How do I read faster and more frequently?

Centralize reading in your space

What’s on the walls in your home? Maybe there’s some art here and there … but what’s right smack in the middle of your living room wall? I bet it’s a TV. And maybe it’s not just the focal point of your home, but the centrepiece of most rooms.

My wife Leslie and I moved our only TV from the center of our living room to our old, unfinished basement. We don’t deprive ourselves of television. If we want to watch a movie, we’ll venture downstairs, but we have to consciously and physically move ourselves in order to do so. What replaced it? A bookshelf.

What were the repercussions? It centralized our reading. Our bookshelf now acts as an organism that breathes and changes as we do. It becomes top of mind because we see it all the time.

Take it from Roald Dahl who once wrote: “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install A lovely bookshelf on the wall. Then fill the shelves with lots of books.”

publicly commit to a goal

I love the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Professor Robert Cialdini. In it, he showed that when people make a bet on a horse, they suddenly think that specific horse will win. His work suggests that the act of making the bet is what inspires people to believe in it.

Why can’t you be the horse? Make a bet on yourself. Make a public commitment that you will read more. Create a Reco account. Share your reading goals with your spouse every night at dinner. Write the number of books you want to read in your agenda. Join a book club.

I created an online book club a couple years ago to try to increase the number of books I read. Now, over 30,000 people expect me to email them once a month with book recommendations. And guess what? That public commitment forces me to read more. Then I made a podcast about books, forcing me to read even more. Bet on yourself.

Read what you want and learn to say “no”

I’m all for the ‘Yes Man’ movement. Say yes to going on the blind date, taking that last-minute vacation, or kissing the girl. But don’t be afraid to say no to the books you don’t love.

Many of us hold this false notion that we need to finish a book, so we don’t pick up the books we really want to read because we’re too busy trying to finish Infinite Jest.

Because, let’s be honest, it takes a lot longer to finish books we dislike. We develop excuses not to read just to avoid the pages, and have to reread parts because we daydream or fall asleep during them. It becomes the friendship we maintain out of comfort, despite knowing our interests have grown in opposite directions. You just don’t clique anymore, but that’s okay.

It’s one thing to quit reading a book and feel bad about it. It’s another to be proud of quitting. I quit three or four books for every book I read to the end, and I’m proud of that. An article that can help enable this mindset is “The Tail End,” by Tim Urban, which paints a striking picture of how many books you have left to read in your lifetime. Once you fully digest that number, you’ll want to hack the vines away to reveal the treasure chest ahead.

Take a “news fast” and pool your reading dollars

I get it, books are expensive. But not if you cancel your subscriptions to The Economist and The New York Times. It’s a shorter, choppier style of writing that’s often filled with negativity and false information. I went on a “news fast” a few years ago and never stopped because it increased my happiness and the number of books I read as well.

Think about it. 10 or 20 years from now, would you rather have a beautiful bookshelf filled with books you’ve read, or a pile of old magazines and newspapers sitting in the corner?

Reapply the 10,000 hours rule

Have you heard of the 10,000 hours rule? In Malcolm Gladwell’s cult classic Outliers he suggests that you can become a pro at anything if you deliberately practice for 10,000 hours. Want to read faster? Read more often.

A friend of mine told me he ran into Stephen King at a movie theatre and as they were waiting in line for the movie … he was reading a book. Even after they went into the movie theatre and found their seats he continued reading until the lights shut off and the movie started. Then he saw Stephen reading again as they were walking out. Point being: you have time to read, you just need to find it.

In a way, it’s like the 10,000 steps rule. Those egghead scientists say we need about 10,000 steps per day to maintain good health. That sounds impossible, until you walk around the grocery store, park at the back of the lot, chase your kids around the house, and suddenly you’ve reached 10,000 steps.