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  • Dr. Strat Poulson

My Top 10 Tips for Creating a Workable Reading Habit:

  • Average reading speed is 200-250 words per minute.

  • The average book is around 80,000 words.

  • This will take the average reader around 6 hours of uninterrupted reading time to finish a book.


If you spend 1 hour per day reading, giving yourself the weekend off (5 days a week) You could get through around 3 books per month for a total of 36 books in a year!

If you read any faster than 250 words per minute, enjoy it so much that you read for more than an hour a day, or have such a great time that you read on the weekends, that could be even more books per year!

So let’s talk about my top 10 tips for creating a workable reading habit.


1: Schedule time for reading.

It may sound silly, but when’s the last time you accidentally sat down to finish a paper for school? Happened to get around to an important email, or accidentally remembered to drop off your car for an oil change?

Most important things in life take time, and for the vast majority of us, that means we’ll have to schedule that time in our busy lives.

You may have a pile of dishes that will be washed “when I have the time” or a creaky door hinge that “I’ll fix sometime this week when I get a chance” but I can guarantee you are never going to accidentally read a book.

Scheduling a set time each day, or each week for uninterrupted reading builds a habit that will allow you to make space in your busy life for the reading you so desperately want to do.


2: Set an alarm to start, and a timer to track your progress

In the beginning actually stopping what you’re doing to sit down and read can be hard, and you can feel like it’s robbing you of your other obligations or free time, but setting an alarm helps you to stick to your schedule.

Setting a timer while I’m reading helps me stay on track.

In the beginning I would find myself distracted or reaching for my phone every 5 minutes. It was so bad that after 2 - 2 1/2 hours I would have done maybe 20 minutes of actual reading.

Setting a timer allows me to pause the timer when I get distracted or have to answer a very important text or let the dogs out, that way I know when I restart the timer, when it runs out, I have actually done an hour of real reading.


3: Eliminate distractions

When you’re starting a reading or studying habit your brain is like a bored 2 year old. If you have even the faintest glimpse of something shiny, a toy or some food, that’s a wrap on reading.

For me, the faintest buzz from my phone on my desk, or a ding from an email notification on my laptop is all it would take to completely derail me.

To fight back against this, I set my phone on do not disturb or airplane mode, and I make sure all notification devices are off or muted.

The world will survive 1 hour without you.


4: Set the scene

Some soft music and appropriate lighting will make your reading experience more pleasant, I personally prefer lofi hip hop music with no words because words are distracting for me.

In addition to the soft music, I like to set my desk up the same way with my same reading lamps each time. The ritual of starting the music, turning on my lamps and turning off my devices helps me ease into my reading time and creates a stronger habit when reinforced with proper atmosphere.


5: Allow thinking, questioning, and interaction with the text

You get more out of reading if you look for key concepts and highlight things that jump out at you, use a pen to take notes in the margins (if you’re a heathen like me) or on a side paper to keep with the book when you finish it. Allow yourself internet access to look up words you don’t know or quickly research a topic before diving back in. As long as you don’t cave and go onto social media or get distracted you don’t have to pause your reading timer.

Engaging with the text in a manner that poses questions for yourself makes you understand the material at a deeper level. Your highlights will be there for you every time you thumb through that book again and serve as a cliff notes at a glance. Your writing about the topic solidifies the concepts in your mind and is also there for you, folded up in your book to reread later and remember things you took from the text and what it meant to you.


7: Mix it up

Choose a variety of books, a good mix of books you know you “should” read like text books and professional development books or self help can really be broken up well by books you “want” to read like fiction or history or more leisurely titles. If you don’t enjoy reading your books, you’ll never stick to the habit and distractions will be more potent than ever before. I personally like to read more technical books like musculoskeletal medicine related information in person where my attention and focus can be spent entirely on the technical work. I enjoy listening to self help, fiction, or business books on audiobook while I drive to and from the clinic or take walks around the park. This little tip, mixing an hour of audiobook with an hour of in person reading each day can double your reading accomplished in a year!


8: Give yourself permission to abandon a book you don’t like

Just because you chose a book, started a book, or got halfway through a book doesn’t mean you have to finish it. If you’re falling asleep in a particularly boring text, or you just don’t enjoy it the way you thought that you would, you don’t have to finish it! There’s no Medal of Honor for slogging through books you hate, so keep your habit fun for yourself by policing what books you finish and what books you let go their separate ways.


9: Start small

Just like going to the gym or eating better, you don’t have to go full atomic mode right from the start.

If all you can carve out is 20 minutes a day, that’s a great starting point, it’s the consistency of the habit that makes the impact over time, not a single session of reading.

You’re not going to get fit going to the gym once a week here and there, and you’re not going to build a healthy diet having a salad occasionally. It’s sticking to it and making incremental small changes that helps you get to where you want to be a year down the road.


10: Stick to it

You may not be stoked about your third serving of grilled chicken and rice this week, and you might want to sit at home and watch Netflix instead of going to the gym after a hard days work. But motivation is a fickle thing and I often feel better after going to the gym, even if I had to drag myself kicking and screaming the whole way.

Similarly reading is not always going to be the crown jewel of your day, but, I often feel much better about myself and more accomplished once my hour of reading is finished.

After a few weeks of deliberate practice it won’t even feel like a chore to you anymore, heck, you might even enjoy it.


So, if you stuck around this long, those were my top 10 tips for increasing your reading and starting workable reading habit today.

Let me know how these work for you or if you have anything that you like to do when it comes to your reading rituals in the comments below!

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