Want to Read More Books in Less Time?

Did you know only 60% of books purchased ever get opened? And Americans read less than most other countries with an average of just 12 books per year. That average is skewed by avid readers with 50% of US citizens reading only 4 books per year. Whether you need to read more for school assignments or you want to read more for personal growth, in this post I provide a few tips to help you get your read on!

Why Read?

Of all the things we can set our sights on during our time on earth, you may be wondering why this found its way to the top of my list. Good question! It all starts with our beliefs, purpose, and expectations.

Reading not only provides you with more knowledge, but it also expands your vocabulary, creativity, analytical skills, memory, and recall ability, As if all that isn’t enough, reading stabilizes emotions. That’s a lot! In essence, you become quicker on your feet. Your ability to comprehend, analyze, and verbalize your thoughts improves. We could all stand a little more time with our nose in a book.

But maybe time is your excuse. While I recently embarked on a goal to read as many books as possible in a year, I learned some great hacks on how to get the benefits of the books I read while decreasing the time it took to get there. As is the case with every goal, there has to be a good reason to do it. Without a compelling “why,” you’re more likely to quit at the first opportunity to binge-watch Netflix. Following are of few of my personal reasons. Take a few minutes to define your why before moving forward.

  1. Garbage in = garbage out. I’m a big believer in “garbage in, garbage out” when it comes to the mind, body, and spirit. I could either be watching TikTok for entertainment or reading a book that would propel my future.
  2. Life learner. I believe we can all learn to do about anything we want. This belief has served me well. When you commit to learning as a lifetime experience, you get the opportunity to learn every single day.
  3. Goal Accomplishment. I needed a realistic goal to focus on as I was increasing my confidence. I actually started this goal with a target of 20 books and as time went on I kept increasing the number.
  4. Cost and Opportunity. I looked at the number of books on my Kindle that were purchased and unread. Well, that was eye-opening! I had over 100 books that I had paid for and hadn’t read. WTH.

How? Strategy

Now that you’ve taken the time to figure out your personal why for reading more, let’s talk strategy.

1. Leverage Technology

I started with the unfinished books I had already purchased sitting in my Kindle library. There were at least 100 books that had been purchased over the years in varying stages of completion – a large percentage of which had never been started at all. I started with those that had the greatest % complete and finished them. I love that Kindle tracks this for me! Because most of my books are non-fiction, it was easy to do this. If they had been fiction, I would have started over as I likely would have forgotten the storyline. I did go back and quickly scan the first parts of all the books to refresh my memory. While there were a few 40% complete books, most were either not started or less than 20% complete.

Another way I leveraged technology (i.e. my Kindle) was a game-changer and a huge motivation factor for me. The Kindle tracks my normal reading speed and converts that to how long it’s going to take me to read the current chapter or finish the book. This is freaking awesome because once I see that it’s only going to take 5 hours to finish the book, I’m like “Well, shit, the industry average for television watching is 6 hours a day, I should easily be able to knock this out in a few days.” The time changing while I’m reading the book is a powerful motivator for me to keep reading. I read for a few minutes in the morning, and a couple of hours before bed, and voila! another book bites the dust! As a bonus, I discovered I can read most books in 3-4 days (promise, no speed reading involved here).

There are lots of ways you can leverage technology by downloading a book to your phone, or a tablet, or listening to audiobooks throughout the day. Utilizing technology is a great way to increase your reading time!

2. Replace Other Bad Habits with Reading

One of the many books I read during my year was Atomic Habits. In that book, I learned it’s very difficult to just quit a bad habit and much easier to do if it is replaced with something else.

Think about habits you can exchange or replace with reading. Maybe instead of watching an hour of cat videos, you can cut that back to 30 minutes and spend the other 30 minutes reading. Or hey, when you go to the bathroom at work, instead of scrolling through your phone, read a couple of pages of your book.

You can find a complete list of My Favorite Personal & Professional Development Books here.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Scan When Necessary

Sometimes we get hung up on things that don’t matter, like reading every damn word in a text.

It’s not necessary.

The point of reading is to learn (or entertain). I approach non-fiction like I did college textbooks (and believe me, I read more of my textbooks than most people do). I’d pretty much always read the first and last sentence of the paragraph and if it looked like something I needed to learn more about, I’d go back and read the entire paragraph. Sometimes you need to read every sentence on every page and other times, well, you don’t. Read the first and last sentence of the paragraph and that will help you discern if you want to read more and save you a ton of time.

What Did I Learn?

During my little experiment, I changed my goal three or four times. While I started with just 20 books, I found myself becoming a bit addicted to reading again and that goal soon changed to 30, 50, and then just as many as possible. This was great because it gave me the confidence to set bigger goals. Here are just a few other things you’ll get out of reading more.

1. Increased Vocabulary. I’m reminded of how great reading is for improving your vocabulary! And I love the built-in dictionary on Kindle! I mean who even knew phenomenological was a word or that I was able to think in eidetic terms?!

2. A renewed sense of curiosity. I’ve always been one to approach life from a curious perspective. Analytical by nature, when I watch human behaviors, I’m intrigued by the thoughts and beliefs that go into a decision or outcome (or maybe the lack thereof). All the books I read during this time made me even more curious. I found myself applying something learned in one book to something in my life that was completely unrelated.

3. Inspiration, Motivation, and Determination. My experience inspired me to want to accomplish bigger goals and do more with my life. I was inspired by the stories, ideas, and even the creativity of the authors. Because I read mostly non-fiction, I have a renewed sense of motivation, encouragement, and determination. It keeps me inspired from day to day and I can put most things into practice right away (well, maybe not the book on existentialism).

4. Humbleness. Reading (yes, even non-fiction) reminds me of how much I don’t know and opens doors to information and ideas I had never considered. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.

We can all stand to be a little more curious and a lot less judgmental.

stop judging

5. I learned I wanted to continue to read a comparable volume each year. This is a much better use of my time than watching someone watch a performer sing a song from the 80s and then provide their input on how they like that song. Ugh. How many hours have I spent doing this?!

What Did I Read?

Just in case you are looking for a good book to get started, I have included this list of some of the books I read and especially enjoyed during my year. I am an Amazon affiliate and if you click on any of the links, you can purchase any book here and I’ll receive credit (and thank you!).

I’m not necessarily recommending any of them, just stating I read them. Some were great and quite honestly, some were painful.

Green LightsMatthew McConaughy
Willpower Doesn’t WorkBenjamin Hardy
What to Say When You Talk to YourselfHelmstetter
Reinvent YourselfJames Altucher
GritAngela Duckworth
The Compound EffectHardy
Everything is Figure OutableMarie Forleo
Atomic HabitsJames Cleary
The Virgin WayRichard Branson
Stealing FireKotler/Wheal
Atomic HabitsJames Clear
Can’t Hurt MeDavid Goggins
Think AgainAdam Grant
Becoming BulletproofEvy Poumpouras

Since I’m planning to continue to read at this pace in the future, please recommend any books in the comments!

Check out The Gritty Guru on YouTube here!

2 thoughts on “Want to Read More Books in Less Time?”

  1. Oh yeah, I feel like my vocabulary has unconsciously expanded because I now know words like ‘presentiment’ and ‘paucity’ and I do try to use them in my own work or comments so I can retain them better. Anyway, great thoughts on this, Mari!

    1. Oh, I like that word “presentiment.” Of course, I had to look it up but now that I know the meaning, I really want to use that word all the time. And paucity will be easier to remember because it sounds and has a similar meaning as scarcity. Thank you so much for your comment and for exposing me to new words I can’t wait to use!

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