How to Turn Your Reading Habit into a Productive Experience
You love to read.
Really, really love to read.
And you’ve read so many books over the years.
Books have now become part of your signature look ~ either a book-in-the-hand or books-in-a-device ~ held protectively as if your life depends on it. You cannot go out without at least one book, always.
Most of the books you read are full of gems, inspiration and a lot of worthy action steps. You feel high and motivated while reading but feel flat and low on motivation sometime after completing the book.
The biting reality is that you feel as if you have hardly taken any steps forward in your life. That is despite the gems you discover regularly from your readings.
Your dreams are still dreams.
Your goals are still far and unreachable.
You find it hard to tap into your potentials.
In fact you feel inhibited by the tons of text you digest regularly. Its a heavy burden you carry from day-to-day. So, should you keep reading or STOP?
Do you simply face up to the fact that the text you consume is a weapon of mass confusion?
Its time for change!
A change that aids you to read. To understand. And to take positive action from all the reading you do.
Your reading habit needs complete overhauling.
Whether you are reading for information, pleasure or as an avenue for communication; books can take you to great places and back again. You can turn your reading habit into a productive experience.
So, let’s get to work creating one as a productive adventure.
Here are simple steps you can take to turn your reading habit into a productive experience.
Before you read
i. Be intentional.
Have a reading goal. Know why you are reading a particular book. Is it for research, inspiration, to teach, to learn a new skill or solve a problem? Or is it a topic you are simply passionate about?
Have this goal in mind before you start reading.
This mindset will help direct your reading so its purposeful, not just random. And you will be able to look back afterwards to check whether you have been able to achieve victory with your goal.
ii. Prioritise on your reading.
As you buy or borrow your next batch of books, make sure to include those which relate to your short term goals. Those books you need apply to life immediately as it will be highly practicable for you.
For example, since I started preparing for my new book launch I have purchased and read books on marketing and advertising. And I keep looking out for recommendations in those areas.
Now you don’t want to see my massive book wish list, ever. Its not for the faint-hearted without similar lists. So I’ll save you from a *premature heart attack*.
iii. Consider it an investment.
You should value your books and reading time. Take it as an investment, not a ‘maybe‘, ‘whenever‘, ‘whatever‘ activity.
Assign quality time in your day to access this investment – whether its early morning after Fajr or during your daily commute to work/ school/ running errands. If you don’t take your reading important, no one will. If you don’t handle your books or reading devices well, no one will.
Just as you will protect the items you consider valuable like your camera or watch, start protecting your reading time. It is even more valuable than those items you protect because it boosts your knowledge and intellect. And you can’t put any price tag on beneficial learning. Or can you?
iv. Be prepared to drop it.
You don’t have to struggle through a book you are finding difficult; as long as its not for work or study purposes. Feel free to drop it. You can come back to it later.
Otherwise, the experience may leave you unproductive and stagnant (with a reader’s block).
For some it may be a worthy challenge to get through it against all odds, but it may not be so wise for you. You can skim and scan through to help you seal the decision – without feeling guilty.
v. Highlight or write out useful/ inspirational quotes and ideas.
Make notes as you move along. Don’t wait to finish up before going back to write things out. You may never do it. Or you may forget which page it was.
I find that writing by hand especially using a combination of coloured pens gives me a great engagement with the content. As I write, my brain helps me make connections with the ideas.
vi. Make your own personal notes on key lessons and reflections.
You know that feeling of finding a meaningful connection or gaining an insight from words you are reading.
Well, hang on to the thought process.
Then write, write and write away till you can’t no more. You may prefer to do it at the end of your day in a journal after processing the information.
vii. Pace your reading.
Read regularly and at a consistent pace.
Use your schedule to set a time frame within which you can complete your reading e.g., one week, two weeks or one month. This will keep you mentally alert while reading and keep the ideas fresh and relatable.
Imagine abandoning a book about half way in, then returning to it 3-4 months later. Your reading experience will never be as productive as when you read it to completion in about a month or even less.
viii. Get a book buddy for an all-weekend book chat.
Its always interesting to hear a book analyzed from different perspectives. It deepens understanding and reinforces meanings for the readers.
A book buddy could be your sibling, spouse, friend, mentor or parent/child. And you can do it face-to-face, via Skype or other technologies. Discussing a book is also a great means of bonding and forming great rapport in life.
ix. Write a summary or review.
Share your favourite parts, points of benefit, recommendations and general critique. Share it with others so they can gain from it. And to keep yourself accountable knowing you have to do a review.
The process of writing a review usually helps with recalling beneficial information. It also helps you come to terms with your opinion about the material. If you love to sketch or doodle, you can also include that in your review.
Amazon is a great platform to get started on writing reviews.
Yes, read the book all over again if necessary. Or it could be some parts if you need to hammer on only certain key ideas.
Quality reading always beats quantity.
Unless of course you have mastered speed reading. A second or third read will shed more light on important ideas, give better understanding and clarity on specific action steps to take.
How do you read?
Do you simply grab a book and try to read it from start to finish when the mood suits you?
Or are you more intentional in your approach, from buying/ borrowing the book to finishing it?
What’s your preference – hard copy, ecopy or audio version? I used to be a hard copy fan, then in came Amazon kindle and I fell in love. Then came audible and audio books and my crush got bigger. I can’t help loving audio books with their convenience and you should too.
Sometimes reading can seem hard but it’s always a worthwhile experience.
And just as the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was commanded to ‘read’, you need to ‘read’ with purpose to get ahead in your life. Its your duty to make your reading productive not just another activity to get over.
Don’t stop reading
You can use your reading habit to achieve one or more of the following:
> Teach others;
> Become a lifelong learner;
> Bring your ideas to life;
> Learn valuable skills;
> Travel through your reading;
> Understand cultures better;
> Have better grasp of your values;
> Discover new ideas and knowledge;
> Improve the quality of your life.
Let me end with a quote from an inspirational text ”Teachers as Readers”.
”Reading is how I make sense of the world” (Betty H.)
Whatever life throws at you, don’t stop reading.
I remember the family of a sick, bed-bound patient telling us that she often requests for audio books to be played for her. Another patient had her bed filled with some favourite books.
As an ambassador of Islam, nothing should be done in life without a worthy purpose. So do all you do for Allah’s sake with sincerity and sense of purpose to please Him – even reading.
In that way, you can turn your reading habit into a worthy and productive experience.
No reading can replace that of the Qur’an as it is clearly your greatest guide and mentor through life. But reading other books aid you with specific skills you need to make the most of this life while preparing for the next.
Stay productive while enjoying your reading.
Over to you – how will turn your reading habit into a productive experience?