When was the last time you read a book?
If you’re like me, you probably have a reading list of books and articles a mile long. It's not that you don't want to read them, but making time to actually do so isn't always easy.
Your schedule is full of projects and meetings, you’ve finally organized your priorities and learned to manage your time, and after all that, you just can’t make time in your day for yet another activity.
However, if someone as successful and busy as Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading, surely we can spend a few minutes a day with a book.
So how do you make time to read? Simple. You don’t. But before I get into that, there are a few science-backed reasons to prioritize reading no matter how busy you are.
4 Reasons Why You Should Prioritize Reading
1) It improves brain connectivity.
A study published in Brain Connectivity by researchers at Emory University found that reading improves brain connectivity. This means that the brain becomes more efficient at processing information. In fact, those changes linger at for multiple days after reading a novel.
2) It helps prevent Alzheimer’s.
A study by the National Institute of Health that followed over 700 dementia-free participants age 65 and older found that intellectually stimulating activities - such as reading - reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
3) It improves our ability to empathize.
In 2011, the Annual Review of Psychology, published a study which found that when people read about an experience, the brain is stimulated in the same neurological regions as if they were going through that experience themselves. In other words, when reading about another person’s experience, our brain is trying to guess that person’s feelings.
4) It improves theory of mind.
Another study in 2013 published in Science showed that reading literary fiction improves theory of mind, the ability to guess what another person might be thinking or feeling. In other words, reading improves social perception and empathy.
How to Read More (Without Making Time for Reading)
So the benefits of reading have been proven, but making time to read can be a daunting task. Let me tell you something interesting: You can read more without making time for reading.
What does that mean?
Well, when some of us imagine the idea of reading, we tend think that we have to set aside a huge chunk of time to get into the book. And when it comes to long-form articles, we often feel the need to read it all in one sitting. That’s the opposite of what effective readers do.
Ryan Holiday said it best,
Where do you get the time to eat three meals a day? How do you have time to do all that sleeping? How do you manage to spend all those hours with your kids or wife or a girlfriend or boyfriend?
You don’t get that time anywhere, do you? You just make it because it’s really important. It’s a non-negotiable part of your life.
Don’t think of reading as an activity you want to do. Think of it as something have to do.
Make it a habit to carry a book around with you and crack it open every time you get the chance.
- Meeting with someone over coffee but they’re late? You have 5-10 minutes to read.
- On the toilet? You have another 5 minutes to read.
- Waiting for the water to boil so you can make your pour-over coffee? Another 5 minutes to read.
- Having a snack? Read.
Don’t install games on your phone or binge watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix (at least not too much). Don’t check Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or email. That time can be spent reading, even if just for a few minutes.
And all that time adds up. Imagine on an average day we have a total of 60 minutes of downtime. And let’s say that, on average, we can read one page in two minutes.
In 60 minutes a day, we can read 30 pages. With those assumptions, you can finish a 300-page book in just 10 days.
That's about the pace I read, and I was able to finish How to Win Friends and Influence People, a 214-page book, in a week.
On the other hand, if you read a lot of articles to keep up to date on the latest news in your industry, you might have a bunch of articles that you have to read.
If that's the case, use a tool like Pocket to save your articles for later. You can even download the Pocket app to your phone so you can access your articles for your reading pleasure anytime, anywhere.
What's Stopping You?
Downtime is reading time. If you want to read more, promise to yourself that you’re not going to make time for reading but instead say, “I will read.”
Then just do it.
If you need a list of books to start with, Harvard Business School’s required reading list is an interesting place to start.
So what book do you plan on reading next? Let us know in the comments section below.