We’re all searching for ways to be above average performers. Good news, I’ve found a low bar for you–in the number of books your competition (fellow humans) read annually. Data from the Pew Research Center shows the average person reads only 4 books a year.
There’s a reason why–we’re busy. So, to turn a new page and turn more pages, you’ll need a good reason. Let’s turn to success magnate, Warren Buffett, for perspective. Of the topic Buffett said: “Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
Set aside the 500 pages thing (that’s a lot). I like Buffett’s analogy that a substantive quantity of reading builds our knowledge like compound interest.
Science is with him on this front, as two 2013 studies show. Researchers at Emory University found that reading a novel improves connectivity in the brain and brain function. Research from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center shows that regular reading slows the process of memory loss and keeps minds sharper, longer.
It’s not a stretch to imagine many positives from reading. The stretch comes in finding the time to do more of it. Here are seven ways how.
1. Read physical books.
I’m sure this all you e-readers are bristling, but hear me out.
Research from the University of Texas says reading on a screen slows you down 20-30 percent (before accounting for all the distractions a finger tap away). Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology says reading from a physical book encourages a greater “ready-to-learn” mindset than when reading off a screen (where skimming/browsing habits have been established). Finally, research published in the International Journal of Industrial Economics shows that comprehension and learning is enhanced when reading from paper.
I’m a big fan of physical over digital if I really want to absorb, take notes, or underline.
2. Set a reading goal and stick to it.
When I’m in read-a-book-mode (which I need to be more often), I set a goal of reading one chapter a day, no matter how long or short. You can set a page count target (less than Buffett’s 500) or time length goal. Stephen King reportedly sets a target of reading five hours a day (again, whoa).
There’s also a time of day routine you can establish. I do my reading first thing in the morning, before my brain is really going and focused on the day’s priorities.
3. Read between the lines.
By this I mean read in between all the time-boxed, scheduled things you have in your day. Stephen King pulls off that five hours a day because he does things like read in line while buying a movie ticket and then up until the second the movie starts.
You can read while you’re, ahem, otherwise disposed, while waiting in line at the bank, on a plane, while waiting in the car picking up your child (my wife’s favorite method), etc.
Here’s another trick. What happens when you always have your phone with you? You’ll pick it up a zillion times more. Same thing happens when you always have a book with you.
4. If the book sucks, move on.
I’ll occasionally stick with a book just because I started it. The book never gets better and my zeal for reading wanes. Don’t follow my lead. Treat each book like a dull conversation–you wouldn’t keep talking to a dullard all night just because you started a conversation with him/her, right?
Onward and upward.
5. Read several genres at once.
Dr. Brady Salcido, a personal growth expert, says, “Our brains have different modes of operation and having different genres of books is like different types of music to suit the mood you’re in.”
When I’m in read-a-book mode I find this to be absolutely true. I’ll read three books at once, a science-fantasy type, a business book, and anything of general interest. I’ll bounce back and forth based on my mood and end up reading a lot more books than I otherwise would have.
6. Make reading an experience.
Pick a favorite spot in your house, an oversized chair, a rocker on your porch, whatever makes for a comfortable setting. Put on some classical music, grab a cup of tea–you get the idea.
7. Reapportion what gets read.
By this I mean take a break from reading the news, your social feed, the back of the cereal box, whatever is bare minimum brain cells required. Think of your reading time as one big pie-chart and make the physical book slice a much bigger piece.
More books equals more knowledge equals more success. So go grab that bookmark out of your nightstand drawer.