How I read 6 books in January and zero in February
Starting from 30 December 2021, I was in that annual ‘new-year resolution’ mode, and by the end of January, I had read 6 books. Talk about intensity! There was the factor of work not resuming till almost mid-month and so I just spent every day doing more reading than anything else. And I loved the momentum. I was doing the maths of what I would have read by the end of the year if I continued with that rate. And that was not in question as far as I was concerned.
Now guess how many books I finished by the following month? Zero.
With the new year high gone, and work back in full mode, it just seemed like things had completely changed. I took it in good faith. I forgave myself and explained it as a matter of seasons. Surely what I had read in January should make up for my little or no reading in February, right? But March had to be different.
From March, I began to retrace to the most important thing — small, consistent steps. I was no longer trying to set or break a record. I just wanted to read consistently, no matter how small. I shifted the focus from how much of an incredible feat I could do at once to establishing a pattern of consistent efforts.
I don’t have any handy stats right now of how much I have read ever since but I try to read daily. And I mostly achieve that. I am working it into my habits and trying to find structures that make it work. Recently, I added it to my gym time. I extended my midday gym time to 2 hours, with the second hour devoted to reading in the yoga room. It’s something I now look forward to. And it works for every day that I make it to the gym. Now, I have only been making around 3 days a week (on average) but those have been some consistent days of reading.
The latest idea I am trying to explore is to break up my consecutive flow of meetings and task blocks on my calendar with short reading breaks. When I read, I get into a mode of intellectual stimulation. I get more creative and productive. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with the subject of the book but ideas come to me as I read and whatever I do next just flows better in all ways. And there is the part of rest. The reading breaks give me this sense of rest through gentle input while breaking the chain of work outputs.
Why should anyone be trying to read more books by the way? Well, there are so many amazing books out there, so much beautiful new information and insights, and my entire lifetime would not be enough to read them all. So I am trying to see how much I can get to read, and what that can mean for my living, leading, and contributing to society.
In a recent reply to my tweet about starting a new book, a follower on Twitter asked me a few questions. After some thought to his questions, I came up with these responses (and I thought to share them here).
1. How long does it take me to read a book?
On average, less than one week, for a book I am focused on. And I have books I have been reading for months that I go back to based on the mood per time.
2. How long does it take me to fully understand a book I read?
A lifetime. The reading is primarily inputting. They make more sense over time and in different situations. I don’t try to understand them on the spot fully. I am constantly thinking about the key points, and I go back to my highlights and annotations.
3. How long does it take me to fully implement what I read?
Sometimes immediately but it will be hard to pinpoint when and how many other ways they come into play, as these things can be super-subtle. What I can confirm is the overall improvement in the quality of my thinking and an expansion of my mindset. Hence we are looking at a lifetime of implementation as well.
Hopefully, more and more of us can find our paths to growing our reading habits, and thereby learning, unlearning, relearning, and expanding our minds.
I would be happy to read your approach and tips in the comments.