Lifehacker’s How to Fit Reading Into Your Schedule and Actually Finish the Books You Want to Read is an okay start. Its suggestions:
- Schedule a Daily Reading Time
- Organize or Join a Book Club with Deadline
- Set Up a Special Reading Area with No Distractions
- Know When to GIve Up On Books You Hate and Find Books You Love
My daily reading times are at meals and before going to bed. A friend organized a monthly book club. My home is my castle. I have a post, Cull and Surrender, on giving up on bad books.
My additional suggestions:
- Always have a book. I have a book everywhere I am likely to have free time such as on my bed, in my living room, and in my car. Probably most helpful is having the Kindle app on my phone. My phone is a device I am likely to have everywhere I go, so I no longer have an excuse about not having a book with me.
- Find your space. I can read easier in a moderately busy restaurant or with the TV in the background than I can in a totally quiet room. Identify whatever the environment that works for you and find ways to spend time there.
- Set specific goals. More is pretty nebulous and not inspiring. One book this month is specific, in a short time period, and probably doable.
- Small chunks are better than a whole book in a sitting. People who study reading retention say smaller sessions work better than sitting through a long session. Best practices for teaching is to break lessons up into small chunks. I usually set an expectation for myself in any particular setting for how much I want to accomplish. So, if I am eating lunch alone, then I will take a book and decide I want to finish 20 pages in that half hour. I might decide I want to stay for an hour and finish a chapter or two.
- Make reading a priority. Athletes, musicians, and any expert gets good by spending thousands of hours training. Even when they have small amounts of time, they use it doing something to progress. Reading more works the same way. Any free time, even a few minutes, can help make progress.
- Track goals. Knowing that I am behind in fulfilling a goal helps me find more time anywhere I can. For a yearly goal, I check my progress quarterly. Because I start the blog post about it a month ahead, I see how far behind I am and double the amount I read to get ahead. I use Goodreads for tracking, but I also post to this site under Reading.
- Talk about the books. Books are a valuable ice breaker. As people associated me with reading lots of books, they develop expectations that I finish them about once a week. I have found myself devoting a few extra hours to finish a book just so I can have a new one started before I see them.
- The habit is what is important. Every kind of book has benefits. Fiction improves empathy. Non-fiction improves understanding of the world.
- Leverage curated lists to reduce decision fatigue. My best lead on books is seeing a friend rate it highly on Goodreads. I also find them through crowdsourced best lists or various web sites who recommend them. Goodreads has a list tool where users vote on books.