Tips on how to start reading, from a student

Tips on how to start reading, from a student
Photo by Elisa Calvet B. / Unsplash

Until September 2022, I had no commitment towards the habit of reading. However, over the past year, I reached the goal of reading >12 books in one year. This blog will highlight some of the things I have learned about reading and habit-building in general. These tips are aimed towards beginner readers and reflect my experience.

1. Consider starting with audiobooks only.

From September 2022 until January 2023, I listened to audiobooks only. I knew that if I wanted to make reading a habit, then I would need to slowly and consistently, build myself into the type of person who reads books. My solution was to use audiobooks because I had time during commutes and I could listen to audiobooks at an accelerated speed. In January I decided to add physical books into my routine. I currently have one audiobook ongoing and one physical book ongoing on my Kindle.

2. Only read books you are interested in, really. 

In the past, I knew about the advice of only reading books that interest you. However, after committing to the rule of “only read books you are interested in” I have seen my reading efficiency and consistency rise. This rule also implies that if a book becomes uninteresting, then it is better to move on to a new book, rather than dwelling on the sunk costs. The fact that audiobooks and digital books are permanent reassured me that I could theoretically go back to any book that I decided to stop reading.

3. Learn about habit formation.

Ironically, the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear is an excellent guide to habit building and the principles from that book can be applied to creating a reading habit. I utilised three techniques from Atomic Habits. First, I set the goal of being “the type of person who is a reader” and focused on changing my identity rather than focusing on outcomes. Second, I allocated audiobook time to a specific environment. In my case, alone time on commutes was reserved for audiobooks. Finally, I habit stacked reading on my Kindle into my bedtime routine, so I always read every night that I can. I will always read, even if it is for just 5 minutes.

4. Aim up and aim close.

Be very deliberate in your goals and what you are focusing on. When I started in 2022, I was adamant about the incremental improvement towards being a “reader”. I focused solely on improving the habit by 1% and did so until it was engrained into my routine. Soon I added in a few physical books and now, I have a Kindle. Now that I read consistently, I am starting to focus on other things, such as note-taking and reading technique/efficiency. More importantly, I am learning about the importance of applying and taking action after consuming knowledge from a book. Otherwise, the knowledge from a book is wasted, and so is the time and money.

5. Buy a Kindle

I bought a Kindle quite late (in April 2023). The reason I bought a Kindle was to ameliorate the reading experience and decrease the friction associated with buying a new book. I was careful not to purchase a Kindle to “convince me to start reading” because this does not seem like a reasonable plan. I would advise against trying to go from 0 books per year to buying a Kindle and attempting 52 books a year. Firstly, a large jump from 0 books to 52 books is unreasonable and will greatly increase the chances of failure. Also, no person cares about how many books you read in a year. Rather, it is more important to read books that interest you and make intentional changes to your life based on the knowledge gained from the books.

Matt Siellet