Many of us wish we could read more consistently… but sometimes actually doing it is easier said than done. (#ReaderProblems, amiright?)
If that sounds familiar, we can help. By establishing a regular reading habit, you can reap all the bookish benefits and finally start making progress on your to-be-read list. Plus, you’ll be reading more — and isn’t that the ultimate win?
We’ll start by highlighting the benefits of a reading habit. Then, we’ll share exactly how you can build one (no stress required).
The big benefits of books
Reading more consistently has the power to greatly enhance our lives — both our physical health and our mental well-being.
When it comes to the physical benefits, you can thank reading for better sleep and increased longevity. On the well-being side, consuming a good book can make us happier and feel less stressed. And focused reading time can be a powerful addition to our self-care routines.
Author and storytelling coach Camille DePutter shares her perspective: “We’ve come to see reading as a form of indulgence. We jump from one task to the next, reading articles on our phones in 15-second chunks and getting sucked into the vortex of social media while we drink our coffee. Things are constantly competing for our attention, so the idea of sitting down for 20 minutes or an hour to read can feel like a luxury we don’t have time for. But there is power in slowing down for a moment and doing one single task. We have those small chunks of time, and by redirecting them into reading, it’s a really simple way to enhance our lives on a regular basis.”
She continues: “No matter what books or genres you enjoy, spending your time with a book will help you expand your horizons, learn new things, boost your vocabulary, and think about the world differently. And it’s essentially impossible to over-indulge when it comes to reading. And likely, this intentional time to focus your attention will leave you feeling calmer and more satisfied than the cycle of multi-tasking many of us fall into.”
To add to the list, there are all the new skills we develop through reading. For example, books are an indispensable tool for aspiring writers, authors, and thought leaders.
“I tell anyone who wants to write more or simply communicate better that the first thing they need to do is write more. The second thing they need to do is read more,” DePutter adds. “It sounds so simple, but reading more will naturally improve your writing and broaden your perspectives. And the more you read, the more inspired you’ll feel to write and the better writer you’ll be. Even if writing is not the goal, reading opens us up to looking at the world with fresh eyes — and that’s an invaluable benefit.”
For bonus points: Reading also helps makes us better people, so we can go make the world a better place.
3 steps to building a daily reading habit
Now, let’s take a look at how you can build your own reading habit in just three key steps.
1. Create an (easy) plan of action.
When it comes to practicing new behaviors, it’s all about picking actions that are both realistic and sustainable.
Deputter recommends taking a look at your day, and considering two questions:
- When would you like to read?
- When is it actually feasible for you to read?
“You have to be realistic about how much time you have, and find windows within your day where you can add reading without adding stress,” DePutter says. “You don’t have to sit down with a goal of reading 50 pages in one go — what’s going to make a difference is devoting doable amounts of time on a consistent basis.”
We recommend pairing your reading time with another regular activity. Using pre-existing habits as a cue can make it easier to remember, implement, and consistently practice your new habit of literary exploration.
DePutter offers a few options to consider: “If you grab your phone every morning before you get out of bed, try grabbing your book instead for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can read in that wind-down time before bed — just make sure to pick a genre that will help you relax (that edge-of-your-seat thriller might not be the wisest choice). Read in the morning when you have your coffee, or listen to an audiobook on your commute to work. Or at the end of your day, spend a few minutes unwinding with a book and a glass of wine.”
Identify a time that works for you, get really clear on what your plan is, and then set an intention and stick to it.
If it feels unsustainable, pare it back. Set a goal that feels totally achievable, and let those small wins stack up over time.
2. Prep your environment.
When you have a rough idea of your plan of action, take a few minutes to get all your ducks in a row — or in this case, to get your reading nook in order.
Find the books you’re most excited about reading and move them to the front of the queue, then find a quiet spot that’s comfortable. Set yourself up for success by making sure you have everything you need nearby so you can relax.
Take a couple of steps now to prep so that when that window of time opens up, you’re ready to roll. (Or rather, read.)
3. Open that book and dive in.
Once you know when you’re going to read and what story you’re going to tackle first, it’s time to start reading.
At first, it might be an adjustment to shift how you spend your time. For example, if you’re used to scrolling through your phone for 20 minutes on your lunch break, it might be hard to break that old habit and start a new one.
If you’re feeling some resistance to reading at any point, you can try a couple of things:
- Think back to all those benefits of reading we talked about a moment ago, and see if they help nudge you into action.
- Give yourself permission to only do a tiny bit. One page counts. You did the thing, and tomorrow you might do more. (And you may find you want to keep going after all.)
- Take stock of why you want to read more. Are you trying to learn something new? Feel less stressed? Find a fun escape? Sometimes tuning back into why we set up a new habit in the first place gives us a spark to keep going.
If your reading plan simply isn’t clicking for you — take a few minutes and course-correct. Instead of reading at night before bed, maybe you switch to five minutes in the morning as you drink your coffee. Keep your phone handy and read while waiting in line. Whatever you do, tweak the plan until you find something sustainable.
Building a new habit takes practice, but you now have the basic tools you need to be successful. (Though if you want to learn more, check out Tiny Habits.) Trust us: Even a few pages every day add up to seriously life-changing results.
About the Author: Kelsey Fritts
Kelsey is a writer, editor, anthropologist, and bookworm. She's also the author of two young adult fantasy novels. When she's not out exploring in nature or playing with her ridiculously spoiled dog, you can find Kelsey curled up with a mug of hot cocoa and a novel—likely one by Laini Taylor, Leigh Bardugo, N.K. Jemisin, Margaret Atwood, or Ursula K. Le Guin.