ABR. That’s what I told my wife when she asked me how I planned to read so much this year; more than I had ever read before in a single 365-day span. And, actually, more than I had probably read in my entire life up till that point.
“ABR,” I said, “Always Be Reading.”
ABR was my tongue-in-cheek solution to the daunting problem of how I, a notoriously slow reader, was going to accomplish such a feat as reading two books a month. Two books was, and still is, my goal. Because for me, getting through two books in a month is a big deal.
Two books a month equals 24 books for the year. A number I had only come close to reaching once before.
It’s my duty to share what I know
Now, before you roll your eyes and criticize me or wonder how I got to 52 from 24; before you complain that reading should be an enjoyable act, not something one brags about; that I should take my time reading one book carefully, internalizing it, absorbing its wisdom; let me just say…
I absolutely agree with you.
In fact, I love reading (and learning) so much so that I wanted to figure out how I could consume more. How I could pursue more books, learn more amazing, life-changing things. And presently, having figured it out, I feel it’s my duty to share what I’ve learned these past months.
I owe it to my fellow slow readers and learners out there who want to read more but don’t have the confidence to feel that they can.
This one’s for you.
What I’m up against
I’m big into goal setting. Or actually, what I call goal success, which is the combination of goal setting and goal achieving to create a fulfilling life for yourself.
So when I sat down in January and set the goal to read two books a month, I felt optimistic. And yet, I had several factors stacked against me. Ones you probably do as well. First, as I mentioned, I was a slow reader. So unless I wanted to read picture books, I was going to have a problem.
Second, in that particular moment, my life was tight on excess time. I had a
- Full-time job
- New baby girl (our first child who wasn’t quite ready to sleep fully through the night yet)
- Several other goals vying for my time
- And I was continuing to build my blog, QuickBooost, for as many minutes as I could get my hands on each day.
Available time was going to be an issue.
And then, of course, there were other factors to consider as well – where the money would come from to purchase the books, what kind of books I would focus on, how I would take all that newfound information and actually apply it.
Some real intentionality was needed to make this goal a reality. So that’s what I gave it.
Now jump ahead some 11 months later, to today, the beginning of December. I have 27 days left in the month and have already finished one book, with another nearly complete, and a third on pace to be finished by mid-month.
I’m well on my way to completing four+ books this month alone.
In total, I’ve completed 52 books for the year and it was significantly easier to accomplish than I ever imagined it would be. So how did I, a slow reader with little-to-no discretionary time, go above and beyond? How did I not only hit my goal but actually double it?
Here’s what I did (and what you can do too).
*Oh, and if you don’t believe me, you can see every book that I’ve read this year right here (there are some big ones).
How To Read 52 Books In A Year: 7 Lessons From A Slow Reader
- First, audiobooks
- Simplify note-taking
- Practice speed reading
- Have books on hand (but not too many)
- Know when to read
- Plan out the pages to read
- Remove friction
Yes, I know audiobooks have a certain… errr… connotation to them. But if you’re serious about getting through more books, they’re a must. Out of the 52 books I’ve completed this year, 66% of them (meaning two out of every three) have been audiobooks.
The best part about audiobooks? You can turn boring chores (like folding laundry) into opportunities for you to listen and learn.
I use Audible, but there are surely other services out there.
I also occasionally use Libby to get books for free, but I don’t use it nearly as much as I probably could (or should). If you want to learn more about audiobooks, and my surprisingly vast amount of thoughts on the matter, check out my post here.
Audio vs physical
Audiobooks have, by far, made the biggest impact on my ability to finish so many books. 66% is a lot, so the majority of my book success should be attributed to that.
However, there are certainly other factors that have allowed me to make the progress I desire – particularly in the realm of physical books. Which, though they only make up 34% of the books I’ve completed, still result in nearly two a month – and, oftentimes, they are a great number of pages (500+).
So keep that in mind moving forward.
Another factor that has proven useful is simplifying my note-taking process.
Instead of physically taking notes – I’m a sluggish and barely legible writer – I went digital. I created a Google Doc to house all my big takeaways. In turn, this has helped me reduce the dread I felt when needing to write something down.
Less dread has equated to me taking more (legible) notes. And more notes has led to better understanding, enjoyment, and recall.
Practice speed reading
I also taught myself to speed read using Tim Ferriss’s guide here. Through practice, my reading speed has increased by about 1.5x. Which, while not a total game-changer, has allowed me to navigate through books faster.
All without sacrificing comprehension. It’s more about training your eyes to efficiently navigate a page than anything else.
Have books on hand (but not too many)
I knew that if I ran out of physical books on my shelf, I would be prone to delay. So I’m sure to always have at least four or five unread books ready to go. I know I’ll get to them soon enough. Having four-ish books on hand gives you options without overwhelming you.
Anything more than that and you’ll find yourself more in the business of buying books than actually reading them.
Regarding audiobooks, it’s simple.
As soon as I finish one audiobook, I pick a new one to listen to. Normally within about a day. That way, I always have an audiobook queued up.
Know when to read
If you don’t normally plan out your days, it’s time to start. When you are deliberate about your time, when you make a plan for it, you ensure that you do everything in your day that you desire.
Especially reading, which can often get set aside for random errands and chores.
For me, I always read at lunch. I have a set amount of pages I’m going to read and I read until I hit it. However, sometimes a book is too large to get through it in one sitting. In that case, then, I know that I can use the time after dinner/before bed for any needed overflow reading.
Have a plan for your day and specify exactly when, and how much, you will read.
Plan out the pages to read
I just touched on this, but to go a little more in-depth, I plan out the exact number of pages that I will read each day. A decision that I base on two factors:
- When I want to finish the book
- How many pages I can read in a 30-minute window
For the former, I look at my calendar and determine when I ideally would finish the book so that I get through it in a timely manner.
For the latter, I set a timer and read the book for five minutes. After five minutes, I count how many pages I’ve read. Then, I multiply that number by six to determine how many pages I should be able to get through in a half hour.
I use 30 minutes as a marker because that’s normally the minimum amount of time I have to read in a day.
If a book is 200 pages long, and I can read 25 pages in 30 minutes, it should take me eight days to finish the book. If eight days aligns with my calendar then I will go ahead with 25 pages a day. If it doesn’t, then I’ll either adjust my desired end date or the number of pages I will complete in a day.
This simple activity gives you checkpoints to work towards. It also offers encouragement because you’ll know that, as long as you put in the work, you will finish exactly when you planned for.
This is especially helpful with larger books that may otherwise be daunting.
*Note: You can apply this same process for audiobooks as well.
If I wanted to read but my book was in another room, I would default to laziness and remain on the couch, not reading. So, I’ve learned to keep a book by where I relax. Meaning… the couch. That way there is no energy or effort required. I just stick out my arm, grab the book, and read.
There is no friction. There are no obstacles. The book is right there – so I pick it up and start reading.
Audiobooks work the same way.
I have the Audible app on my phone. And with my phone serving as constant companion, I listen to audiobooks whenever there’s an opportunity for them; which is often.
That’s really all there is to it
I was surprised how, after implementing these minor tactics, I’ve naturally progressed through book after book. With a great deal less effort than I thought would be necessary as well.
I’m not burning out. In fact, I’m not even sweating.
And now I’m wondering to myself how I can take it even further.
I’ve learned so much this year… it feels like every other month I “graduate” into new realms of understanding – which I love. A love so grand that I, obnoxiously, want more. I’ve heard good things about Ebooks (like Kindle versions and such), especially when traveling or in transit.
I may just have to add that into the mix and try it out for myself.
I’ll see you at the bookstore.