Sometimes the best way to make a change is to go BIG. Instead of taking half measures, commit to a brand new routine that is dramatically different from the past. This approach forces us to rethink everything to make the new routine work.
I have had some success with this aggressive approach in the past. So, in December 2019, I decided to set a goal to read 100 books in 2020. In the end, the total reached 125 books, so I’d like to share some tips that I picked up along the way.
Now, this isn’t the right approach for every situation. It’s almost always better to make small incremental changes when introducing a new routine. And if you are brand new to reading, I recommend that you start by creating a daily reading habit.
But, if you are already reading regularly and you’re ready to take things to the next level, the tips below can help make that happen.
TIP #1 – Take Full Advantage Of AudioBooks
I’m a big believer in taking the time to sit down and physically read a great book. It’s the best way to study the content and retain more of the information. However, this is a big commitment, and not all books deserve this level of focus.
So, my favorite approach is to listen to new books in audio format. In my opinion, audio is the most convenient and flexible way to consume book content. As a result, it’s possible to explore many more topics than just reading text-based books.
Now, some people struggle with audiobooks. They feel bored or distracted when they sit down to listen to a book. So here are two essential tips to keep in mind:
- Listen while engaged in simple physical activity. In my experience, it’s easier to focus on the audio content when you’re walking, running, driving a safe and familiar route, or doing chores around the house.
- Find the optimal playback speed for you. Depending on the content’s complexity and the narrator’s pace, you’ll want to adjust things. I often find that 1.5x to 2.5x makes it easier to stay locked in on the content.
One drawback with audiobooks is that it’s more challenging to study the content on a deeper level. It’s easier to explore a large number of books. But you’ll end up retaining less of that information. So with that in mind, let’s continue to the next tip.
TIP #2 – Re-Read The Most Impactful Books
When I was younger, the idea of re-reading a book seemed crazy to me. Why would I waste valuable time reading something twice when I could explore something new instead. I didn’t understand the limitations of retention or the value of going deeper.
Today, my approach is very different. I like to start with audiobooks to explore a wide range of fascinating topics. And when I find a highly relevant book, I’ll take a second pass by reading a digital copy.
I generally wait at least three months before revisiting a book. That’s when I re-read the content, highlight interesting sections, add notes, and summarize my favorite insights. This process boosts retention and makes it easier to revisit the content in the future.
Also, I find that I’m able to continue to listen to audiobooks during this time. The shift in formats, from audio to text-based, makes it easy to separate the two experiences. So at any given moment, I may have one or two audiobooks and one digital book in progress.
TIP #3 – Mix In Some Entertaining Books
Sometimes it’s necessary to take a break from educational reading. We can only process so much new information at a time, so there is no point in pushing beyond this limit. However, it’s also important to maintain our new routine.
If we stop reading entirely, we risk breaking our new reading habit. And that can make it challenging to get back into books in the future. So, with this in mind, I recommend mixing in some entertaining books from time to time.
Some of my favorite styles include fiction, investigative journalism, and documentary books. While these themes can be very engaging, the experience serves as a mental escape. So it’s a great way to maintain a reading habit without causing overwhelm.
Roughly 25% of my overall reading falls into this category. And, of course, these books are counted as part of the 125 book total. So, not only did they help me maintain my routine, but they also contributed to reaching the target.
TIP #4 – Read Multiple Books On The Same Topic
In addition to re-reading great books, I’ve found value in exploring multiple books on a single subject. It’s a great way to fill in potential knowledge gaps while also revisiting helpful insights from an alternative perspective.
In my experience, the best way to retain information is to create a mental scaffolding around the topic or idea. It’s easier to store and retrieve insights when we establish a solid foundation of related knowledge. And reading multiple books on a subject can help us create a more nuanced understanding of the overall topic.
It’s the difference between trying to memorize directions to a single location in a new city versus truly understanding the lay of the land. When you have an internal map of how a city works, it’s far easier to store and retrieve directions to any location within it. And that’s because you have more context.
Re-reading is also a great way to avoid the overwhelm associated with processing too much information. Instead of taking on a brand new topic, it’s a chance to discover an alternative way to think about something you’ve already encountered.
TIP #5 – Start A Reading Challenge With Someone
The most challenging part of taking on a big commitment is just getting started. It can be tough to modify existing routines and build new habits. So, with this in mind, it’s helpful to find someone willing to keep you accountable.
If you’re a competitive person, like me, it’s ideal if you can find one or more people that are willing to take on the same challenge. That way, you can leverage your natural desire to compete as a way to persevere when the going gets tough.
If you can’t find anyone interested in the same goal, another option is to choose an accountability buddy. Someone who has an unrelated but equally ambitious goal, so you can keep each other accountable in the same way.
Start by getting very clear about what you’re setting out to accomplish. And then break the goal down into manageable chunks that you can track over time.
Make The Most Of Your Reading Time
I have some follow-up resources on how to start a reading habit, how to choose a great book, and the top five excuses for not reading (and how to overcome them). Consider checking them out if you’d like to increase your reading time.
If you’re interested in reading about business-related topics like digital marketing, entrepreneurship, product management, leadership, or startups, I have dedicated reading lists covering my favorite books on those topics and several others.