I bloody love a good book.

Fun books, depressing books, easy books, hard books, books that make my brain tingle and books that destroy me. Fiction, non-fiction, design or blowing my way through Discworld (Terry Pratchett's incredible 40 something body of fantasy-comedy work). I love em.

I tend to burn my way through books, having always been a reader. I often ask the people around me if they're reading anything interesting, and in general, I get similar answers "I'm out of habit with reading at the moment", "I'd love to get back into reading", "I've been trying to read Sapiens for 2 years now and just can't get back into reading".

Well friends, today I'm going to give you the lowdown on how I munch through my never-ending list. Whether I'm reading a new book on UX Design, or I am smashing through a chunky text like War & Peace, these are the tactics I use to get through more books.

  1. Don't read shit you don't like
  2. Make it a habit
  3. Read two books at a time
  4. Schedule in your reading time
  5. Cut the inner monologue

Don't read shit you don't like.

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A couple of weeks ago, as the year was drawing to a close, I caught up with a friend of mine for a relaxed stroll and coffee through the park. It was that wonderful time of year between Christmas and New Year where no one has anywhere to be and any big plans, a kind of grace period before getting stuck into our new goals. We chatted about all sorts of things, politics, the climate, sport and the topic of reading came up.

"That's (reading) something I'd like to do more of"

"Oh yeah, what're you reading"

"It's been maybe 6 months since I've read anything. I've been trying to get through Thinking, Fast and Slow for a couple of years now"

This blew my mind. Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, is an unreal book. But man, it is not an easy book to read.

My advice. Don't read shit you don't like. You don't have to like these big, difficult books. You don't have to like reading Russian literature. You don't have to force yourself through Charles Dickens or any other classics.

Read shit you care about. Reading should be, first and foremost, FUN, a leisure activity. Sure, I get through big, hefty and high minded books (more on how later) but every day I am reading something nice and easy for fun. Currently, I'm getting through Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, there's 40 of them, I'm reading them each night before I go to bed, for the pure joy of it! I couldn't care less what someone thinks of me when I start reading some nerdy fantasy fiction book, this is my time for fun.

And if you get a third of the way into the book, and you hate it... You do not have to finish it. There is this absurd notion that you have to finish a book that you have started. You don't. It does not matter. No one will know, and if they did, they don't fucking care if you didn't finish Crime and Punishment. Just put it down and move on, stop torturing yourself!

Read for fun and your other reading goals will begin to fall into place as you re-discover the joy of reading.

Make it a habit

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I read, every night before I go to sleep. It has become a habit for me to do so. The only times I don't is if I'm drunk (sometimes I'll give it a shot, but I kind of have to re-read the night after) or exhausted. It is now a habit. 

I began this habit because I was a terrible sleeper. My struggles with sleep have been a lifelong challenge for me, they still are, but a great way for me to turn off at the end of the day was to leave my phone in another room and open a book instead.

Here is how I would re-implement this habit anew, I'll be using the habit laws from James Clear's fantastic Atomic Habits.

  • Make it obvious

Use what's called an implementation intention to start the habit


I will read my book at bedtime in my bed.

I will read my book on my way to work on the train

Then design your environment to support your aim.

I keep my book and reading glasses on my bedside table no matter what, I will often pre-emptively put the next book I intend to read underneath this book so that I don't break the chain.

Keep the book you intend to read on the train in your bag.

The no. 1 killer to this is your smartphone or technology

  • Make it attractive

Pair it with something that you already have to do.

I pair this habit with the need to sleep and wind down.

Maybe you pair it with needing to sit and digest a meal.

  • Make it easy

Don't spend half an hour trying to find a book to read when it comes to reading time, have something good to go, something that you are actually interested in.

Prime your environment, have your book good to go, where you are going to read.

Use the two-minute rule. Don't sit down expecting to read the book in one sitting, just read for a couple of minutes and put it down if you aren't feeling it. Sometimes before bed, I read 2 pages and put it down to sleep. Sure, it ain't heaps, but it means I still read every day and gradually I get through it. Take the pressure off dummy!

  • Make it satisfying

If you want to get serious you can take a little note of the days in a row you are reading, keeping a little tally on your bookmark or an app or a scrap of paper. It feels good to get consecutive days in a row, and it's fine to miss a day, just...

Don't miss twice. Missing a day, hey, it happens. But missing two is where it can start to get a bit rocky, give yourself the allowance to miss a day, but try not to miss two.

Read two books at a time

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No, not at the exact same time. But have two books on the go.

At night time I have a nice easy fun book to read, this is just for the fun of it, it's mostly sci-fi, maybe fantasy. Kurt Vonnegut is the perfect evening book for me.

But I also have another book going for me during the day, this is a more challenging book. Lately, it's been books related to UX and interaction design, in the past, it has been books on anthropology or history.

These books are usually non-fiction and they challenge me in some way. 

We all want to be better and I find books to be a great way to stay mentally stimulated and challenged.

One for fun (which I may only read for a few pages in the evening) and one for a challenge (which I schedule in a time for. More on that in 3.... 2.... 1....)

Schedule in your reading time

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If your goal is to read more of the good shit, then you've got to set the time aside to do so. The structure is what allows us to achieve our goals.

I've already written about how I schedule my evening reading, and I do allow this to be a bit unstructured around how long I read, which is basically until I am tired.

But tough books require a bit more of a push. For the more difficult, heady books, I put on a half-hour timer and start reading. But it doesn't have to be that long if you put on a 10-minute timer (if you think you don't have 10 minutes to read, then you, my friend, are lying to yourself) and you read each day for a year you would've clocked up 3650 minutes reading in a year, 70 minutes a week is a fantastic achievement when you are reading tough books. This is how you get through the hard ones, break it down into smaller chunks. 

How do you eat an Elephant? One piece at a time.

Cut the inner monologue

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Now, this is a weird one but roll with me here. When you read something, have you noticed the voice in your head reading the words, as if you were speaking with your mind?

Well, it turns out, you do not have to do this.

This happens because it was how we learned as children to read, sounding out each word. But you don't have to anymore, I have freed you!

Just try it, try reading a sentence or two without sounding out the words in your head. You'll find that you will read much quicker and still retain information. But don't go too fast.

I find that if I come across a particularly juicy or difficult part of a book, I will re-engage this function and savour the part I am re-reading, like a delicious glass of red on a cold evening.

So there you have it

  1. Don't read shit you don't like
  2. Make it a habit
  3. Read two books at a time
  4. Schedule in your reading time
  5. Cut the inner monologue

This is how I chew through books and spend stupid amounts on them. I can't help myself, I just see something I am interested in and I have to know more. I'm a sucker for a library.

My advice.

Read more good shit.

Life is too short to force yourself to read something uninteresting.

See my top 5 books to kickstart your UI/UX Design career here https://www.tomrichards.com.au/posts/5-design-books-to-kick-start-your-new-ui-ux-career
Test out those new skills!