What an improved reading routine has taught me

Picture by Thais Souza — this is in my morning routine recently reading Glennon Doyle's UNTAMED while drinking a coffee.

I ended 2020 with a promise of reading more in the following year and truth is that, even though I was trying with the best of my intentions, I was not getting it through.

Reading more is probably the most selected resolution of all times. I can't even count how many people I know that made this promise at the end of each year to themselves and end up not living up to it.

I used to be one of them. At the end of every year, I used to promise myself to start reading more in the following year and, then what?

I just simply couldn't keep it up after one or two months and by the end of the year I was feeling bad for not fulfilling my promise.

With that, the feeling of demotivation came and I would see all these people reading like they were naturals and would feel somehow like I was a big failure.

I wanted to read more, I was engaged in doing so, I felt the willpower to do so, and I wondered, why then I can't finish the year reading more than the year before?

At the end of 2020, it was no different, I made the promise to myself to read more. However, 2021 was not only a promise and now at the end of the year, I managed to even read more than one book per month!

There is no big secret but I found some important elements that made reading possible for me and here are a few lessons I could take after having done this for the past 12 months.

Finding your own reading routine

Maybe this is not new for you, right? Personally, I found that I was trying to fit reading into a routine that was not built for me.

Once I realized and changed that, reading became an easier habit for me. And really, a healthy and stable habit. What worked for me was to fit reading into where it made sense with my agenda and timings I'm more "awake".

Reading should not be a goal, but the journey

Starting to read more made me realize that actually the goal was not to read for the sake of reading, but rather to enjoy the journey of this accomplishment and the benefits to my life.

What do I mean with that? At the start of the year I have made a list of books I wanted to read throughout the year and I actually wrote the list down on my diary — that helped me to stick to it and to have something to come back to.

After the list was completed, I made a commitment to myself not to be stuck with this list only.

As the year goes by, you start to learn more and find more of what you like, so, there will likely be changes to your list — maybe some additions and some books you'll drop it. Just remember, it's ok!

Finding balance is important

The list I made included fiction books as well as topics that would help me improve in my personal and professional development. Having a mixed approach helped me not to get bored with the same type of reading.

I defined that every month I would switch the topic, unless some urgent needs would pop up. This basically meant that I would read a non fiction book every other month, inserting a fictional book in the months in between.

Of course, I didn't stick to it word by word, I did allow myself to read two fiction books in a row, and it's perfectly fine. Again, remember, your reading habits, your rules!

It's ok to drop

From the list I did, there were many suggested books that I wanted to read because it was super well recommended by great sources. I did put them on my list and I was enhancing it as new ones came out.

Some books also made my list because I liked the reviews on sites like Good Read or amazon, for example, or just simply reading through their descriptions. However, it did happen to me as well, a couple of times this year, that the book I was engaged with reading was just not for me.

I was simply not in the mood for reading that specific story or the topic was not engaging as I thought it would be. I don't mean to say "drop it after page 2", I did try to make it through, but I when I saw it was just not clicking, I was not afraid to drop it and move on to the next book.

It was a good thing to have the list, it kept me on track with the books I was reading and the ones I could move into next without having to do a full search on new books to start — I personally hate last minute changes and I find they often take me off track… so my list was my system to keep me moving.

Do it when and how works for you

As mentioned earlier, in the quest of increasing the number of books I read, I started to try many tricks that could help me in this.

I found that in order for this to work, for you to read more books than you used to, you need to find WHEN and how it works for you. For me, specifically, I like to read in the morning — I'm terrible with reading before bed! — and also switching from e-reader to a physical book.

This dynamic makes me feel more in control of the subjects and brings me options. It also helped to learn more about myself.

I understood when it would be best for me to read — in my case right after breakfast — and how I could make the best out of my reading habit, some topics like fiction books I tend to prefer in the electronic format and non fiction more in physical books.

Discover — and be opened — to different formats.

Another important discovery for me in 2021 was the power of audio books. I was always a bit skeptical with regards to audio books, somehow I used to think that they would be superficial and that I would not get the most out of it.

Once I gave it a new chance, with an open mind for this, I could see the benefit. Being opened to it combined with the selection of titles that would work best for me — like specially fiction books are good for it — was a good starting point.

When I included that into a normal routine in my day — like taking the dog for a walk everyday — was a total perfect match. That helped to get more books crossed from the list, gave me inspiration when going for walks in the cold and motivated me to continue, I could read a physical book and listen to an audio book in the same month.

Share as much as you can

Probably you have heard about it as well. There is a large body of research on the ways that you can be motivated to learn more as an adult and one of the most popular ideas is to share what you are doing, your objectives with someone — could be a friend, a colleague from work, your partner — doesn't matter, it's proven that sharing helps to increase our commitment.

I find that to be true also with reading. When I started sharing my reading, the books and the experience I was having, that was not only encouraging to others, but specially to myself.

Having feedbacks like "I started to read this book because of you" or "I would love to read this one after I read what you shared" made me want to share more! Give a try and see the impacts for yourself.

These are just some of the learnings I could take by having an improved reading routine for 12 months. The only way I could do it was by trying, was only after several attempts, some successes and a few failures that I found what routine works for me, which types of books are of my interest and which formats helps to get the most out of it.

Don't take my suggestions here as a set in stone process, what works for me may work for you, or not. It's ok, the beauty is in the trying and discovering it! I hope this serves as an inspiration for you to read more.

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