blog Guest Post Reading & Writing

The 5 Steps to Creating a Reading Habit that Sticks

Kristie Santana is a certified life coach and founder of the National Coach Academy. Her passion is helping kickstart young careers in the coaching space, and her latest project, Life Coach Path, does that with comprehensive career guides and information on finding the best certification.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the research that our attention spans have dramatically decreased in recent years.

We’re consuming information by scrolling through the newsfeed, clickbait titles, tweets, and IG descriptions. All this is diminishing our ability to focus on a single topic for an extended period of time.

But even more importantly, we’re missing out on the huge benefits that come with long-form reading on a consistent basis.

A study published in Neurology indicated that reading shifts how our brains work in truly beneficial ways.

MRI scans reveal that reading activates a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain, and when you read books on a regular basis, those networks get stronger and more intricate.

In other words, your mind becomes more “athletic” and capable as a whole.

Novels and nonfiction books help us forge empathy and discern the inherent nuance that exists within the “big picture” framing all stories and circumstances.

Reading is a pleasurable form of entertainment that’s genuinely good for you at the same time!

But starting and maintaining a reading habit doesn’t come easy. The constant flow of digital distractions poses a major challenge. The lack of interest in the subject matter could also hamper our concentration.

To help you create a reading habit that sticks, here are my five tips that can come in handy:

1. Invest in the Ritual

First things first, you’ll want to create boundaries with digital devices. Blocking out some time every day that’s designated as “screen-free” will create the opening you need to start reading.

You can make an exception for a Kindle-style reader, but the rule of thumb should be to avoid an item that allows you to sneak away to the web or social media. Be sure to silence these items and prevent receiving distracting push notifications during your reading time. 

Next, create your ideal comfortable reading spot.

Girl reading a book

It could be by a sunny window, or in a cozy nook. Either way, you want the space to be one you love being in. Take into consideration lighting and ergonomics.

Light a candle or burn incense. The whole experience should be a sensory pleasure for both your mind and body.

Then incorporate elements of ritual. It could include a morning cup of coffee or evening tea. Think of other rituals or habits that you have already established, and tack on your new reading ritual. 

2. Start Small

Consistent habits are much easier to form when we introduce them on an incremental basis.

Think of it this way, if you wanted to start a habit of running daily, you wouldn’t run a marathon on day one. Starting small and being consistent is the primary way to effectively ingrain a healthy habit. 

If you only have half an hour available, start with that, and mark off a calendar with every day that you read for at least 30 minutes. This visual of seeing a chain of days you’ve accomplished your goal will help motivate you to maintain that chain.

3. Follow Your Interests

Once again, a daily habit has to be one that you genuinely enjoy.

Don’t get sucked into the idea that there are books you “should” read. Book recommendations can be helpful, but ultimately, what you choose to read needs to be based on your intuitive desire to read something. 

As you delve deeper into any topic or genre, you’ll inevitably find yourself inspired by new interests. And if you’re having trouble figuring out what your interests are initially, think of questions you might type into a search engine.

General curiosities are a great place to start when exploring new books to read. Some will continue to pique your interest and others may terminate after initial exploration. Pivoting from different topics and genres is part of the fun!

4. Build Your Reading List

An important safeguard against dropping this habit in mid-formation is to build out a reading list and purchase several book options upfront.

Create a petit personal library. That way you can pick up a new book as soon as you finish the first, and won’t be thrown off by waiting for a new book to arrive.

personal library

Keep in mind, you do not need to build your list in a linear way.

You can think of options that cover a range of genres and topics so when you’re in the mood for a change, you have options on hand that pique your interest.

5. Read as a Team

Book clubs and reading partners are a great way to instill accountability. You can establish this practice as simply as having a quick phone call, or exchanging emails, to recap each chapter.

In addition to helping you stick to your daily habit of reading, you’ll also gain insights about what you’ve read from an alternative perspective. 

Utilizing the diversity of a group can spark curiosity in areas you may not have naturally uncovered if you were to stay focused on your individual interests alone.

By establishing a daily reading habit, you will not only be broadening your interests, but you will also be broadening your neural network.

You’ll be improving your processing skills, imagination, and developing a foundation of knowledge you can apply in all areas of your everyday life! 

Take it small, be consistent, and invest in the pleasure of reading. 

I promise, you won’t miss scrolling 😉 

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Creating a reading habit

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