How to Read More

Aspiring to “read more” is one of those overly-vague goals that sits on many lists, but is deceptively hard to do. This is because it’s too vague. By breaking it down into concrete targets and recurring tasks, you can read a lot more of the content that’s most meaningful to you.

Here’s how.

First, determine what exactly you want to read - and why

You likely have a variety of different motivations. Start by brainstorming a list of what and why you want to read more.

Here’s some ideas:

  • You want to improve your reading speed and/or comprehension
  • You want to read particular publications (e.g. Harvard Business Review, Reason magazine)
  • You want to avoid the stress of looking at an unread pile of New Yorkers
  • You want to generally stay abreast of current events
  • You want to generally stay abreast of news on specific topics (e.g. local neighborhood events, Japanese art)
  • You want to learn more about a specific topic (e.g. Abraham Lincoln)
  • You want to grow certain skills (e.g. business leadership)
  • You want to enjoy the pleasure of reading more often

###Now, set your targets

Rephrase your motivations into actionable targets. Assign each target a tier to indicate its priority in your life. (If you use TaskTackler, the tiers are 1-4 for current priorities, and Someday to capture targets that you eventually want to accomplish but don’t have capacity for right now). Be specific!

Examples could be:

  • Increase reading speed to 250 words per minute
  • Read Harvard Business Review before I get the next issue
  • Read entire stack of New Yorkers
  • Feel caught up on current events at dinner parties
  • Feel knowledgeable about the Japanese art scene at dinner parties
  • Read five books about Abraham Lincoln
  • Be a more resilient leader at work
  • Read for fun

###Act on your targets with tasks

Now that you’ve outlined your targets, it’s time to come up with specific, actionable tasks to accomplish them.

The best task is one that you can complete in one sitting without friction. “Read War and Peace” is a terrible task - you will never do it in one sitting. Every time you see it on your list, your mind will know it’s literally days of work, and will resist starting. (That said, “Read War and Peace” is a perfectly acceptable target.)

This is a use case where I love infinite recurring tasks. For example, if your target is “Read for fun” you may have an infinite recurring task called “Read the next chapter.” (Learn how to set up infinite recurring tasks in TaskTackler.) This way, it’s permanently on your to do list and you can make concrete progress against it.

Some of the targets are more straightforward than others to complete. Here are some tips:

  • If you’re aiming to stay up on current events and/or on a specific news topic, use a Google News Alert to set up alerts when there’s news matching your keywords. You can also use IFTTT to save these articles to Pocket. (Here’s a tutorial.)
  • If you’re reading for fun and/or on a general topic (like adaptive business leadership), keep a list of books to read in a Google Keep list. Use one list per topic. For example, I have a “Books to Read for Fun” list and a “Recommended Business Books” list. When it’s time for a new book, pick the next one on the list (or use a random number generator to pick the next one).
  • I also note on this list who recommended a book, so I can thank them after I read it.
  • For a target like “Read Harvard Business Review each month,” make sure you have your subscription on auto-pay, or a recurring annual task to renew it.
  • Consider what environments are most conducive to each reading target, and how you can support that connection. Love reading magazines on business trips? When you get the new one in the mail, stick it in your suitcase. Read for pleasure more easily on your Kindle than in paperback? Switch those subscriptions to electronic.