How to read more (more on Rule #9: Effortful before effortless)

This week the Tranquility by Tuesday project is focusing on Rule #9: Effortful before effortless. Doing a little bit of mindful fun before switching over to passive screen consumption can drastically improve the experience of leisure time.

By far the most common form of “effortful fun” people choose is reading. This is wise, because reading can pretty easily fit into patches of leisure that are unplanned, uncertain in duration, or that happen at low energy times — the factors that lead people to reach for their phones (or binge Netflix all night). For people who spend 2 hours of leisure time on various screens per day (not that unusual — much of it unnoticed in 10 minute scrolling bits), devoting half of this to reading means an extra hour a day, or seven hours a week. If you read 40 pages per hour, that gets you an extra book a week right there. Not that there’s anything particularly virtuous about posting an impressive book tally BUT reading 50 more books a year would definitely open up a lot of reading possibilities.

Making this switch — and hence reading quite a bit more — involves doing a few things.

Make it easy to read. Some people always have a print book with them, but for most of us this means making peace with ebooks, and (sorry!) even ebooks read on a phone. Is it ideal? No. But putting the Kindle or Nook app, or Apple’s Books app on your phone means that you can read a book anytime you have your phone with you. Which is probably all the time.

Always have books available. For those of us whose libraries have entered the digital age, an easy way to do this is to use the Libby app and borrow lots of ebooks from your local library. You can put holds on popular books the same way you would with physical books, but lots of back list titles will probably be available immediately. Or…

Put money into it. Price wise, ebooks are the new paperbacks. If you want to read more, you want to have appealing books available. You can download an ebook to an app instantly for usually less than $20. Buying a new ebook every other week or so just might make reading more appealing. Pro tip: If you’re unsure whether you’ll like a book, download the free sample first. I have been saved a few times from buying a real dud this way!

Go with what you like. We’ve talked in the past here about how few more books any of us are going to read in life. Even if you read 100 books a year and live for 50 more years, that’s only 5000 more titles you will read. And to be honest, both of those numbers are optimistic estimates for many of us. You will never make it through thousands of books you’d love. So don’t waste your time on things you aren’t really drawn to. If a friend or reviewer whose taste you trust recommends something outside your normal tastes, absolutely try it out BUT if you know you hate false accusation stories…just don’t bother.

Feel free to lower the energy level. For really low-energy times you might have some more accessible reading available. I like magazines, and sometimes I’ve read books of very short essays, or joke books or comic books because I can’t deal with a full page of text. Pro tip: You can borrow magazines through the Libby app. So you don’t even need to subscribe or visit a news stand! And finally…

Read first, but it doesn’t have to be forever. The point of the “effortful before effortless” fun rule is not to banish all effortless fun. It’s to change the balance, so busy people don’t spend all their precious leisure time on things that aren’t necessarily as rejuvenating as they might have hoped. So if you find it hard to get going on reading, tell yourself you only have to read for two minutes. Two minutes feels like nothing! Then you can binge Netflix or go on an Instagram bender all night if you want. Most of the time you’ll likely read longer, but if not, oh well. Reading for two minutes five times a day during those little spots of time that pop up still means reading for another ten minutes a day…which isn’t nothing. That’s probably about how much time it’s taking me to read through all the works of Jane Austen this year.

How do you make time to read?

In other news: This rule to do “Effortful before effortless” fun comes from Tranquility by Tuesday: 9 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters. If you haven’t read a copy of the book yet, please do! You can request it from your library or download the ebook from major retailers immediately and make it your effortful fun today 🙂


10 thoughts on “How to read more (more on Rule #9: Effortful before effortless)

  1. The easy access factor has certainly upped my reading time: rotating from physical books to Kindle and Audible. I take advantage of the free in-app options from authors I enjoy by adding those into my library so there’s always something waiting on the “shelf”. I am not bothered by reading multiple books at the same time or hitting pause on a book if I’m not feeling it. A huge help for me, however, was in Jan 2018 when I experimented with taking all social media apps off my phone. The plan was to do this for one month; I never added them back. Eventually, I whittled social media down to Instagram and YouTube (limiting and curating those I follow/subscribe to) and accessible from my iPad only.

  2. I added the widget from apple’s books to my Home Screen. Seeing the cover(s) of the book(s) I am reading and the percentage I have read in said book really motivates me!

  3. I love the Goodreads app to keep a “shelf” of books to read, many curated from the reviews of friends within the app. I also started my own “life’s too short” shelf of books that I just couldn’t get into and abandoned!

  4. I discovered last night that the Libby App has a Notify Me tag if a book on your TBR list is not available. I tagged 9 books last night and our library was on it. Within 24 hours, all 9 were ordered! Since I am a fan of your writing, I decided that they should also purchase some of your ebooks, so I tagged those as well tonight. I saw a couple that I had not read in your “What the Most Successful People Do” series. I own almost all of the others…..

    1. @BethC- ooh, great tip! And thank you for telling your library to order my books. I really appreciate it!

  5. In a similar vein, I’ve been more conscious about putting on an audio book at certain times when I otherwise would have a podcast running (although Best of Both Worlds is still a priority listen, too!).

  6. I am finishing up my master’s degree this year and have been reading so many textbooks and case studies I am excited to spend some effortful fun reading books I get to chose!

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