5 Easy Steps for a Reading Habit That Lasts

Learn how to build a reading habit that lasts

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A reading habit is something that can change your life for the better. If you read regularly, you will learn new things, expand your vocabulary, see other points of view, and build a better focus you can apply in other areas of your life. What should you read? How do you start? How do you keep progressing through obstacles? In this guide, we show you how to build a reading habit from scratch.

Why Building a Reading Habit?

If you are here, you probably don’t need much convincing. Yet, we included this paragraph if you are unsure why a reading habit is better than occasional reading. If you are fully committed already, feel free to skip to the next section.

Reading is like running: benefits come with repetition. If you go running once or twice a month, you won’t be any more fit than you are right now. Even more, you won’t run faster, further, or better. Yet, if you start slowly and keep doing it you will see yourself progress. This is true both in running and in reading.

Some benefits are the same for both a reading habit and a running habit, others are obviously different. What you will get from both running and reading is discipline: learn to do something over time with consistence, without quitting. You will learn to appreciate progress and think “look how far I’ve come”. You will learn how not to “over-do” yourself, but how to move forward with small steps and incremental improvements. And you will strengthen your confidence that you can accomplish things.

But let’s go to the benefits specific of building a reading habit. We have several, let’s list them.

  • Learning: no matter what you read, even with fiction you learn about other points of view and stories. You acquire information, and this enables you to learn.
  • Expanding vocabulary: the set of words that we use in our day-to-day oral conversations is limited to our context. When you read, you read about other people’s story, and the lexicon is often carefully crafted. You learn new words, new ways of communicating.
  • Better articulate your views: in the end, reading is about understanding the author’s point of view, getting how she is articulating it. As you will read other people articulating complex points, and tell interesting stories, you will become better at that yourself.
  • Focus:reading requires focus and concentration. As you learn how to focus on reading, you will be able to apply the same focus to other areas in your life as well.

I hope this convinces you, so now let’s go build your reading habit.

How to Build a Reading Habit (That Lasts)

Okay, you want to build your reading habit. Long story short, you just need to read every day. But you know that already, yet if you still aren’t reading enough and looking for more tips, this is the place to be.

1. Allocate time for it

Things don’t happen by themselves. You need to do them, and to do them, you need the proper time. If you want to read 1 hour per day, you will need 1 hour per day. There is no shortcut around it. So, plan ahead, be smart about this.

Find the time that is most appropriate to read. In this way, you will build a reading habit that lasts.
Most people will read before bed.

Every week (we like to do this on Sunday), plan for the week that’s coming. Decide exactly when you want to read, and how much. For example, decide you will read for 1h every day at 9pm before going to bed, or every other day for 1h at 7am before going to work. Whatever makes sense to you.

Reading can be a good habit to unwind from the day, so it may be best placed after your day rather than at the beginning. However, habits placed early in the morning are easy to stick to, because you do them before “other things come up” through the day.

You will want to set a timer, reminder, or alarm to prompt you to start reading. Then, have your book ready in advance. That is, know exactly what you are going to read (next), so the hour of reading is one hour of actual reading, and not browsing Amazon.com for your next book (and a lot of other fancy things you actually don’t need right now).

2. Read Chapters, or Sections

This is something that is often overlooked, but I find a lot of value in this. At some point, you will have to stop reading and resume next time. This is typically after your hour has expired. Some people just add a bookmark and stop reading there. But that cuts the flow of the book midway, and it’s hard to remember and resume. You will lose context for the next time, and it will be harder and harder to focus. In other words, every time you cut your book like that, you lose little pieces that make it hard to follow.

So, end at the end of a chapter or section, and not midway. This may mean reading a little less or a little more, but it means reading much better, which is important to build a reading habit that works.

3. Pick What You Like

Most people start to build a reading habit because they want to better themselves. They go to the biography of Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, or to any self-help book. But often, those are not easy reads, and so they lose motivation and traction.

To build a reading habit, just read
Reading will widen your points of view.

You are smarter than that. Building a reading habit should be a goal in and of itself, so just read something. Pick something that you will enjoy reading. That is, not something that will teach you the skill you will enjoy having. No, something that you will enjoy reading while you read it.

If you want to improve yourself and learn new things, this may be challenging for you. You will want to build a reading habit with books that are “helpful” to you, that will teach the things you want to learn. Maybe you find a great joy in reading them and feel so motivated. If that’s your case, then great, go with them at full force. However, if you are like most people, this may be challenging, and may drain some of your mental power. Here, my advice is start to some book – any book really – that you will enjoy reading. No matter how small or “useless” it may feel, it still widens your points of view. It is not time wasted.

4. Have Other Readers Around

If you surround yourself with people that will always ask “what book are you reading?” and suggest you their latest reads, then it will be easier to build a reading habit – if anything, by social pressure. So, you should be involved with those kind of people if you haven’t already.

A quick and normally easy step is to start going regularly to the local library. This, however, takes time and maybe removes a little bit the “easiness” of reading where you only need a book, a chair, and some time. But if you struggle to be motivated by yourself, it is something worth doing.

Another thing you could do is try to join some online book clubs. Those are less powerful that in-person interactions, but may still work just fine for you. Or, more generally, just meet other readers. A good place to do that is goodreads.com, a Social Network for books.

5. Stop Reading!

This is the last tip, and it is a little controversial. To build a reading habit, you need to stop reading. That is right, to read you need not-to-read. What we mean here, you need to have the courage to drop a book that you don’t like, and don’t finish it.

For some people, this is natural. For others this takes gut. People who always “finish” things will struggle particularly here. But think about it: there are more books in the world that you could possibly read in your lifetime – even if you just read and slept. So, you cannot read anything, and you need to be frugal with your most sought after resource: your time.

To build a reading habit, read where it best suits you
Read where it best suits you to build a reading habit.

So, give books some “grace period”. For any book that interests you, try reading for some pages, I would say 20 to 50, or about 1 hour. If you are really struggling to move forward with that, then maybe that book is not for you. Maybe the content is not what you expected, or the form and style is something that just doesn’t click with you. Well, it is not the end of the world. Just have what it takes to move on.

Building a Reading Habit, in Short

All in all, building a reading habit is simple. It just requires you to read, set time aside to do that, but do that wisely. Read something that you enjoy reading in the moment, and you will create a reading habit that will last for decades.

Now, keep reading! Continue with this article that will help you be more productive and focused.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

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Alessandro Maggio