I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: books are one of the most important self improvement tools in the world.
“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Reading books opens your mind and helps you become a smarter, more well informed human-being.
Even non-fiction books can teach you things, especially about life.
In this day and age, we need much more book reading and less TV, social media, and whatever else people do when they stare at glowing screens all day.
You can make the commitment today, yes you, of reading more, being more informed, smarter, and just generally better, all by reading.
It’s just like hitting physique goals.
It takes a little bit every day, consistency and discipline, and above all else a daily ritual, but the accumulated results will be extraordinary.
Here are some great ways you can get in more reading.
Get a Library Card
Books aren’t even that expensive, and are a very cheap hobby considering the time to cost ratio, but getting a library card can help the budget-wise badass get some extra reading in for basically free. Libraries are stocked full of books just waiting to be picked up and read, so take advantage of this, my friend. This is also true if you attend or work at a university or college. Take advantage of free reading options, it’s like free money, but better.
Set Aside Time Every Day, Just Like Your Training
Actually putting aside a certain time a day to read will get you into the ritual or habit of just doing it. There will be no guesswork, no excuses, and no reason not to read if you allot the time and make it a daily ritual. As an example, I set aside about an hour each night before bed to read. This works great and become such a habit that I rarely go to sleep without reading beforehand. It could be first thing in the morning with a steamy cup of joe, or on lunch or dinner breaks while scarfing down a healthy, homemade meal for one. You just have to make sure you stick to it and stay consistent, just like diet and exercise.
Turn off the TV
This is a big one. Watching TV is the biggest time suck. You learn very little, and may even become less intelligent given some of the content on TV nowadays. Binge watching a TV series, vegging out to sports games, or sitting through a two hour movie is just about the worst thing you can do with your time, and half the time the movie or TV show sucks, and your sports team loses. At the end of your life, surrounded by family, laying on your death bed, are you going to wish you watched more TV? Or are you going to know full well you have total consciousness? TV really should be kept to a minimum for special occasions. Turn off the TV, and take heed of the advice of the great Stephen King:
“Reading takes time, and the glass teat takes too much of it.”
Stephen King, From On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft
Take Advantage of Audio Books and ebooks
Audio books are great because you can listen to them in the car, or any other time reading a book wouldn’t be appropriate. Considering that tons of people spend a good chunk of their time commuting, this can be a great way to get in some quality book time. Audio books are also pretty cheap. The one gripe I have about audio books is that the narrator’s voice gets pretty annoying after listening to him talk for so long, but maybe you don’t have this problem. I’d much rather read a physical copy of a paper book, but ebooks are cheaper and much more accessible when you can get them on your phone or tablet. The cons of this are that you have to stare at your phone or tablet for long periods of time, but this is the cost of convenience. Ebooks don’t really give you the full book experience (maybe I’m just a book snob), but they can be useful.
Scanning, chunking, regression avoidance, tracking and pacing, and certain software programs can help you read faster, but I’m not a big fan of these techniques, but they’re worth noting because we have such limited time. Techniques like these will help you devour books faster, but most likely at the expense of causing you to miss pertinent information. You should really use these sparingly or not use them at all while prioritizing and devoting more time to reading than other, less important activities (see point above, Turn off the TV).
Skip Unimportant Parts
This could also cause you to miss some information, but once you get good at reading you can pretty much tell when the author is rehashing a point made before, blabbering on about something you don’t care about, going out on a tangent, or that the information is just not that important and can be skipped. Sometimes I’ll be reading the first few sentences of a paragraph and know what’s coming so I’ll skip it. Like I said before, we’ve all got limited amounts of time and it shouldn’t be wasted, so use your best judgement and skip the crap. This especially rings true for the acknowledgments and forewards of most books.
Look for Chapter Summaries and Conclusions
If you’ve got a book and you only want the important points boiled down into 1 – 4 paragraphs, just read the summaries and conclusions. Sure, you’ll miss all the stuff in between, but at least you gained something from doing this, and that’s better than nothing. This also works when looking through research studies, which, for the layperson, can seem like a different language.
Always Carry a Book With You and Read in Short Bursts
This a big one if you want to really be serious about reading. Instead of wasting time looking at your phone (unless you are reading a book on your phone), bring a book with you wherever you go and read in small bursts whenever you are waiting for something or have some downtime. These short bursts of reading can really add up, and you’ll have the added benefit of never being bored during any waiting game or inconvenience life throws at you.
Don’t Read Front to Back
Although books are meant to be read front to back, you don’t have to read them front to back. Sometimes I’ll pick out interesting looking chapters and just read those. Or I’ll read the book in reverse order. Or, just like a big-ass kid, I’ll just look at the pictures. Sometimes pictures tell the story better than words ever could. There are no rules to reading, so do what works best for you. With this being said, important life-changing books (such as How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie or Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill) should probably be read front to back with a fine-tooth comb while taking notes.
Find Books You’re Interested In
Finding books on subjects you’re actually interested in is a great way to stay motivated to read. Have you ever read a book you just couldn’t put down? That’s because it sucked you in with interesting material that was actually of interest to you. Reading a boring book you have no interest in is like torture. Go with your interests and find things that resonate with you, and you won’t just want to read more, you’ll find excuses to read more.
Mix up Your Reading Mediums
Books, blogs, and what-else-have-yous are all great reading, and you can mix it up just like physical training to make maximum mental gains. Just be aware about what you’re actually reading, practice good reading hygiene (“9 Ways That Pitbulls Could Help Save the World From the Impending Apocalypse” doesn’t sound like something you should waste your time reading. On second thought, that actually sounds like a pretty awesome article, but I digress), and stay away from garbage.
If you take away one thing form this post, let it be this: reading more will make you a better human being, and any way you can do more of it, the better!
“The book you don’t read won’t help.”
– Jim Rohn
Books (and other forms of informative media) are awesome. But don’t just read to read, put the knowledge you gain from reading into action and change your life for the better.
Check out my resources for some badass books, and also my post on 5 of The Most Badass-looking Books That Are on My Future Reading List.