In our previous podcast I mentioned that I would be looking at habits over the next couple of weeks and the first habit I looked at was sleep. Folk talk about the pillars of health as exercise and nutrition and then they kind of tack on sleep as the third “optional extra.” Well I am going to say that without good sleep you cannot exercise well and your body goes into danger mode and won’t absorb the nutrients you are consuming properly either… so without sleep… the popular pillars of health are going to fall by the wayside.
Sleep is a lifesaver, you can’t live with out it… and of course, I will tackle exercise and nutrition in the weeks to come, but today I am going to talk about the habit of reading… and I’ll tell you why: It is the start of a new year and folk love to put reading on their list of goals for the year… they are going to read a book a week, or a biography every month, or the whole Bible in a year… they even write their goals down and then they discover that that is not enough. You can’t just wrote it down and hope for the best, the first week will be great and the second week will be ho hum, the third week you will have fallen off the reading wagon and by the fourth week you will not be reading at all… a couple of weeks later you may try again… but you will fizzle fast.
Season 2 And the Habit of Reading…
Firstly, you need a really good reason to read… and we all know the science: it’s good for us, it is good for our brains, we will enjoy it once we get going, it provides fuel for all sorts of good growth. That’s all true… but boring and not really the catch we are looking for to snare us into good reading practices.
The thing is, reading is really the ticket to learning about any new habit that you would like to embrace. If you want to exercise more, or go on adventures more… then you can read about new sport and new adventures. If you want to eat better you can read about nutrition… and if like me, you are always looking for away to escape the madding crowds (which are mostly my kids), then reading is the best habit to work on.
I read several books a week and I get asked a lot, how do I read so much, how do I find the time. And I am going to whisper that I have exactly the same amount of time as everybody else… and I am not the world’s fastest reader either… I have never done a speed reading course… but I do practice reading a lot and practice is the key to any great habit.
Not only that, but reading can truly expand your world and your horizons. If you want to embrace a growth mind set and train your brain to learn new things and build on ideas around you, then you have to embrace that and stretch yourself to read more. Not just about topics that interest you and but topics that are a little trickier to embrace.
Reading is a discipline and there have been times when that discipline has waned and my life has been poorer for it. I enjoy reading and that makes it easy for me to create ways to include it into my days. But I do have to say that it isn’t a natural thing that just happens… I don’t spend my days lazing on the couch reading sagas while my children play quietly or get on with all the household chores for me. The fact that reading is something I really want to do means that I have to be very intentional about it.
There are several things that can make reading a difficult habit to embrace… and the biggest one, believe it or not… is comfort. Yup, if you are not comfortable you are not going to read. We all have visions of cosy couches next to roaring fireplaces, or hammocks under palm trees… that is not our reality though, and if I had a coffee or a hot chocolate to get cosy, every time I sat down to read… well, I don’t have to explain that one further. But if like me, you hate reading lying down then for me to say I am going to read a chapter of my latest book before I get up in the morning, means that I’m actually going to sit on the edge of my bed and read a chapter, before I launch into my day.
Otherwise, the biggest reading lull in my life occurred not when I had tiny children so much… because babies nurse a lot, and I read enormous amounts while nursing my children, with a book balanced on their tummies… there comes a time in your life when you are going to need reading glasses… that’s the truth of it. I just found that I wasn’t reading so much and the work of reading became more tiring than the pleasure of it… until I got myself some reading glasses… oh the heady joy of being able to see the words on the page clearly and to be read without difficulty again… Dare I say, if reading is feeling more like hard work than pleasure, get your eyes checked… toss vanity out the window, reading is worth far more to you.
Another thing that can make reading really difficult is our inability to concentrate, we live in a world where we read tweets and snippets and where a picture says a thousand words. That being said we would think nothing of scrolling through two hundred tweets in a day and that’s at least a page of reading. Start small, get some bookmarks and read a paragraph or just a page at a time. If you want it to be habit, and you have never embraced the habit of reading before then the best way to start is really small. Try one paragraph in the morning before you get up, another when you get home form work… that is already two paragraphs more than you read last week. You will get better with practice… and you can move onto a page a day, a chapter and so on. Commit to something really small… and if you miss it one day… who cares, start again where you left off the next day. It isn’t life and death if you miss a day, it is just enriching to your life on the days you do manage it.
The thing about the habit of reading is it is not prescriptive… you can read anything and anywhere… if you love magazines, read magazines, if you love articles… read articles, if National Geographic is your thing… read that. If you love novels, read novels… if you love teen reads read them. I love teen reads, some of the best books are these short sharp reads. Honestly it doesn’t matter what you read…
And in fact, it doesn’t matter how you read either… my first love is paper books, and I really don’t enjoy reading on screens, like the kindle… but the kindle enabled quite a few of my kids to become proficient readers and my husband loves his. And dare I say audible books… I could talk forever on audible books, I really love them and your brain doesn’t mind where a story comes from, a book is a book if you read it or if it is read to you. I made many mistakes before I got the hang of audible books… firstly I put all the books I found difficult to read on audible… it is not meant to be punishment and life is too short for books that don’t spark joy. At this stage there are so many many great books available, you don’t have to linger on the ones that don’t wrk for you… and if it is a topic you don’t love in a paper book, trust me it is not going to be any more interesting on audible.
The trick to making reading a good habit is to make it very easily accessible to you… I read several books at a time, at different times of day and in different spots. I set myself up for success… I leave books where I know I will want to read, I have a book next to my bed. I read a chapter in the morning and a chapter in the evening. I have a book in a sunny spot with my morning coffee, it is usually non-fiction and I read a chapter or two. I read loads of books with my kids, and we start our school days with a chapter of the bible everyday… after more than twenty one years of homeschooling, I think I have read my way through the Bible from end to end, more than a few times. After lunch everyday I plonk on the couch where I have a curious pile of books from the library… this pile is always changing and everyone dips in and out of them. Also, in our lounge is THAT screen, the thing is it is behind a TV closet door and we have a huge big cushion in front of it… it is easier to lie on the cushion and read a book than it is to turn the tv on… and that’s the point… make it easy to read and you will read. Prepare your reading spots… if there is somewhere you always find yourself waiting, leave a book there… I have one in the car when I am out waiting for kids… and talking about the car… I always have an audible book downloaded for when I am driving to and fro.
I guess the most important thing you can do when you are trying to embrace a new reading habit is to be very intentional, set yourself up for success… create reading spots and and activities… like my chapter with my morning coffee. Gift yourself at the end of the day before you go to sleep, give yourself another chapter. Set yourself up for success, pile up the books you really really want to read, so that you are looking forward to them and ignore all those ones you should have read, life is too short. And start small… don’t overwhelm yourself with massive volumes, start ridiculously small and if you need to track it for success, pop a tick on your calendar on the days you read and start a list in a notebook of the books you have read… the list will grow and so will your reading habit. It is a great habit to work on…. Happy reading.