How to Start a Reading Habit
Three actionable tips to create a reading habit, a free book notes template, and a bookshelf template to track your reading progress on Notion.
I love reading.
If you follow me on Goodreads, you know that I read a lot.
When I was a child, I read any book I came across, but I especially loved fantasy and science fiction. Once I got into law school, there wasn't much time to read outside of our assignments, and I struggled to fall back in love with reading.
Every year, I set reading goals for myself because I realized that gamifying reading helps me make reading a deliberate part of my daily schedule. In the two years since graduating from law school, I read 60 books each year and continue to have that goal for this year. I'm leaning away from this quantified goal, but that is for another edition.
In this edition, I want to talk to you about how you can create a reading habit to begin falling in love with books.
As with any habit with compounding results, reading requires immense patience and consistency to start seeing results. When I was young, I consumed so much because I loved reading. In hindsight, I can see that it's how I learned English (and therefore got into law school), developed speed-reading abilities, learned about ideas I wouldn't have otherwise been exposed to, and more generally became the person that I am today. Reading is how I fell in love with writing as well- writing comes easily to me, and I've been writing a blog since I was 14.
Reading is a tool for learning, a productive habit that yields compounding results, and an extremely enjoyable pass-time. If you're interested in building a reading habit, start from the fundamentals: the what, when, and how of reading.
1️⃣ What: Choose your book
What you read matters not only when you're starting to build a reading habit but also matters when you're a seasoned reader. The difference is that when seasoned readers might pick up a book they don't enjoy, they will quickly put it down and move on to another book. If you already love reading books, you know that there are other books out there that you'll love, and you'll continue your search for them.
However, when you're just starting to read, if you pick a book that you don't enjoy, you will begin to dread reading as an experience. You're unlikely to finish the book you've chosen or try your hand with another book. A first book that you don't absolutely love ruins reading for you.
Be careful what books you choose to read. Don't pick books based only on popularity or reviews, instead start with genres that might appeal to you.
I was not too fond of non-fiction until a few years back but could inhale fiction books in a few hours or a couple of days. Choose the kind of themes you already like: science fiction? Romance? Thrillers? Or, if you want to start with non-fiction, do you like autobiographies? History? Productivity and self-improvement?
Choose your first few books carefully until you fall in love with reading as an experience.
2️⃣ When: Choose a time and place
Building any habit requires consistency, and reading is not an exception. After you pick a book to read, choose a time and place to read it every day. For beginners, I suggest selecting a hard copy (a physical book instead of one on a Kindle or other screens) and picking a quiet place that you visit every day at a designated reading hour.
For instance, every day at 5 pm, I go out to sit on the patio swing on my porch and read my chosen book of the week. What started as a short evening outing to get some more sunlight turned into a reading hour while enjoying summer evenings.
Choose a time in your day for reading and avoid booking any calls or engagements at that time. Pick a spot that you designate for reading, so you train your brain to focus whenever you sit there with your book.
3️⃣ How: Enjoying reading
One mistake that I see novice readers making is trying to take notes while reading. If you pause to write notes as you read, it increases the friction because now you have to focus on doing multiple things. Reading does not always need note-taking. When you read a book, enjoy the process and the experience of taking in all its ideas. Don't distract yourself with taking notes- you're not studying from a textbook, and no one is going to evaluate you on an exam.
It is also why you should toss aside a book that you don't absolutely like- you're reading for yourself, and no one is going to hold you accountable for not finishing a book!
If you want to remember the book's contents after reading it, make short notes when you finish milestones and not continuously as you read. Take notes once when you're halfway across the book and once when you finish it. Ensure that you keep your notes crisp and limit them to your top takeaways (remember that it is not an exam!).
Here's a free Book Notes Notion template for you to write your notes without distracting from your reading experience.
If you already have a Notion bookshelf, add this as a template, so every new book you add to your shelf will have this ready for you to add your notes. If you don't have a Notion bookshelf yet, here's a free Notion bookshelf template for you to download (it has two templates for book notes!).
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