Why I don’t read as many books as I’d like to (and how to fix it)

When I was eighteen I set some reading goals for myself and I said I’d read four books per month, one book each week. It didn’t work out. In January 2016 I decided to adjust that goal and make it two books per month, and it hasn’t worked out so far. The first time I told myself I had failed because I was too busy with school, the second time I told myself it was because I am too busy with university.

Meanwhile, other ‘bookworms’ who go to school/university or have a full-time job read between 50 and 80 books per year and still find time to do reviews. Seeing their lists make me feel more like a book-slug than a bookworm.

 In short: it’s not the university, it’s not the job, it’s me. I’m the reason why I’m not reading enough.

So last Friday, while pondering over my problem and drowning my frustrations in hot chocolate, I realized there are two main reasons why I don’t read as much as I’d like to:

  1. I procrastinate too much.
  2. I am a relatively slow reader.

Identifying the problem is the first step, and as John Dewey would say: «a problem well put is half solved.»

Still, there’s the other half to solve.

1. Avoid procrastinating at all costs

You’ve probably heard the phrase «procrastination is the thief of time«. I know it sounds like a cheesy self-help postcard, but it is 100% true. To procrastinate is to postpone the inevitable while adding a whole lot of stress to it. It may seem relaxing now, but I swear to you, later you’ll be under pressure because of the deadlines and the incredible amount of tasks to accomplish in so little time.

The first step to reading more is to stop procrastinating. Make a timetable, organize your tasks according to priority, time-block your activities and get to work. If you do what you have to do when you have to do it, you will have more free time to read.

If you want to read more on simple steps to stop procrastinating, check out this article by Celestine Chua: 11 Practical Ways to Stop Procrastination.

2. Learn to read faster

You can imagine my frustration when I discovered that my reading speed is not good. 300 words per minute is really not a lot for a so-called avid reader who always has a book in her purse, on her nightstand and on her currently-reading-list; it was a humongous disappointment.

Me not being able to read fast doesn’t only affect my free-time reading, it also affects my academic life. I study politics and philology, so there’s plenty of reading involved. Not being a fast-reader is one of the main reasons why I need so much time sitting in front of the many, many texts I am tasked with every week.

Luckily for us slow readers, there are many ways in which one can increase their reading speed. I found two articles that were particularly helpful:

How I Learned to Read 300 Percent Faster in 20 minutes, by Tim Ferris: This article is a very short summary of a course taught at Princeton University that includes a step-by-step method to immediately increase reading speed. I highly recommend giving it a shot because the first time I did the exercises my reading speed actually improved, and it did take only twenty. No, it did not become 300% faster, but at least I went from 300 words per minute to 370. I would recommend doing it every day for better results.

How to Read Faster and Retain More, by Mark Manson: This post has some practical tips on how to read non-fiction books and scientific/academic articles. It’s an entertaining twelve-minute read, but if you read it after doing the exercises of the first article, you’ll probably make it in ten ;).

3. Set some goals

I know I’m always talking about setting goals, but it is a necessary step to accomplish basically anything in life.

a) Practice the reading methods.
b) Apply what I learned in the second article to my university-related reads.
c) Stop procrastinating.

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