seconds is enough time for your pre-frontal cortex, your rational brain, to take over and the hard thing.
How to read more books so you can grow your impact
To summarise, before you start each book, be clear about what you want to learn. Not only will you get more out of it, faster, you’ll also separate the wheat from the chaff. There were some books I picked up and tossed aside because they weren’t meeting my objectives. Instead of slowing myself down and reading a book I didn’t enjoy, I moved on to the next one.
Improve your reading technique to help you achieve your goal. You’ll be amazed how subtle tweaks, like using your finger and moving it along the page and forcing your eye to take in more, can improve your reading speed.
Eliminate barriers to your success and put barriers in front of the bad habits stopping you from reading. Above all, make time to read. To make it a habit, tie it in with a treat. For me it’s a cup of coffee. When you learn more, you can serve more and earn more, so reading a book a week is a worthy goal to achieve.