I write a weekly newsletter that comes out every Friday morning called Books & Biceps and usually three out of four weeks during the month I recommend a book. Regular readers know I have a job, I write two books a year, I have two kids, I coach, I have a dog, I meathead out at 5AM in my garage gym every morning…basically, I’m as busy as your average dude these days.
Since the newsletter grows at a decent clip week-to-week, I’d say once a month I get an e-mail from a new reader asking how I find time to finish so many books (FYI: I know people who read twice as much – it’s all relative).
I always respond with a couple easy tips, but I’ve never compiled them into one post, so here goes:
Tip #1: I don’t speed read.
I’ve tried it. I even took a course and it helped a little, but whenever I consciously try to read faster, I don’t remember squat. I also always feel like I’m rushing and it’s not relaxing and I never really allow myself to enjoy the writing. It’s like I’m in a race with some phantom reader out there who is going to beat me and I hate the feeling. I read at my own pace and that’s that.
Tip #2: If I’m not enjoying a book after about 25-50 pages I bail.
Life’s too short to read a crappy book. I like to believe that over my career of reading I’ve developed a nice pipeline for picking my next books that probably has a 95% success rate. What is it? Just some combination of writers I’ve enjoyed over the years, authors I hear on various podcasts, topics I’ve wanted to read about, certain people I trust who mention books on their platform, recommendations from friends… Nothing scientific. But I keep an Evernote file of books I want to read and when I’m almost done with one I get another. The larger point is, you’ll read more if you enjoy what you’re reading, so don’t just grab any book and don’t force your way through it if you don’t like it.
Tip #3: I stopped reading on a tablet (I had the world’s first Nook).
Like most of you, I spend a lot of time during the day on a laptop and intermittently on my phone for various things. Even the best tablets that mimic paper still annoyed me so about four years ago I returned to hard copy books and I’ve never looked back and I’ve never been happier. I’m not a scientist, but I’m confident that excessive screen time jacks up your eyes, your ability to concentrate and your ability to retain information. Also, reading on a screen is just not as satisfying or as enjoyable as turning pages and finishing an actual book. I like the tactile experience.
Tip #4: I read more than one book at a time.
I typically have two books going. One book at home that I read in the house and another that I keep in my car to read at lunch or getting an oil change or whenever I’m killing time. I might pick it up three or four times a week. I might go a week without looking at it… But typically by keeping a book in my car and in my bag I’ll finish an extra book every month or so. That’s 10-12 extra books a year.
Tip #5: Read before bed every night – but NOT in bed.
Turn off the TV. Get off your phone. And don’t lie in bed and try to read. Grab your book and sit down in an actual chair with a reading light or low level light and start churning through pages. There are about a zillion studies showing the relation between blue lights and screen time in the bedroom negatively affecting the quality and duration of sleep…and just as many showing the positive effects of reading before bed, in a quiet room, and only getting into bed to sleep when it’s pitch black and you’re tired. Trust me. It works like a charm. Whether you have a bedside easy chair or you sit on your couch in your family room, tonight, go read in another room for 20-25 minutes before bed, then when you get sleepy, hit the sack in the dark. It flat out works. And if you read about one page per minute, you can read a 250-page book every two weeks. Voila!
Tip #6: Binge read a few times a week.
Once or twice a week I try to block out an hour during the early evening or on the weekend to lose myself in whatever book I’m reading. Sometimes it’s a lazy Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon or maybe it’s an hour after the kids have done their homework on a weeknight and everyone is watching their favorite shows… But a few times a week I’ll make a concerted effort to carve out a large swath of time to just…read. Crazy, I know.
And that’s it.
No tricks. No gimmicks. No BS strategies about 5-minute reading windows or syncing an audio book with hard copy books or reading while you eat or while you brush your teeth or whatever other reading hack some guru is trying to sell you. Nothing but some good, old-fashioned quality time with you and a book you’re enjoying. The rest will take care of itself.
If you’re looking for regular book recommendations, then you should definitely sign up for the FF5 or at least check out my annual “ Most Memorable reading lists” I compile at the end of each year. You can visit my lists from: 2019, 2018 and 2017.
And if you enjoyed this article, perhaps you’d like to check out one of the books I’ve written HERE.