34 Practical Tips To Read More Books
In December last year I was reading Nassim Taleb when I discovered he reads 30 hours per week. Not long after I discovered Ryan Holiday reads over 150 books a year.
These are the writers I admire most. I want to write like them. But what was I doing?
I was reading at a rate of 50 books a year. That’s 100 fewer. Something had to change. So I set the goal of reading 150 books in 2018. As of the end of August, I’m on track. I’ve read 100 books—already 100% more than I read last year.
Do I spend all my time reading? Anything but. I’ve been living in South America where I’ve visited the Amazon and swum with pink dolphins, surfed the longest left-hand wave in the world, and hiked the Andes.
You’re probably thinking I’m traveling so I have all the time in the world. Not quite. I’m working 40+ hours a week remotely, as well as writing for 15+ hours a week.
So how do I fit in all the reading? It hasn’t been easy. But the practical tips below are what have made it possible:
- Follow The ABR Rule
Always Be Reading. Eating lunch? Read. Sitting in a taxi? Read. Waiting for your kindle book to download? Read a physical book.
- Have A Goal
Goals give us motivation. It’s my goal to read 150 books this year. So I read every day to accomplish that goal.
- Read For 5 Hours Every Day
I have a daily goal: read for 5 hours every day. (I started with this number as I wanted to match Nassim Taleb reading 30 hours a week).
- Read Two Books At The Same Time
I could read Adam Smith for 3 hours a day. But not 5. Complimenting Adam Smith with an easier to read book, such as an autobiography, kept reading fun and allowed me to hit 5 hours each day.
- Live In A Developing Country
Reading lots of books isn’t expensive because you’re buying a new book every second day. It’s expensive because that time reading is time you aren’t making money. So what can you do? Live cheap. I lived in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Mexico. Accommodation and four course meals cost practically nothing.
- Get Lunch Made, Laundry Done, And Room Cleaned
Time spent doing chores is time you could be reading. Paying someone to do them is an investment in your reading.
- Avoid Meetings
Where possible, I avoid pointless work meetings. Unless I can contribute something that will make a real difference, I don’t attend. Being across an ocean from Australia helps.
- Stop Listening To Podcasts
Every second podcast is an author talking about the book they wrote. The book is always
better. Skip the podcast and read the book.
- Be Lazy Efficiently
Forget TV series. They take up too much time. My lazy entertainment time is watching Youtuber David Dobrik. He puts out three videos per week all 4 minutes 20 seconds long. 13 minutes of mindless entertainment a week. That’s efficient laziness.
Ever had to read over a paragraph because you read it, but didn’t really read it? It’s easy to daydream when you’re supposed to be reading. Meditation is the cure. Meditation is practising focusing your attention—exactly what you’re doing when reading. Meditation is the difference between daydreaming and living your dreams.
- Read While The Pope Is Speaking
When I was in a small town in Peru, the Pope came to visit. I went to see him speak in person, but I took my Kindle with me and read most of the time. Spend time doing what’s important to you, not what’s important to others.
- Lift Heavy
When you lift heavy, you get a great workout done in 45 minutes rather than 90 minutes. Instead of doing beach curls, deadlift. That gives you 45 extra minutes to read. But you don’t have to lift weights, you just need to workout with intensity. Instead of jogging; do sprints.
- Find A Hideout
Having a spot where no one can distract you is invaluable. I’ve read at lakes in the Andes, a cemetery in Sucre, and on a rooftop in Chile.
- Eat To Read
For breakfast I eat 10 eggs and a bowl of oats. Fat and protein give you sustained energy through your whole day.
- Take The Battery Out Of Your Phone
Phones are the kryptonite of reading. Our lazy side would rather waste time on the web. So use your laziness to your advantage. The more difficult you make it to use our phone, the easier it is to resist the temptation. Take the battery out of your phone.
- Share Your Goal
My Dad was an English teacher. He knows I want to read 150 books this year. He asks me how it’s going. Wanting to be able to tell him I’m on track gives me another reason to read.
- Don’t Make Friends
In 2018 I’ve been living in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. It’s impossible not to make friends. But as awesome as they can be, they can also be a distraction. So my rule is to let friendships happen naturally, but don’t go out of my way to make them. I still make lots of friends, but not so many that I don’t have time to read.
- Keep A List Of Books You’ve Read
Reading over the list of books I’ve already read, gives me motivation to read more. If you have a library of physical books you can admire, even better.
- Keep A Commonplace Book
As Ryan Holiday wrote, a commonplace book is “A central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.
Gives purpose, more find it useful, more want to add to it.” Why is it so important? A commonplace book gives you another reason to read.
- Take A Break, Don’t Quit
Sometimes I’m over it. I don’t want to read another word. Instead of stopping for the day, I’ll take a break. I’ll do some work or go for a walk. After a break I’m ready to read again.
- Read To Solve A Problem
I had just started reading a book about negotiating written by a former FBI hostage negotiator. I’d just read the first chapter when I was crossing the border from Bolivia to Chile. The border agents were hustling me. I lost my cool and lost at least 150 bolivianos more than I needed too. Losing the money wasn’t a big deal, but the feeling of having been played made me angry. I never wanted that to happen again. When I got back on the bus, I read that book for 6 hours straight until it was finished.
- Accept Some Books take FOREVER To Finish
Atlas Shrugged. Wealth Of Nations. Anything by Ron Chernow. They’re going to take a looooong time to finish. Accept it and start reading.
- Test Ideas In The Real World
Testing the ideas you get from books in the real world makes them come alive. It makes reading 10 times more fun. For example, I’d sent a proposal to a bank in New York but hadn’t heard back from them. I took some advice from Never Split the Difference to email “Have you given up on this project?”. I heard back the next day.
- Hell Yeah Or No
Derek Sivers wrote, “If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”. When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.”
Got an invite to dinner? Thinking about a weekend away? Unless it’s a hell yeah, say no and spend your time reading. While traveling I skip 90% of what others do. I skip the ghost town, the walking tours, and Churches. But I say hell yeah to Machu Picchu, double-overhead surf, and the salt plains in Bolivia. I have time to read.
- Don’t Drink
Maybe you like reading with a glass of wine, but don’t get drunk. You won’t read hungover.
- Wear A Chronograph
I set the goal of reading 5 hours per day. If you use your phone to measure how much you’re reading, you’re going to get distracted. That’s why I bought a watch with a chronograph so I can ensure I get my 5 hours of reading done.
- Listen To Audiobooks
Unfortunately, I don’t have the talent to read my Kindle whilst walking down a busy street. I’ve tried. But I can listen to audiobooks. No doubt, reading text is better. It’s easier to take notes and forces you to give your undivided attention. But when you can’t read a physical book, you can keep reading by listening to an audiobook.
- Buy A Kindle If You’re On The Move
If you can’t get physical books sent easily, a Kindle is perfect. I’ve downloaded new books everywhere from airports to beaches.
- Use Background Noise
When you’re somewhere with distracting noise, drown it out with background noise. My favourite is listening to rain.
- Read Nassim Taleb
Taleb’s books are so interesting to read that I don’t have trouble reading for 5 hours. I have trouble finding time to brush my teeth because I don’t stop reading. Similar books are Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography and Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday.
- Buy A New Jacket
I bought a jacket with a pocket big enough for my Kindle so I’d ALWAYS have it with me. It’s my best purchase ever.
- Prioritise Your Reading
My day looks like this. First I write. Then I read. Then I work. I need to work. I need the money. My reading gets done so I can start working.
- Have Heroes
Thinking of people I admire who read all the time motivates me. Ben Franklin, Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett, Cal Newport, Nassim Taleb, Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss.
- Follow Your Superpower
Curiosity is your reading superpower. When you want to know something, and a book might illuminate you, you’ll devour that book.
These are my practical tips that have helped me read 100 books in 8 months so far. Do you have any weird tips that help you to read more? If so, share them below and help us all read more.
P.S. You Don’t Have Time To Speed Read
You’ll notice not one of my suggestions has been to speed read. Speed reading is a bad idea. Sure, it’ll help you read more books, but you’ll be getting less out of them. Plus it kills the pleasure of reading—life’s too short to speed read.
P.P.S. Stare At Things Far Away
This doesn’t help you read more, but it helps protect your eyes so you can still be reading 150 books a year in ten years time. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away from your book and look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.