From a young age, before we can even read ourselves, the importance of reading is instilled in us. Later, we’re told to emulate the leaders, millionaires, and billionaires who preach about the power of reading more. Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Barack Obama are all known to incorporate reading into their daily routines – and point to the habit as part of the reason for their success.
The majority of us aren’t reading a book a week, let alone 3 hours a day. Other priorities take precedence, and the habit of reading can slip into the realm of “when I have more time.”
If it’s that we lack motivation, it could be that the biggest motivator to reading more frequently is getting to the root of why we should read more books.
Here’s why reading more books can make you smarter, more productive, and better at life.
The Many Benefits of Reading More
From physical and mental benefits to better workplace habits to productivity and creativity, building a reading habit can have many positive impacts on those willing to make the time.
Creative Thinking and Intellectual Wellness
A good place to start is with the basics. Reading exposes you to new ideas and ways of thinking. It provides you with the information necessary to conjure innovative ideas. It certainly expands your vocabulary and knowledge to draw from for inspiration. You improve your creative thinking by learning from the experiences of others.
Reading exercises the parts of the brain necessary for creating. One university-based study showed that students who spend more time reading do better on tests that involve creativity.
The “Brain training” that occurs while reading is an important factor in intellectual wellness. By actively engaging with what you’re reading, it can lead to better analytical skills and critical thinking. From connecting the dots in a murder mystery to building ideas in a “how to” book, reading forces the brain to siphon out clues and piece together information from chapter to chapter, page to page, and concept to concept.
Success and Career Advancement
“Money is just an idea… If you want money in your hands, first put an idea in your head.” – Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad)
More books = More ideas = More money. It’s simple, right?
A study by Thomas Corley on the habits of rich people found some striking data on their reading habits. Of the millionaires he interviewed, 85% read 2 or more books a month. For reference, this is double the average – and well above the median of 4 books per year for the average American. They were also consistent, with 88% of these millionaires reading educational books for 30 minutes or more per day. The majority read biographies, history, and self-help books. It’s no coincidence that they spend the little free time that they have time reading books.
While it won’t necessarily make you a millionaire, reading can boost your net worth for various reasons:
- Learning from others is a shortcut to success by avoiding unnecessary errors along the way. Many successful people have written a book or had one written about them. Why not learn from the best?
- There are (nearly) an infinite amount of books covering every skill set under the sun. You could learn through trial and error. Or read the guide.
- Studies show that relationships benefit from reading. Better workplace relationships are a surefire way to keep your career moving in the right direction.
- Having stronger ideas is sure to help your career trajectory.
Focus and Productivity
While focus and productivity will boost your career and performance, it also goes beyond your professional life. We’re constantly distracted by notifications and devices. Incorporating reading into your routine can actually help reduce the distractions that hinder your productivity. Reading is shown to be a great way to train your focus.
Research has found that reading for 30 minutes a day stimulates the prefrontal cortex, which improves focus, concentration, and memory and can lead to a better attention span.
Dedicating 10-30 minutes a day to reading trains you to focus and avoid multi-tasking. And as you develop this ability to focus, it travels with you across other areas of your life, boosting your productivity in the process.
An Italian study found that the tactile sensation of a printed book allows some people to absorb information more easily. Not only is it great for your productivity, but it can improve your overall health as well. Giving the eyes a break by reading print and reducing your screen time can have a positive effect. Reading printed books before bed can help cut down on your blue-light intake and allow you to get better quality shut-eye.
Wellness and Mental Health
Reading can positively affect your physical well-being, too. One study found that just 30 minutes of reading can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and stress – as effectively as doing yoga.
While it won’t give you toned arms or improve your posture, it’s good for both the body and the brain. Reading helps you stay mentally sharp and alert. Studies using MRI scans found that the complex circuits involved in reading can exercise and strengthen cognitive functions.
Researchers in the UK also shared that the “mental gymnastics” of reading can keep the brain stimulated, slowing the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s. A lifelong reading habit makes people less likely to develop medical concerns related to dementia.
Although it might seem like a daunting task at first, once you get into a reading habit, the ritual of sitting down with a book can also help quiet the mind and encourage inner tranquility. For people dealing with burnout or depression, reading can be a relaxing pastime and help manage or even explore and deal with negative emotions.
Reading books related to your field of work or study is, of course, your best bet for filling your well of potential success. However, reading fiction is important as well.
When you read a fiction book, the story requires something from you: imagination. You have to fill in the gaps of information to create vivid scenes and characters in your mind. It’s an exercise that is necessary for coming up with new and innovative ideas.
So, while reading the newest non-fiction self-help book can directly benefit your goals, adding some fiction to your shelf is what will keep your mind thinking in full color.
Tips for Building a Reading Habit
Knowing all these benefits of reading, the real challenge for many of us is building a healthy reading habit.
Finding the time to sit down and crack open a book isn’t always easy. But if you’re ready to give it a go, here are some helpful tips for injecting more reading time into your lifestyle.
1. Diversify Reading Formats
Even though there are benefits to reading in print, ebooks and audiobooks are also a more than acceptable fallback. Virtual reading allows you to take your entire bookshelf on your commute or traveling. Always having a book on hand makes incorporating the habit into your daily routine more organic.
Not sure where to start? Platforms and reading apps like Kindle (Amazon), Google Play Books, and Audible all offer some free reads to get you started. Project Gutenberg has more (completely free) books than you could ever read. And it’s also worth noting that ebooks are often cheaper than buying the book in print form.
2. Social Accountability
Publicly announcing your reads on social media (#Bookstagram) or setting up a book slack channel with your work team can encourage your reading habits. Try having your team or friends read the same book – it adds accountability and a layer of community to your reading practice.
Share books with colleagues that you think they may be interested in. Book sharing is a great conversation starter. And before you know it, your friends and colleagues will be dropping off their favorite books.
Or, how about a book club? Whether in-person or online, there are public book clubs in every city that any person is welcome to join. A book club can be an excellent way to read with intention, absorb the material, and maximize learning. It’s always helpful hearing what others took away from a read.
3. Guilty Pleasures
Read what you love until you love to read.
— Naval (@naval) May 31, 2018
Never feel guilty about reading “guilty pleasures”. If you don’t like what you are reading, don’t feel the need to finish. As Arielle Zibrak has put it, it’s a “puritanical notion that what you consume defines you – or worse – ranks you.”
4. Know Yourself
Avoid putting pressure on your reading habits based on what others are doing. Get to know your own best practices for reading.
When do you read best? What genres work for you when you’re under stress? What’s your ideal pace? There may be some authors or genres that you fly through, while others remain unfinished on your nightstand for a year. Be honest and focus on what works for you. And if you aren’t enjoying a read, just put it down and move on.
5. Positive Reinforcement
It will always feel like you don’t have enough time to read – because there’s always something that feels like a higher priority. A good way to combat this is to implement personal rewards and positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement encourages certain behaviors by associating them with a desirable stimulus. For example, you can associate reading with positive stimuli such as quiet time after a busy day, a relaxing bath, a nice cup of coffee or tea, or a glass of wine.
Research shows that associating a positive reward with a task leads to higher productivity. Rather than bullying yourself for reading slowly, reward yourself for finishing a book. Or even a chapter if you’re just getting started.
6. Implement Reading Tools
Aside from your favorite e-reader or book app, there is a range of tools you can use to improve your reading habits.
Some tools that can help build your daily reading habit:
- Blinkist offers efficient and accurate book summaries with a library of thousands of non-fiction titles.
- Time2Read gives you a free email course for improving your reading habits.
- BeeLine adds a color gradient as you read through online text for efficient comprehension.
- Spritz feeds you one word at a time – a unique and experimental method for faster reading.
You can also try making a (free) account on Goodreads and start building your TBR (To Be Read) list. Goodreads allows you to create themed bookshelves, share book reviews, follow your favorite authors, and interact with fellow reading communities. It’s also a great place to find new books that interest you and read honest reviews to see if it’s worth your time.
Lastly, don’t forget about creating a comfortable and inviting reading space. Set yourself up for success with a quality reading lamp, a bookmark you love, and a comfy chair!
The Importance Of Building YOUR Reading Habit
Sitting down to read a book per week isn’t doable for everyone. However, making the time to read – even for a few minutes – will have a range of benefits for your personal and professional life.
The benefits of reading and the impact it has on our lives are important to factor into our professional goals and personal wellness. From reduced stress levels and better sleep to success at work and increased productivity, reading will provide benefits that last a lifetime. Reading will even help you live longer!
While reading books related to your goals is ideal, reading fiction and other forms of writing can also help stretch your mind and get your imagination flowing. And though reading print has many benefits, ebooks and audiobooks are great too.
Whatever you decide to read, and however you decide to read, know that as you get busier, reading can get pushed down the priority ladder. Don’t let it. Make the time, pick up the book, expand your mind, and maybe even add a few years to your life.