In this advanced age of information technology where information and knowledge have become a commodity and made available just at the touch of our fingertips, one thing has not changed and will never change, that is time. We all still have the same 24 hours that our predecessors had from time immemorial.
But with this technological boon, comes also a precautionary tale. Distractions come screaming at us from every direction, demanding our time, our attention, and our commitment. “Where did my time go?” we ask quizzically.
Time management becomes pivotal. Can we get more out of our 24 hours? One area that has borne the brunt of technological advancement is reading. Many aspire to read more but struggle to do just that. The oft-quoted excuse is “I have no time”.
Reading has always been a commendable ability and a wise investment of time. It has and still is the mainstay of knowledge acquisition. So how do we read more? Alas, we see the saving grace of technology.
The concept and task of reading have changed in recent years with the advent of e-readers, reading apps, and audiobooks. In this article, we will be looking at 4 ways that will help you read more.
Listening to an audiobook may not give you the same feel as ‘reading’ a book, but it gets the job done. The only thing missing is the absence of the touch and feel of a physical book and at times the musty smell of old books that can take a bibliophilic to intoxicating heights even before the book is devoured. If you are willing to forgo those benefits, then audiobooks is a go-to for you.
The creation of audiobooks is nothing short of a technological miracle. Reading a book has never been easier, becoming almost effortless. Heck, someone else is reading it for you! For those who are pressed for time and those who may be reluctant readers, audiobooks are an answer to prayer.
I have been a slow adopter of this form of technology, preferring the old-school style of having a real book in my hands. And even enjoying the brown stains that dot the pages of old books! I had many excuses that I soon realized were just that, excuses. It called for a mindset shift to tackle the resistance that I was putting up.
I had to humbly admit that there were limitations to this old-school style of reading. For instance, my eyes and hands had to be available all the time, making reading almost an exclusive task. That ruled out many things that I couldn’t do while reading. I couldn’t cook and read. I couldn’t drive and read. And the list goes on.
In Nir Eyal’s latest book called Indistractable, he introduces the concept of “multichannel multitasking”. Multichannel multitasking” happens when you pair a focused task with an automatic task. For instance, I could pair reading with running on a treadmill or I could pair reading with some mundane household task like ironing the week’s laundry. This becomes a win-win situation – I gain the benefits of reading while achieving my other non-urgent, but important daily goals, like exercise. Use technology to your advantage.
The new year always begins with a bang. For most of us, it would be a good time to reflect, recalibrate and restart. Most of us would set resolutions and for those who are more realistic, we would reduce that to just one. Besides having fewer goals, I have also learned to set shorter-term goals.
So how can this help us read more? Let me explain. I used to have a specific target of reading x number of books each year. But a year can be a long time and the end can be elusive. I have learned to scale down the year to months and weeks and even days now, breaking it down into chunks that are easier to work with. The rewards are also more instantaneous, many times giving me a dopamine boost.
My daily goal includes reading in 20 min sprints and reading 3 chapters each day. In our home environment, this has worked to not just my advantage but for the family. The kids and I sit down (or lie down) to read in 20 min slots after breakfast and lunch. This has become our dedicated reading time. So that works out to at least 40 mins each day. That’s not bad at all!
So the goal is no longer to read x number of books each year, the goal post has been brought closer and it is simply to read 3 chapters daily. These become small wins that we enjoy daily. Remember that sprints can lead you to achieve the marathons in your life.
This one may be hard to do, but it’s ok to quit reading a book! Has anyone told you that? You don’t have to finish every book that you pick up. Many of us have been duped into thinking that we have to finish what we start. I mean, who wants to be a quitter right?
This was another area of a mindset shift that I had to tackle to move forward. I grew up with the idea that I just had to finish whatever I started even though it was grueling, painful, and totally unenjoyable. I ended up disliking the book and at times, sadly, disliking reading. That was until I found the next book to enjoy.
Everyone wants to be happy, I mean who doesn’t. I came to the simple realization that reading should be a happy process. If a book doesn’t make me happy, then I’m going to find one that does. It wasn’t easy when I started down this path. I doubted myself, “What if you missed reading this great book, and you never gave it a chance and you closed it too soon?” I don’t guilt-trip myself anymore. I have come to respect my judgments and that has helped, not just in closing a book ‘prematurely’ but also to lead me deeper in my interests.
Who thought of reading books on nature, how to teach a class and how to be a better mom? But that’s exactly where my interests have led me. Who says that history books should only be read to pass school exams? So, let your interests guide you. Curate your reading list. Let one book open you to a labyrinth of others. Be ok to close a door (or should I say a book) so that a new one can open. It’s really OK to quit sometimes.
For those of you who might struggle with ‘quitting’ on a book and need a challenge, I would like to suggest that you introduce a new genre to yourself. Poetry, anyone? Now that could be a challenge worth taking up.
Finally, always have a book on hand. Much time is lost in the liminal moments of our lives, the time in-between activities. Like when I’m waiting to pick my son up before I send him for his soccer class, like when I’m waiting for my UBER ride to pick me up, or when I’m waiting for my number to be called at the bank. In these waiting moments, we just wait. Most of us whip out our devices to ‘kill time’. And that is quite unfortunate. But with a bit of planning, we could benefit from these moments.
I have found that having a book in my bag has been really handy in these situations. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through my phone, and checking my WhatsApp messages for the 20th time in 5 minutes, and pulling down the refresh button for the 16th time in 3 minutes, I’m doing something useful. And you can do this not just with your physical book but with your e-reader like Kindle, too. You could also download reading apps like Apple Books, Google Books, or Nook. You could just as well do this with your audiobooks. Just remember to bring your earphones along with you.
And if you are going for a long or even a short weekend vacation, plan ahead and take a book with you. All it takes is some planning. Audiobooks have also worked for my family on long car rides. It has helped to keep the noise level down while also keeping the kids engaged in a subdued way. So, time is not lost and reading is not a lost art. All it takes is a little planning and investment to recapture the wonder and magic of reading.
Still need inspiration? Check out Coach George Ravelings “Book Shelf” at http://coachgeorgeraveling.com/books/ and how he reads 7 books a month at age 82!
Happy reading in 2022!
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