Changing Habits to Read More Books

«Why don’t you ever look beneath the surface, young man! I laugh because I dare not cry. This is a crazy world and the only way to enjoy it is to treat it as a joke. That doesn’t mean I don’t read and can’t think. I read everything from Giblett to Hoyle, from Sartre to Pauling. I read in the tub, I read on the john, I read in bed, I read when I eat alone, and I would read in my sleep if I could keep my eyes open. Deety, this is proof that Zebbie has never been in my bed: the books downstairs are display; the stuff I read is stacked in my bedroom.»
«The Number of the Beast» by Robert A. Heinlein

One thing that really worked out for me when it comes to changing habits was reading more books. After all, I have 3456 non-fiction books and 1221 fiction books. Save to say if there isn’t an afterlife in which you can read books, I’ll never get done.

But then again, realizing that I will never read all these books was the first step in being able to read more books. It took the «I am far, far behind» panic out of the equation. Yeah, I won’t read all books, heck, not even most. But I can read some books. And that’s okay. For all the unread books, mostly there were good reasons to buy them (or pick them up if they were free of charge — sigh, a pity when libraries remove books, but even more that I cannot carry more books). And if I paid money and do not read it, hell, it’s at least feedback to the author (money and sales numbers).

So I go through the books that I have, chose one that I want to read, mostly by checking the first few pages or skimming the content. If the book is a good fit, you have a hard time to stop reading.

Next up is to make and defend time to read. I usually read in the morning in the bathroom when drinking tea and coffee. Although that time is not that effective for non-fiction books (and I wouldn’t want to read fiction books, I find them very hard to stop and that would interfere with the work afterwards). Better times are when coming home from work.

However, while coming home provides a break in activities which makes it easy to pick up reading, it always fails if I put up my MacBook first. Once the MacBook is on my desk stand and plugged into the external display, the evening is mostly gone. There is just way too much that is fun and interesting on the computer. BTW, this affects almost anything, including other hobbies.

So, instead I make something to eat and just take out the iPad mini to read. Doesn’t really matter where I read, as long as the notebook is still in the backpack. This system works even better on a digital Shabbat from Friday to Saturday. While I avoid using any media that controls pacing (like music, movies, games, etc.), digital books are excluded. And there isn’t much else on that iPad.

So, yeah, using this method, I have read a (to me) surprising amount of books in the last two months. And adding the highlighted and exported quotes and notes to Obsidian allows me to use that reading.

Lesson is, come to peace that you cannot read everything and have to select, select deliberately before you start reading, find out when you can make and defend the time to read, and find ways to postpone the things that make reading impossible. The last thing (for me: sitting at the desk and working on my computer) is easy to detect if you pay attention. Then it’s just a simple reminder to avoid doing it. Either by using a WHEN-THEN rule (when I return home, I use my iPad, not my notebook) or by putting up some barriers (e.g., making it more difficult for that highly automatized behavior to occur). Sometimes that is a post-it reminder, sometimes it’s putting the mobile device in airplane or do-not-disturb mode.

Happy reading, or whatever habit you want to change.