Last year I read 42 books…..all hard/paperback books. How I accomplished this was extremely simple….I truly believe anyone can do this.
Here is a summary of how I did it, and how you can do it too!
I will start with the most useful tip: microhabits. If you don’t glean any other wisdom from this point, please remember this one.
A microhabit is just that: a very tiny habit. A habit that you KNOW you can accomplish every single day, no matter what.
The thing is….we tend to make goals when our motivation is at it’s peak. But your peak-motivation self is VERY different from your day-to-day self.
Your fired-up, peak-motivation self will say things like “I’M GONNA READ 1 BOOK EVERY WEEK!” or “I’M GONNA READ 50 PAGES A DAY!”
Your day-to-day self makes goals like “I will, hopefully, God-willing, make it work on time ” or “I will shower tonight, hopefully, if I don’t fall asleep first”.
Neither your fired-up self nor your day-to-day self can accomplish anything. Peak-motivation self can accomplish a ton in a short amount of time, but only shows up once or twice a month. Day-to-day self is more consistent, but accomplishes very little.
You need to set goals you KNOW you can accomplish, regardless of who you are that day. In other words….if peak-motivation shows up, great! He can do more than what is required. But if day-to-day self shows up, also great, you can still accomplish your small goal that day. Overall, the race goes to the driven…not the swift. It’s the small, consistent accomplishments that win out over the large, but infrequent, spouts of high motivation.
So back to the books; the habit I chose to implement was extremely simple:
Read at least 1 page every night before bed
No matter how tired I was, how awful the day was, I knew I could read at least 1 page every single night. There were some nights where I didn’t get home until 1 AM….and was STILL able to read my page.
What’s even better is….I very rarely stopped after that 1 page (almost never!) It turns out that STARTING is the hardest part. Once you get started, reading “just one more page” became icing on the cake….and became super easy.
With a microhabit, it’s EASY to START (“I only have to read 1 page”) so you always do it…and stay consistent. You can feel good about your consistency. But once you accomplish that small feat, you find yourself “already in the zone” and easily proceed to 2….to 5….to 15 pages.
I would think about it like this: if I read 1 page exactly, every day, it will result in 365 pages at year’s end. If I read 2, it DOUBLES (730 pages). If really go “above and beyond” and read 4….it QUADRUPLES (1,460 pages).
Again, if you get nothing else out of this — remember the microhabits.
This is called the “Seinfeld Strategy” because Jerry Seinfeld used it to ensure he wrote new jokes every single day, which ultimately led to him becoming a comedian.
This strategy is extremely simple. Whether you use a spreadsheet, calendar, or notebook — mark down every day that you stick to your habit. For reading, I had a spreadsheet with a green checkmark for each day I accomplished my habit (among other goals).
Once you get your first few green cells, it becomes addictive, and you won’t want to stop. You will see a long, unbroken list of green checkmarks …and you will become more and more afraid of “breaking” the chain. I know it sounds silly….but the longer the chain gets, the more you care about it….and the thought of breaking it becomes almost unthinkable.
Consistent Timing (10:00 PM)
While I read at different times throughout the year, I found it was much easier if I consistently stuck to the same time. I also found that books are a great way to wind down before bed (you sleep better if you read before bed, as opposed to video games, TV, social media, etc.) So I made a rule: no screens after 10:00. As a result, it became extremely easy to read during that window of time…there wasn’t anything else to do!
Also, by doing it at the same time every night, my brain became used to the routine…even if I tried doing something else, my brain was thinking about the book.
Finally, 10:00 PM is great because almost nothing else will conflict with it. If you tried to do it over lunch, for example: co-workers want to go out to eat, you forget your lunch and have to drive somewhere, random meetings come up, phone calls happen, etc. 10:00 PM is almost always free and clear.
Always Keep a Small Stock of New Books
I was never without a book. I always had at least 2 or 3 “next books” ready to go when I finished one. I didn’t plan ALL of my books ahead of time…I left some room for spontaneity …but I always had a reserve on hand in case I ran out.
I kept this small pile next to my bed, along with the book I was currently reading.
And honestly, that’s pretty much it! Sometimes I would read two at once (a self-help + science-fiction usually), other times I would focus on one…especially if it was good.
Reading books is one of the most healthy, productive habits you can form…and I truly believe anyone can follow this system!