Buying a book is the best investment you can make. I have built two businesses because of the inspiration I got from books. I have grown in several areas of my life just from nuggets I get from the pages of some of the most amazing books out there. Therefore, creating a habit of reading in your life is one of the most important things you can do. This is why Walt Disney said:
“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
However, reading is usually not a habit that is found in the average American nowadays. For we have been conditioned to learn more from movies, T.V. shows, music, and pretty much anything that can think on our behalf, and at the same time be entertaining.
Yet reading still remains the number one method to learn something, and increase your capacity to think, be creative, and overall lead your life to success. With a little bit of intentionality, and desire, I believe that anyone can create a habit of reading books.
How to build a habit in 4 steps
Before I move onto some of the practical things you can do to foster a habit of reading in your life, I want to first briefly give an overview of the steps required to create a habit of reading. I believe that understanding this is the key for successfully creating an actual habit.
These 4 steps are taken from the amazing and useful book by James Clear, called Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. In my opinion, this is the best book on anything related to creating good habits.
Here are the 4 steps that will help you create good habits, and bad ones too!
1. Cue – Make it obvious
2. Craving – Make it attractive
3. Response – Make it easy
4. Reward – Make it satisfying
Habits are effortless when you hit all these 4 laws or steps. As you try to create a better habit of reading, keep these 4 laws in mind. The list below are some practical ways that have helped me personally with creating this habit. I will also place them under one of the 4 laws aforementioned so that you can see how they fit into the framework for creating habits.
Here are the first 5 things you can do to create a habit of reading:
Cue – Make it obvious
1. Set a specific time ahead
You have to be intentional with your time. While this is not a post about time management, what is important to note here is that, when you schedule something – and you discipline yourself to always stay in course with your schedule, you will make your reading time obvious.
The image above is my personal schedule entry for this item. Notice the highlighted fields. When I schedule my personal reading time, I make sure that I tell it a time, and a location. I also make sure that the entry is on repeat every day, and to show me as busy.
By scheduling your reading time, you will know ahead of time that you are going to read. It’s like if you are telling yourself that you will have a meeting with a book. In fact, that is indeed how it should be. Schedule a meeting with your book.
Craving – Make it attractive
2. Read what you can & enjoy
There are two things here:
Read what you can
This is very important, especially if you are just starting.
Read what you can. Don’t try to pick up Shakespeare, or Don Quixote, or some really difficult book just because everyone says that you have to read it – because it’s life changing or something.
While that may be true, if you are just starting to get into the rhythm of reading, you may want to start slow. Unfortunately, this happened to me and I realized that the books I was trying to read were too difficult to me.
In fact, here is a little bit about me — I was not born in the U.S.A, and English was not my first language. Not only that, but I also grew up having never read a single book! When I moved to the United States, I was 17 years old. I remember going to the Library in High School, and taking a reading test. The results showed a yellow color which meant that I could only checkout books with a yellow sticker on them.
That yellow color was an indication of my reading level. As a 17 yr. old in High School, I was only able to checkout 3rd. grade level books like Dr. Seuss and even here, I would not be able to finish a single book of his.
I started reading several years later but that experience in High School was a turning point in my life. So I learned to read easier, longer, and eventually I read great books! I fostered the discipline to stick to a schedule (coming up on point #4), and soon after, I was averaging 30 books a year.
Here are some suggestions for easier reads if you are interested:
One more thing you can do is to try an Audio Book. Having someone read the book for you, especially if you drive a lot, is such a blessing! But you know what is even better? What if you could have someone read you the book and you can follow along? 😮
So, to summarize all this, just start with reading what you can.
Read what you enjoy
Now let me be the first one to tell you what to read – I have so many recommendations. You may be interested in a specific subject that you want to learn about, but you just can’t enjoy reading about it, at least not yet. It’s not true that you have to sacrifice your eyes, mental strength and life just to stick through one of those books.
There is a particular subject that I am really interested in, but I just cannot read that subject right now. For some reason, and in all honesty, I just don’t enjoy reading them. That subject is Sociology. But I hope that I can get there, as I continue to read and create a habit of reading, my reading capabilities will be stronger and stronger and I will eventually be able to read subjects I could not have read before, like Sociology.
I know this to be true because the same happened to me not that long ago with another particular subject, Apologetics. I was very interested in learning this subject a few years ago, I read 1 chapter of a book, and didn’t enjoy it. I dropped it, and moved on. However, while using these 5 methods, as well as a few others (look out for part 2 of how to create good reading habit) I am happy to announce that just last year I have read at least 7 books on the subject!
What I am trying to say is: just find something that you enjoy reading. Something that is interesting to YOU! As you continue to read, your mental and reading muscles will get stronger and you will eventually be able to handle any topic out there.
When you read what you can, you will find it easy to read.
When you read what you enjoy, you will find it pleasurable and enriching.
In either way, the point is to have fun reading, and that requires, at least in part that your reading is easy and pleasurable.
Response – Make it easy
3. Create a wishlist
Creating a habit of reading will also require to make it easy to read. I already mentioned, that you can start by reading something that you can. But there are other practical things you can do, like making sure you have a wishlist, and sticking to it.
This is something very simple, yet very powerful.
Another thing you can do to create a habit of reading in your life is to make a suggested reading list. For example, as you are reading a particular book, there are usually other books mentioned that you may be interested in reading. Some of those books are found as part of the main content, others are mentioned as footnotes, bibliography, etc. If you are reading something that is really interesting to you, I highly suggest that you also read what the author themselves read — simply add that book to your suggested reading list or “wishlist” and when you are done with the book you are currently reading, you already have your next book in line.
This way, you also don’t waste time trying to find something else to read lest you get derailed and stop reading all together.
In my opinion, the best place to create a wishlist is Amazon. But you can use whatever you want. Notion, Evernote, a Post-it Note, etc. As long as you have one, it doesn’t matter. It would be helpful to note which books from your list are in stock so that you can purchase the book right away. That way by the time you are done with your current book, the other one is already on its way.
4. Create a Reading Schedule
This is different than scheduling time to read (point #1). When you schedule time to read, you are basically adding to your calendar the time and place where you will be reading. Having an actual Reading Schedule, is on a per book basis, and is viewing your book from 1000 feet above. The Reading Schedule will tell you when to begin reading and when you will be done reading the book. Stick to the schedule and you will be on your way to not only finishing the book, but creating the habit along the way.
This was a life changer for me. I do this for pretty much all my books.
I am now going to share with you all exactly what I do. When I’m going to start reading a book, I start by adding the book information to my Book Database — I personally use Notion. Here is an article I wrote about how I use this app.
Once the book is added to my database, I create the schedule. Here is what it looks like:
Every field in the schedule is important and useful. I highly recommend this system. Here is how this system helps me:
- It keeps me accountable
- When the book information goes into my database, something registers in my mind that tells me that now I am accountable to read it since not only is the book in the database Column of “In Progress” —I don’t like to see things in “Progress”, I like to see them “Completed”— but there is also a schedule with an actual end-date waiting for me.
- It keeps me focused
- Because there is an actual schedule with a number of pages to read, it helps me stay focused on just reading what is required to complete the reading for that day.
- It keeps me organized
- Organization is important to make things easy, and once again, making it easy is one of the 4 laws of creating a habit. Over-organization can actually make things harder too, so you need to do what you feel is best for you. For me, this system has been a blessing.
- It motivates me every-time I check the “completed” checkbox
- Having an “achiever” personality, it feeds my ego every time I click on that “completed” checkbox. Quite simply, It motivates me for the next day.
- It allows me to see how long it will take me to read a book
- Because I scheduled the entire book ahead of time, I can see when I am going to finish reading it. So it gives me time to stay true to my previous point about creating a wishlist — as I am approaching the last days of reading the book, the schedule allows me to see when I will finish it, and usually about 4 days before I will be finishing the book, I order the next one off my Amazon wishlist. This way, the new book arrives by the time I am finishing off the current book.
To make it even easier for you, I have created a template of my Reading Schedule. I made it even easier by providing you with three different versions of this template; Notion, Evernote, and PDF.
To get these templates for free simply fill the information below and you will receive an email with them.
Signup and instantly receive a Reading Schedule template 👇
Reward – Make it satisfying
5. Invest in Tools that Encourage Reading
The last point is to make sure it’s satisfying. And this can be several things, like rewarding yourself with your favorite food, or going out with friends, etc. Whatever you usually don’t do that you would only do if you wanted to reward yourself.
Personally, I try to make this step intentional. I reward myself by purchasing gadgets or things that will encourage me to read more.
Here are a few things that I have purchased myself that have encouraged me to continue reading, and at the same time motivate me to continue reading using these tools.
This one here took me about 2 years to get. I could have gotten it some time ago, but I hesitated mainly because I enjoy reading from physical books themselves. However, I found that reading off of an actual book reader (not an iPad, or phone) was not that bad, and in fact was very practical. Now, I really enjoy it and at times I don’t even notice that I am reading off a piece of technology and not an actual physical book.
Therefore, the convenience of having this tool has been so rewarding to me.
First, highlighting and note taking is on another level. Because highlighting in a digital form rather than a physical one allows you to move those highlights even faster, it allows me to export those highlights, and then put them in my Notes & Highlights Database directly.
Also, the fact that I can take a full library anywhere. This is a big blessing.
This is a good one. Especially if you read non-fiction and you do a lot of notes and highlights.
Here’s what I used to do before I had this tool: whenever I read something I liked I would highlight it. Then I specifically would make a note of why that passage triggered me to highlight it. After that, I would add a note of tags or topics that that highlight touched on (i.e. Leadership, Generosity, History, Pain, Suffering, etc). So then after a few days, or sometimes a few weeks, I would re-visit that book and would transfer every highlight and notes to my Book Notes Database. I would literally type every single highlight! (or should I say, I used to?…)
It wasn’t until I discovered this amazing, time saving, and practical little tool. It basically allows you to scan the passages you want to “highlight.” It’s better if I show you what I mean:
Yep. You can thank me later for that.
This is a simple one, but I wanted to add this tool here because I wanted to show you that your reward doesn’t have to be expensive. (Even a cool book mark, a reading light, a mug, etc. can be a reward!) Your reward could be something so simple but oh, so useful!
However you feel that you could make your reading experience rewarding, THAT is what matters. Keep in mind that was is celebrated is often repeated!
6. Know when to quit
I put this one as a bonus because I just could not leave it to the side, and I think it’s important.
When I first started reading aggressively, for some weird reason, I thought I had to actually read every single word from the book I was holding – Even those books that I did not enjoy.
Not only was I not enjoying the book, I was not having fun, and because I was not having fun, I would not pay attention, and then soon after, I would realize that I was half way through the book and I had no idea what I was reading the entire time (like some of you with this blog post.) I was wasting my time, and my focus. Overall, I was not benefiting from the book at all. Why put yourself through something like that?
It just doesn’t work.
I currently have a full column in my database of books I drop.
So, don’t feel like you have to read every book. This would defeat the second point I mentioned.
Once again, it’s important to foster a spirit of reading in your life. Here’s the importance; little by little your reading (and for that matter your writing) will get better and better, and sooner than later you will notice that you will be able to read even the books you dropped! – of course, that is if you still want to read them.
A habit worth fostering
To finish, I just want to encourage you to really give this a try. I hope that these few points may be of some help to you. If anything, I hope that it led to some new ideas of your own. The overlying fact here is that creating a habit of reading is what’s most important.
Whatever you do to start creating this habit, do it consistently, and with discipline. If you do this, you will be on your way to a better and more enriched life.