A common issue that comes around the start of the year or a couple of months in is that reality hits on your resolutions, and you start to wonder how to keep up with your goals. Also I find tweets on book twitter like – how have y’all read so many books already, I only did x books in this year so far! I, too, find myself sliding into reading slumps somewhere around March-April (this time it hit earlier in February haha) and I have different ways of going through it, and some work and some don’t; in any case, I thought to compile all those tips into a sort of a guide to reading more.
Now, I must first mention that setting your reading goals should be entirely up to you, and you shouldn’t compare yourself to others – if you can read x books a year, and you want to read x+1 books and you manage it, even that IS progress. No matter how many books you read, you are still an amazing reader! My purpose behind making this post is to, well, help you with your TBR mountain, if I can!
So, let’s start!
1. Be selective about your TBR
I know, I know, this is more of a homework assignment and isn’t actually a tip for actual reading, but your choice of book is a great place to start. Think about what books you read so far and what you liked about them, and what YOU would like to read. Very often, book lists and recommended reading lists are quite helpful in making you aware of books but you should choose books you think you might enjoy reading, or topics you are really interested in, not just because they are popular or must-reads!
It is fine to experiment a little and read out of your comfort zone once in a while, to see what else might appeal to you, but if you find yourself regularly putting down books more often than you read them, maybe you should start with what you like to read about and make your reading picks from there. Life is too short to spend on books that you don’t enjoy, right?
It is also good to think about why you read the books you read – it helps you be more selective in your choices. For example, I read more for escapism, so I lean heavily towards fantasy, and so I know to be more picky when it comes to, say, picking realistic/contemporary fiction. I read non-fiction about topics that really interest me, but I do so rarely as I more picky about the approach of the book.
Of course, the exception to this is required reading stuff, which you don’t always have a choice in, but well, that’s what the rest of the tips are for!
2. Make a TBR for the week/month
Even if you are a mood reader, it is generally a good idea to have a short list of books to pick from when it comes to reading. Depending on your reading speed, make a tentative plan of when you want to read it. It may seem stressing and again, additional work, but look, it really helps! Take it from me, a moody reader!
Say you decide to read 4 books in a month – if they are roughly the same length, you can be like, I will finish each book by the end of the week. That sets your mind in a goal-oriented mode and you can work towards it one book at a time. It won’t always be successful; hell, sometimes I don’t get to all the books in my short list. But I still get to most of them, and that works; don’t beat yourself up over not finishing. You can also set your goals a little higher, or your list having one or two extra books, to give you more choice over what to pick, and a challenge to yourself.
3. Always have your next book on you
If you have your list ready, and a tentative queue in mind (like, literally, you can be like, I will read this book, then this book and then that book; you don’t have to like write down the list either) keep you next book on you. Heck, keep even the book after that on you, as a backup.
If you read mostly physical books, it might be a pain to carry around a book (depending on its size) but you can also have a few ebooks/audiobooks on hand for when you can’t read a physical book. The purpose behind this is, of course, to read whenever you can, but also you don’t have an excuse of ‘ah i don’t have anything to read!’.
If you read mostly ebooks/audiobooks, viola, your problem is easily solved. I keep most of my unread books downloaded on my phone. If space is limited, you can refer to your list, and keep those ready. I sometimes even make folders/categories on the reading app (Kindle has categories, an epub reader might have folders) for easy access.
And if you can do it, read more than one book at a time. To differentiate, choose different genres of formats. You can read an ebook before bed, read an audiobook while doing chores, read a physical book while in transit etc. Also, reading more than one book at a time means you can switch over to the more interesting book if the mood calls for it, and will thus have you reading more books than you would if you did one by one.
4. Read wherever/whenever you can
Look, sometimes life is busy and you might not always get big stretches of leisure time to read, and so you gotta find time where you can. This might seem simple in principle, but depending on ambient sound, your personal focus, your mental fatigue levels, etc, it can become difficult to find the time and space to read.
There are various times in the day where you can take out a bit of time. If you travel via public transit, consider spending some of reading reading a chapter or two. Lunch breaks are also good for a bit of time to read during the day. And of course, there’s the bedtime reading, but not recommended if you are in the middle of an action-packed book – chances are you might end up staying up late to read lol. Weekends, maybe take out one hour at least in the morning if you plan to sleep in, and read to start the day?
If you find it difficult to focus in public spaces due to ambient noise, you can try using instrumental tracks or white noise and plug in to get in the zone, so as to say. Or if really is impossible, set aside some time at home/when you are at home/in a quiet place, to read. You can set a specific duration of time, or a certain number of pages per day/week as a small goal.
5. Silence your devices
Ah, this is a tough one to implement, maybe, because setting aside your phones for productive time is difficult, never mind for reading. Best way is to set your phone on airplane mode while you are reading. No notification, no distractions, no urge to check on things. It is, however, not always practical to shut off but there is a compromise – you can use tech to save you from tech. Here are some examples:
- Notification aggregator apps that ‘catch’ your non-urgent notifications and deliver them to you at set times during the day. Good if you don’t want to get interrupted by every like notification on social media.
- Pomodoro apps that also restrict screen time. A good one is Forest (I have it on Android, I don’t know if iOS has it too) – you can set ‘quiet time’ and it doesn’t allow to access your screen until the time is counted down. I usually set it to 20-25 min, and take a break of 5-10 min (even that can be set in the app) when I am reading for longer periods of time.
- Habit trackers are also a good way to analyze your reading. You could probably also spot patterns in the week when you are most likely to find more time.
- Screen dimming don’t seem like it would have much to do with reading, but night light modes or grayscale modes reduce eye strain for me, and are less distracting. Of course, this tip is for ebook reading mainly.
A simple way is also to just set a short timer (15-20 min), put the phone on vibrate mode, turn off the screen and read until the timer goes off. Good for those little bits of time, like lunch breaks, or time when you waiting somewhere, etc. (Use vibrate mode for the timer, too, obviously, don’t be rude in public!)
If you are going to be reading in short breaks, a good practice is to annotate or mark key events or points in a story so that when you next find that little break of time, you can just skim through the notes, and get back ‘into the story’ zone, kinda like ‘previously on’ recap, especially if you are a person like me who forgets even main characters’ names sometimes if I stay away from the book long enough. It may take a little more time to do this and take away a bit of the time you had for reading, but honestly it pays off in the reading experience.
7. Start your next book immediately after finishing one
This one sounds weird, but trust me, it works. What I do is, when I finish one book (and let the ending sink in a bit, make some final notes for review purposes, export my notes etc) I immediately start the next book and read at least one chapter or a set number of pages or like 5% of the next book. What this does is, it takes you into the world of the next book and sort of makes you curious about what is coming up. It might be useful for book hangovers, too, especially if your last read was so intense your mind is still stuck in that world. Also, this way, you don’t go too long between books, so in a way, you will always be in the middle of a book!
8. Find reading partners
Whether it is a book club, a buddy to read with, or a mutual on social media, sometimes reading a book with someone else helps you to read with more interest. It also creates a sort of accountability, like suppose you are buddy reading, and you both decide to read a certain book by say, the end of the week, you get motivated because you have another person with you.
It is also a good idea to participate in readathons according to what would fit your reading tastes and goals. Extra motivation helps!
9. Take breaks and unwind
Don’t turn reading into a chore! If you force yourself to read, you might just end up resenting the book itself. Recognize when it is just a case of your current read not working for you, and when it is a case of you not really feeling like reading anything. Reading slumps will come and go; reading frenzies will come and go; take it as they come. If you have a reading slump, take a break from reading for while, entertain with some other media. When a reading frenzy comes (those durations when you are like, blazing through book after book) use that time to make up for when the reading slumps hit you. And don’t be hard on yourself if the slumps win overall – if life is coming in between you and your reading time, adjust you reading goals. You don’t have to stick to a set number if you don’t want to. Remember, at the end of the day, reading is something we do for enjoyment, so take it light and be kind to yourself.
Remember: setting reading challenges are meant to motivate you to read, not add pressure.
I have listed some tips, and while they might not all work for you, I hope it helps!