Reading is vital in all sorts of development but unless you engage in it consistently and see its value directly, you’ll find it hard to read for longer periods of time.
Training yourself to read longer is a gradual process that requires practice and patience.
Here are some things you can do to help you improve your reading stamina and ultimately train yourself to read longer:
Begin with manageable goals
Goal setting is an important aspect of becoming an engaged reader that can sit down and read for long hours.
Having a plan will make your reading experience a lot less unstructured.
This is good because psychologically, you’re wired to take on tasks that have clear goals with clear outcomes.
You need to set goals that are achievable paired with a mindset of gradually improving on these goals as you progress.
So start by figuring out what you want to achieve with reading….
Maybe you’re trying to improve yourself or your work by gathering e knowledge; maybe you’re a student looking to take your studies more seriously etc.….
You know your situation better.
Write down what you want to achieve with extensive reading and the material you plan to dig into.
Here is an example of how I do it:
Main Goal: Learn about marketing positioning
Daily goals: Read 20 pages of The Lean Start Up book
Required Effort: Set aside 2 Hours every day to read
Monthly goal: Complete the reading of the Lean Start up book
This is just an example but that’s exactly how I would set up my goals.
I’d choose reading 20 pages a day because I know I can get it done and my lifestyle allows for it.
Setting aside 2 hours a day to read is another thing I can do because half the time I’m reading anyway.
Your situation may be completely different of course; this is why I encourage you to set goals that are not out of reach as you begin to train yourself to read longer.
You should right-off-the-bat have practical goals behind your reading.
This will make it easier to stay engaged and focused during your reading sessions.
And set goals that you can easily accomplish because the goal here is to ensure that you create as many positive reading experiences as possible.
A good average daily reading goal for a beginner should be between 15 to 20 pages. This can then be gradually improved upon.
Having the right reading goals will help you find the motivation to read for longer.
Remember to enjoy the act of reading.
Choose books or topics that genuinely interest you, as this can significantly enhance your reading experience and motivation.
Remember, building reading stamina is a gradual process.
Be patient with yourself, stay consistent, and celebrate your progress along the way.
You should experiment with different reading mediums and find the one that works the best for you.
Don’t be afraid to try reading on e-book readers, your computer, phone etc. You should also try listening to audiobooks and see if that is something you enjoy.
The point is that you shouldn’t be restricted to only physical books.
Become familiar with the reading material
In order to make extensive reading easier, you need to know what you’re up against.
If you have no idea what the book or article or magazine you’re about to read is about, you could find it hard to read it and stay engaged in reading it for longer periods of time.
The reason behind this is that; human beings are psychologically inclined to take on tasks that they are familiar with.
For example a person that has a passion for physics can enthusiastically read a physics book without having to elicit a lot of effort and willpower from themselves.
That is because they are familiar with physics and have some interest in it.
Give them book on philosophy and they may find it hard to focus and read it extensively if they have no particular interest in the subject.
It’s essential that you always prepare and understand the book you want to read; to cultivate some curiosity and interest in reading it.
Granted you won’t always be familiar or necessarily love what you want to read but you can do the following to make your reading material less alien:
- Look up what the book is about on Google and YouTube.
- Read about the author to have a better understanding of their work
- Read a book summary online
Becoming an extensive reader doesn’t happen overnight and I won’t promise that you’ll all of a sudden sit down to read 300 pages in one session after reading this article.
However, you’ll be in a better position to do so with some effort.
So, let’s talk about consistency and the power of routine.
Routine is important whenever you’re set on creating a new habit.
It’s not that there’s some life hack out there that will magically transform you into a bookworm.
To read for longer and extended periods of time, you need to become a person that can read for longer and extended periods of time.
To do this you need to use the reading virtuous cycle.
It is a helpful tool that is important to internalize.
It states that; the more you read, the more proficient you become at reading, proficiency makes reading enjoyable.
Enjoying it prompts you to read more often and for longer.
Routine and consistency are at the heart of all this.
I want you to start reading every day and keep track of how long your reading sessions last.
Keep this up for a week and then increase how much you read by 20% every week.
You’ll need a routine that works for you and fits your schedule to avoid skipping days.
The power of consistency will help condition your mind and body to sustain longer reading sessions.
You should also apply what is called “deliberate practice”.
Deliberate practice is the art of working at the same thing and never stopping even after attaining perfection.
According to this theory, as we train and become good at something, we hit a plateau where we stop seeing improvement and most people stop practicing when they hit this point.
As you become more comfortable with longer reading sessions, gradually introduce more challenging material.
This could involve reading books or articles with complex subject matter or a higher reading level.
Pushing yourself to read slightly more difficult content can expand your reading capacity.
Over time, you should aim to extend your reading sessions by a few minutes each day or week.
Incremental increases will help you build endurance without overwhelming yourself.
However, just because the improvements in skill can’t be spotted or noticed, doesn’t mean they occur.
As a result even a master can use deliberate practice to become elite at their specific skill set.
So, utilize deliberate practice in your reading. Over time, sitting down to read for hours will seem easy and natural to do.
Distractions are your worst enemy in reading, especially for long periods of time.
When we sit down to read we’re essentially trying to narrow our focus and concentration onto one object.
Anything that disrupts that process is a distraction.
Distractions come in all shapes and sizes. Some distractions are obvious and apply to many different people for example noise, electronic devices etc.
Some distractions on the other hand are entirely subjective.
Your lifestyle is different from everyone else’s and so are some of the distractions that could invade your focus field.
You should ensure that all sources of distractions are eliminated from your workspace as you read.
If you can’t find a comfortable and quite environment in your home, then consider taking your reading somewhere else.
Those of you with too many visual distractions in your workspace should consider moving to a new room, decluttering your table or desk, packing away unnecessary stuff and so forth.
I’ve always found working in a minimalistic workspace better than working in an office with piles of books and paper everywhere.
Remember that visual distractions don’t always invade your sphere of focus by creating random intrusions.
Most of the time our eyes leap out at these distractions and this leads to a thought pattern that detracts us from the work we are doing.
This can cause a challenge when the goal is reading extensively.
Auditory distractions are another big one because there’s nothing that our ears love more than hearing and dragging our attention to the source of a sound.
For extensive reading, consider using good noise cancelling headphones suited for reading extensively.
If you can’t completely eliminate distractions then consider minimizing them.
Utilize taking notes
One way to stay fully engaged in an activity is to involve your body into the activity.
This is one of the reasons why it’s easier to complete a physical task than a mental one like reading or studying.
Note taking can be an effective way to keep you physically engaged in reading.
It can also help your memory by providing an additional anchor (writing) to the material you’re reading.
Underline important points, or summarize key ideas as you go along.
Active reading promotes better understanding and retention, which can help sustain your interest and reading stamina.
So ensure that you have a physical pad to take notes on or digital text editor.
I have to state the obvious, that is, if you’re reading fiction, you can do without taking notes unless you deem it important to do so.
You should take a break every 90 minutes of focused reading to give your brain a chance to process what you’ve read and store it accordingly. Taking breaks between reading sessions is also essential in boosting your memory.
I always include the necessity of taking breaks in every article a about becoming a better reader because you’re only as efficient as the amount of rest you integrate in your reading sessions.
Take breaks in order to give your mind a rest. Stand up, stretch, or engage in a different activity for a few minutes.
This can help you stay mentally refreshed and maintain focus when you return to read.
Taking breaks can additionally help you read for longer without boredom and fatigue.
You need a deep level of self-awareness in order to engage in reading for longer periods of time.
Self-awareness is the ability to ruthlessly keep track of your habits, tendencies and behaviors in order to make tweaks and improvements.
It’s essential to do the following
- Watch how long you stick to reading before your mind starts drifting away to other places.
- Look for frequent intrusions and distractions that take you away from reading
- Track your reading experiences in different places or areas.
- Understand what you like to read
- Discover whether or not you prefer reading during day time or at night.
- Look for particular areas that cause difficulty in your reading.
You can modify the list by adding or removing what you feel is essential to your progress.
One thing to remember is that the more you learn about your reading the more adjustments you can make to improve and make your reading experiences better.
It’s not about discovering the silver bullet that will make you read for longer it’s about making changes that will gradually aid the process.
Optimize your reading setup
It might seem obvious that you need to be organized as you take on extensive reading, but it’s really not.
Optimizing your work space may seem like a waste of time and I’ve been guilty of this too but that is not the case at all.
To engage in serious work like reading for long hours, you need to have the setup to match it.
Your brain is always looking for an excuse to get distracted and unless you can prepare your space optimally.
You’ll find it hard to get any serious work done.
Ensure that you are comfortable and can stay comfortable for a decent amount of time like an hour or two.
Utilize light in your environment
If you intend to read extensively within the first 7 hours of waking up then ensure that you safely brighten up your room and get some moderate sunlight in your eyes.
According to neuroscience research; you need alertness in the first phase of the day and lighting up the room can help you get that alertness.
If you have overhead lights turn them on.
Any bright lights in your environment can be helpful such as a desk lamp.
All this rests on the premise that we have to be alert to do our work in the first 7 hours after waking up.
This is the first phase of the circadian cycle in which our neuro-chemistry is primed for getting the most amount of focused work.
After around 12 hours after waking up you want to start dimming the lights because at this time the brain will begin utilizing different neuro-chemicals like serotonin.
As a result you want lesser exposure to light.
If you have overhead lights then you might want to turn those down and maybe dim your desk lamp depending on how bright your room is.
The idea is not to go completely dark. It’s to simply reduce the amount of light in your workspace.
Alternatively you can switch from bright LED lamps to dimmer yellow lamps.