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This might sound vague, but I think the question is pretty simple:

If I have never had a habit of reading books in my life (as some people grew up with) and I am now in my twenties, how can I start to develop a book reading habit? I'm smart, I love ideas, and I was an outstanding student in school. But even in school I didn't do much reading.

To be more specific just as an example, let's say I would like to read books on Chinese philosophy, environmentalism, and communitarian architecture (a la Christopher Alexander)...

How can I avoid all the distractions that take me away from reading start to finish? The most successful strategy I've found thus far is to: read the text out loud to myself.

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7 Answers 7

1) The technique is to force yourself to read say for 20 to 25 minutes. even after that you find yourself distracted then i believe that you have to find something more interesting to read :).

2) Lack of goals associated with anything will never ever get you motivated to finish something. try to associate some goals with your reading.

3) Why not after reading a chapter in the book publish a small summary on your blog, that will definitively help you to be more precise and will get more interesting. Visualizing the end result in the form of say 12 blog post summary will help you get more motivated and you will have something concrete to show for your reading

4) Also why not find the basic book of the subject you mentioned. finding the book easier to understand will help you to avoid distractions.

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I would suggest don't read "any" book just because you want to develop a reading habit. Take up a book on a topic which excites you and read it. Go at your own pace but be consistent. Also, try to immerse yourself in the book. I don't believe that you need to remove all the distractions for reading a book. Afterall, people read books while travelling also. If you really want to read nothing can stop you. Just make a start.

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Something to consider is whether you're better off reading the text or hearing the text. There is a difference as some people may do better reading the text off a screen or in a physical book and others may prefer to hear someone else reading the book. Thus, audio books may be something to consider as a better way of assimilating the information from within the books. Something to consider as I'm pretty sure you want this habit to be used in some way rather than simply boasting that you read 1,000,000 pages in your life.

Another point is to consider what priority are you placing this in your life? Is it something you value highly or is it something that easily gets pushed aside?

Have you considered looking for a book club? That may be another way to motivate some reading as if you have a community of others depending on you to read something, you may just do it. "Change or Die" would be a book about how hard it can be for people to make a change. In this case, I'd recommend finding someone with a similar interest to you that has read various books on the subject that may provide motivation similar to the book club. Thus, if you enjoy discussing Chinese philosophy then if you know someone that really enjoyed Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," you could schedule discussions about various pieces as you read them.

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Try to give yourself a goal beyond just reading.

Why do you want to read?

  • Maybe you could set yourself the goal to blog about what you learn?
  • Or maybe you could try to learn speed readign while reading this book?
  • Or maybe use this book as a support to practice mind-mapping?

Sometimes when I find a task not interesting enough in itself, I look at it in a different angle, more focused on personal development. It usually does the trick :)

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Setting might be key here. If you're not a natural reader, then you might need to be in a place where you are accustomed to reading, and only reading. You won't sit on your couch and think "reading a book is what I should do right now" because you're accstomed to sitting there watching TV (for eg). Likewise with sitting in front of the computer.

So... go to the library. I'm fortunate to work very close to an awesome library, so everyday I go to the library after work and read for an hour. I'm a developer, so it's exclusively development books or something career related along those lines... because at home, it's family and relaxation time and I just can't get into serious reading time.

Similarly, this is why gym memberships are often very effective for people starting to get into shape. You just have to keep going.

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I would go for high reward value. Just read book after book of something that really interests you. Whether this is mangas, romance novels, detective stories, horror or anything else, you want to get lots and lots of exposure and reward to build a habit.

Leave very accessible books in your bathroom, couch, bed etc. Basically everything us reading addicts avoid in order to remain productive, you could implement to start reading books :-)

Good luck!

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Another idea for the heap, in some blog they described a pattern that I found useful: 8 minutes reading, 2 minutes pause, repeat. I don't know if it's your case, but I find difficult to stick to the same task for long because of the habit of multitasking, so creating a pattern, a rhythm, and programming the pauses, really helps.

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