1) Set aside dedicated time
If you tell yourself you’re going to work out more every year, but you don’t plan it around your life, you probably won’t. Especially if you’re a busy person. Setting aside just 30 minutes a day to read will make a difference. Making time just after you wake up or just before you sleep is usually easiest to stick to, and allows you to both start and end your day away from technology. Reading before bed is even thought to improve stress levels and sleep quality.
2) Use Goodreads
Goodreads is a great way to keep track of what you’ve already read, what you’re currently reading (or have been trying to for six months). If you have friends who also use Goodreads, you can keep yourself accountable by challenging each other throughout the year, or even just find inspiration from their TBR if you share interests. It’s also a great way to snoop on the books your family and friends are interested in if you’re short on ideas for a Christmas and birthday presents. If none of your friends are on Goodreads, add me!
3) Set realistic goals
Don’t tell yourself you’re going to read 100 books if you know you don’t have the time, or you don’t want to read that much (and that’s fine!). If you tell yourself you’re going to read 20 books in 2021 and you read 30, you’ll feel accomplished. If you tell yourself you’re going to read 50 and you read 30 you’ll feel rubbish.
4) Read what you enjoy (mostly)
If you start reading something and you’re bored senseless, do not force yourself to read it for the sake of it. That said, you should still challenge yourself. If you are desperate to learn more about the colonial history of Tanzania, but the only book you own on the subject is 600 pages long, you should still read it. Don’t be afraid to read at your own pace or look up things you don’t understand.
5) Know when to take a break
Sometimes you want to take a nap or watch Netflix, and that’s OK. Not all leisure time has to be ‘productive’. You deserve to rest.
6) Use audiobooks (but only if you want to)
I was planning to launch into a fully-fledged apologia on the art of the audiobook, luckily for me Simon Evans already did that in The Spectator earlier this week. The problem is that Audiobooks can often be pricier than physical books. If you don’t feel like splashing out (or you can’t!), especially if you are not sure they’re for you, there are a few options. Librivox.org offers a range of free audiobooks in the public domain. Many Librivox recordings are uploaded to YouTube. Audible.com offers a one free purchase with its 30-day trial, and the Audible app now contains 1000s of titles ‘included’ in its membership fee.
You can also register with your local public library to borrow audiobooks virtually. This is currently a bit more difficult in the UK than in some other countries, as only 50 of our of 4.1 thousand public libraries are signed up to the “Overdrive” scheme.
N.B. Many audiobooks are performed at a speed that I personally find far too slow. Listen to your audiobooks on at least 1.5 X speed if you want to up the pace, and save time.
7) Take notes
If you read 10 books in a week, but you don’t remember anything you read, you might as well have not read them at all. Reading should be fun, but if you want to really absorb what you’re dedicating your time too, you need to be reading actively. You should be taking occasional notes, underlining things you like or dislike, and thinking about what the book means. When was it written? Why? My favourite thing is to record a voice note on my phone once I have finished a book, in which I consider what I learned and what questions I was left with.