Reading can be very boring. For most of us, it just serves as a potent sleeping pill. But just as you know, reading is the key to academic (and life) success.
How then, do we merge these two? Although reading can be a very stressful task to do, there are ways you can motivate yourself to read more.
Maybe not as much as Einstein, but as much as you will require to get an ‘A’ in your exams, or to just finish that book.
Why is Reading So Hard?
In and of itself, reading is not a horrible activity as most of us believe. In fact, it is one of the most effective activities when it comes to eliminating anxiety and achieving internal calmness.
But it doesn’t seem this way to you. Right? Well, that’s because we’ve all developed unhealthy reading habits that are making us hate the activity.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with “reading,” the problem usually comes from our approach to it and the habits we have around it. These habits do not motivate us to read more. Some of these unhealthy habits are:
Often due to the guilty feeling of not reading for a long time, we tend to believe that the best thing to do is to cramp all your reading sessions in one big chunk. This means reading for long hours till your brain shuts down or your eyes wind down.
While it may seem ambitious for a person to read for long hours, it is not healthy. When we overread to a point where we are forced to drop the book, our brain starts seeing the activity as a stressful and unwanted one. So the next time you pick up a book, your brain starts working to make you stop because it hates stress.
This is another very common reason why most of us hate reading. We do not take the time to create specific periods where we would read and ensure that those periods are stuck to.
When you read like a runaway driver, your brain does not see that activity as an important one. The result? You hate reading even more.
Reading for reading sake
Have you ever felt pressured to pick up a book just because you heard your friend, a mentor, a teacher, or just a random person say that reading is something we all should do? If yes, then you may be reading for reading sake.
This involves just picking up a random book without a prior intent. After a while, that book just becomes another item under your bed.
Reading what you don’t like
One of the functions of our brains is to lead us to things that are pleasing and away from things that are not. When you do things that don’t appeal to a deeper part of you, there’s very little motivation to continue doing that thing.
Most of us read books we think we should be reading even though we don’t like them. Once in a while, that’s very necessary for growth. But we must invest more energy into reading topics that interest us.
Someone once said “you don’t hate reading, you just haven’t found a book you truly love.”
3 ways to motivate yourself to read more
1. Take a 5 minutes break after every 30 – 45 minutes of reading
A major reason why you’re not motivated to read more is not laziness. Usually, it is fatigue.
The human brain can only spend a limited amount of time on an activity with complete focus. When this time is exceeding a threshold, your brain’s function starts to ebb and as you force yourself, you begin to hate the activity more.
Researchers recommend that you take a break after every 60-90 minutes, we recommend that you take a break every 30-45 minutes. The more breaks you take, the more room you are providing for your brain to reload and refresh.
As you come back from this 5-minute break, your brain is reenergized and ready to take in more information.
The best reader is not the one who can read for long hours, the best reader is one who can read and understand.
2. Schedule a block of time for your reading session
Start each day with a good idea of when you want to read, what you want to read, where you want to read, and for how long you want to read.
Be as specific as possible. Saying “I will read today” is too vague and there is no clue as to when exactly that reading will happen. In contrast, saying “I will read XYZ by 5:30PM today, in the bus for 20 minutes.” That’s more effective and makes the job easier for your brain to do.
When you start scheduling blocks of time for your reading sessions, your brain registers the activity as an important one. It may even become a habit after you do it for a number of times.
Haphazard reading makes your brain think the activity is not that important to you.
3. Reward yourself after every reading session
Rewards are one of the most important factors that builds motivation. When we feel rewarded by something, we tend to do more of that thing.
For example, praising a child for helping another child will make him or her do more of that. That’s the power of a reward. How many times have you exceeded your perceived limits when something was promised at the end?
Rewards are very effective to motivate yourself to read more. However, caution must be taken. Extrinsic rewards (like money, items, etc.) can have adverse effects on motivation if they are not used creatively.
The best form of rewards is the one that comes from within you – a deep sense of fulfilment and happiness as a result of the activity.
So what should you do? Once in a while when you complete your reading goal, give yourself an extrinsic reward (e.g. extra meat, ice cream, a candy, etc.). Other times (80% of the time), try to motivate yourself with an intrinsic reward like praising yourself, acknowledging the hard work you’re putting in, and being proud of yourself. That’s a more sustainable means of motivation.
Reading is great activity. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, reading will double your odds of success. Read more, read smart, and read with these three tips in mind.