What stops you from taking action?
Is it overwhelm, fear of failure, anxiety, and a host of of blocks, thoughts, and feelings?
How interested would you be in learning a way to effortlessly take action despite them?
When you implement what you are about to learn, you will dramatically reduce your “procrastination time.”
You won’t suddenly become a productivity machine, but you might, because you never know, right?
The simple secret to taking massive action is so simple that you may end up laughing when you discover what it is, but it truly works.
And you will discover exactly what I’m talking about when you use it in your own life.
Looking Into Your Future
When I stop myself from taking action, I look into the future. I try to plan and predict what’s going to happen, and not happen. What I need to do, and not do.
I’m sure you know where that thought process leads, don’t you?
There’s nothing but overwhelm, fear, and anxiety when I go down that path. Even though I know what I’m about to share with you in this article, I still fall into the trap of overwhelm and scaring myself.
What you may not realize, if you’re really good at overwhelming yourself, is that as you take action, you learn and grow.
This means that you cannot effectively plan ahead, because the wiser you become, the more different your future decisions become. You begin to look at things from a whole new perspective.
And this is why going with the flow, trusting your heart, and taking action is so powerful. When you move forward, the pieces of the puzzle fall into place when they need to, and with each piece, you see more and more of the bigger picture.
You don’t have to know everything to know enough.
Setting a goal is all well and good, but it should never stop you from taking action.
The goal is there so you have something to aim at, but you always want to be thinking about what you can do now.
How to Effortlessly Take Action
With all that said, let’s take a look at how you can start to take action right away, shall we?
The secret is asking yourself the following question: What is the next smallest step that I can take, right now?
You don’t have to plan everything, although sometimes it’s helpful, but when it’s not is when it isn’t moving you forward.
We’ve been taught that we need to eliminate uncertainty, but what you may not realize is that without uncertainty, possibility cannot exist.
So if you’ve been planning, and trying to avoid mistakes that you haven’t made yet, I encourage you to ask yourself what the next smallest step is that you can take toward the general direction of your goal.
I told you it was going to be surprisingly simple, and it is.
There is still one more step you can take if you want to take this to the next level.
Feel the End Result, Now
Have you ever made an important decisions while you were feeling bad?
We all have, and the result is often unpleasant, uncomfortable, and unwanted.
This is why I want you to imagine what it would feel like to have already accomplished your goal.
Then feel what it feels like in your body. And from this state of already having the feeling you want to have, ask yourself what the next smallest step is that you can take, right now.
This will get you effortlessly moving in the right direction without overwhelm, fear, or anxiety.
This doesn’t mean you’ll never feel negative, because you will, but it will get you moving, and once you’re moving, you become unstoppable.
You see, when you feel good and make decisions from a state of peace, happiness, joy, inspiration, or even fulfillment, it will lead to more of those feelings.
When you love self-help and personal growth books, it’s easy to consume book after book without actually taking action on most of it.
I’ve been guilty of doing this a lot, and I’m working on how to actively apply what I’m learning before moving onto the next thing. Without focusing on applying what I’m learning, it can feel like I’m endlessly learning new things, but never have enough time or energy to implement.
When you know better, you do better. But sometimes when you consume too much even of something as amazing as personal development content, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stuck.
Where do you even begin? What action steps should you apply first?
With personal development, there’s so much that we can be doing to better ourselves. It’s a never-ending process. And we’re up for doing the work, but we need ways to apply what we’re learning that feels inspiring instead of daunting.
I wanted to share some ideas that I’ve been using, and that I’ve learned about as actionable ways to learn and organize your notes after reading an inspiring book on self-improvement.
So, let’s get into it. Here are five ways to take action after reading a personal growth book.
1. Take action-oriented notes
As you’re going along, highlight, and take notes on what resonates with you. And more importantly, take notes on how it can apply in your life as you go along.
How would this apply to your own life? Once you read through the entirety of the book, look back on your notes and map out a game plan for taking action on 1-3 things you learned in the book.
Tim Ferriss writes notes directly inside the first page of the book, using the first page to jot down page numbers in the front of his book with a short sentence to help remind him about why he highlighted the paragraph that he did.
2. Do experiments after each read
Have you ever thought to map out a plan based on strategies laid out through the self-help book?
Well, Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer do just that in their podcast, “By The Book” where the two ladies choose to live by a self-help book for two weeks straight and document the process.
You can totally do the same thing. Create experiments to live out the book that you read. Most self-help books give you specific action steps you can use to work through the books. You could even use the guidelines set in the “By The Book” podcast to try it out yourself for two weeks.
3. Create a commonplace book
If you’re a next-level self-help consumer, you might want to take it as a far as creating a commonplace book to store your notes.
Whether it’s to refer back to for content creation or simply to keep as inspiration, it’s a useful way to physically keep track of the knowledge you’re gathering from self-help books.
So what the heck is a commonplace book?
It sounds a lot weirder than it is.
This is a process for storing and organizing your book notes on notecards in a filing container with labels. It’s not a book so much as a box.
I first learned about this through Amy Landino – who talks about how she implemented the commonplace book strategy from Ryan Holiday.
Essentially, you use one notecard per a single quote from a book. Include the author’s name, the book, and the page number.
For personal development books, you could store it by topic:
And when you need a hit of inspiration, refer back to the notes you took. For more information on commonplace books, our friend Elena Hartung created a great blog post on how she created hers.
4. Use a system for tracking your books
Whether it’s GoodReads or using ClickUp (see above) to track your reading log (see image), keep track of what you rate the book and what you learned. You can summarize what tips stood out to you.
Make it a habit that as soon as you finish a book, you instantly go into your reading log and make notes about it. If you have highlighted notes, you can even add those in from the pages so that you keep track of what was noteworthy.
5. Join a book club
Personal growth book clubs are a great way to make what you read memorable and action-oriented. With the power of community, you can gain insights from the group on what stood out to them, talk about how to apply it to your life, and read self-help books you might otherwise skip over.
Speaking of, you’re always invited to our free personal growth book club inside Life Goals Collective Club. Come read (and take action) with us!
How do you take action on self-help books that leave you feeling inspired?
Chances are that you’ve said to yourself, at least once, that you need to read more. Whether you’re too busy to read a book or you just have trouble getting attached to one, we have a few tips to help you schedule in your reading so you actually get it done and enjoy it.
The main reason it’s difficult to find time to read is because it’s one of the few times throughout the day where you can’t multitask. With something like television it’s easy to get up and walk away, or pound through a few emails during commercial breaks. Reading usually requires more of your attention. Subsequently, the best way to work reading into your schedule is to find those times in the day when you can dedicate the attention needed to reading.
Schedule a Daily Reading Time
If you can, the easiest way to fit reading into your schedule is the most obvious: schedule in time to read. Of course, this is easier said than done, but it might be more possible than you think if you consider a few times of your day when you’re not doing much else. We’ve talked about the benefit scheduling in 30 minutes a day to learn something new and if you can fit it into your schedule, that’s all the time you need to dedicate to reading a day.
Dedicate 30 Minutes a Day to Learn Something New
You’re likely aware that 30 minutes is the recommended amount of time you’re supposed to spend…
If a 30 minute block of time is out of the question, use your downtime throughout the day to read. If you get a 15 minute break at work that you usually spend leaning against the water cooler, read instead. The same goes for you lunch, the bathroom, the gym, or even during that awkward time when you’re waiting for a dinner to cook. Just make sure you always have the book you’re reading with you so you can take advantage of any free time you get throughout the day. If you prefer to read a couple books at once, we’ve mentioned before that context is everything, so read the same book in the same location each time.
Reading for the Rushed
People sometimes ask me how I’m able to read 70+ books every year despite my extra-curricular,…
Organize or Join a Book Club with Deadlines
Book clubs might not seem like your thing if your only exposure to them is through Oprah, but they can be a great way to get the motivation to read. Most independent bookstores and libraries have book clubs dedicated to all types of genres and topics. The big benefit of these is that after you’re done reading you’ll be able to retain what you read a little better because you talk about it out loud with other people.
If reading with strangers isn’t your thing, gathering up a few friends and organizing a book club is just as useful. The key is to set deadlines for finishing a book and then meeting to discuss it. After that, it’s up to you to get the reading done or suffer through a bunch of spoilers. Photo by Paul Lowry .
Set Up a Special Reading Area with No Distractions
You can do all the scheduling, timing, and book clubs you want, but if you don’t have a comfortable place to read without distractions, it’s not going to do you any good. This place is different for everyone, but the idea is pretty simple. Find a place where you can get away from your phone, your family, and any other distractions and just read. This may be something like the breakroom at work where you eat lunch, or it might be a specific chair in your house, but the point is to find a place where you’re comfortable and can read in peace without dealing thinking about checking your email or cleaning the house.
The idea is to create a place where you can focus and enjoy what you’re doing so you can absorb what you’re reading. We’ve shown you before the benefits of thoughtful, active reading, and a good quiet place can make the difference in your enjoyment. After all, it’s probably one of the few times in your day when you don’t have to try and multitask.
How to Boost Your Reading Comprehension by Reading Smarter and More Conscientiously
With all of the things out there to read on the internet—all of the blogs we want to keep up with
Know When to GIve Up On Books You Hate and Find Books You Love
Sometimes your relationship with a book isn’t working out. In that case, it’s good to know when you close it up and move along to something you’ll actually enjoy. As someone who often has to rely on a lot of “best of” lists to discover new books, I’ve tried to force myself through giant 800 page epics just because they get critical acclaim or because a friend recommended them. In those cases, I would repeatedly find excuses not to read just because I wasn’t into what I was reading. Over time, I’ve learned to know when to back out and shelf a book for later. Read should be a pleasurable experience and if it’s not, find something else to read.
It’s also worth noting that finding your niche for books is probably the easiest way to make yourself take the time to read. This means something different to you than anyone else, but tracking down your favorite genres, non-fiction topics, graphic novels, or general interests is a sure-fire way to make sure you actually enjoy your time reading. If you’re not sure what you like, the library is your best place to start to find the topics you’re interested in. Just don’t feel any shame if your favorite genre ends up being a line of steamy romance novels or cheesy hardboiled detective fiction.
When creating content for a marketing campaign, sometimes your primary goal is to motivate your audience to take action. Whether it’s signing up for an email newsletter, visiting your website or purchasing a product, how do you make your content persuasive enough that the audience takes action? Here are seven steps for optimizing your persuasiveness within your content strategy, and maximizing the chances of your audience taking action.
1. Publish Relevant, Valuable Content
If you’re writing an article for your blog or posting on a social media site, get readers involved by making the information relevant to them. Your content should solve a problem, teach the audience something new, or otherwise provide value. Some marketers are great at creating a catchy headline, but fall short in the actual body of content. To be successful, it’s important to create content that adheres to a logical sequence.
Here’s roughly how the sequence should break down:
- Headline – Indicate what the content is about and what to expect.
- Intro – Summarize the main purpose (value) of the content.
- Points – Present the facts; support why your point of view is correct.
Although each piece of content will differ, following this general structure should put you in a position to persuade your audience.
2. Write for Skimmers
These days, everyone wants instant gratification; faster is always better, and with information flow accelerating so quickly, few busy people take the time to read in-depth content from start to finish. Instead, many people simply skim over content. That’s why it’s crucial to create content that’s easily skimmable; otherwise, your content may not convey the points you’re trying to make, or even attract readers in the first place.
Paragraphs should be kept relatively short; nothing turns readers off quicker than massive walls of text. Subheaders are great for breaking up sections into easily-digestible components. Bullet points work well for listing stats, ideas, points, etc. in an easy-to-skim manner. Also, including supportive images, screenshots, charts, and other visuals can help drive a point home, while simultaneously making content more likely to be shared.
3. Support Your Argument
Unless you already have a reputation for being a leader in your industry, you’ll need facts, statistics or tangible data to support your claims. Since pretty much anyone can claim to be an expert on any topic, it’s natural that readers will have a healthy amount of skepticism. One of the easiest ways to counteract that skepticism is to use quotes from reputable websites or industry authorities. For instance, a business blogger might use quotes from Forbes, Entrepreneur.com or Inc.com to support their claims.
Statistics are also incredibly powerful for driving a point home. Incorporating stats throughout your content establishes a level of credibility, but in order for stats to be effective, they need to come from authoritative sources. According to the University of California Berkley, domain extensions from government sites, educational sites and nonprofit organizations tend to be the most credible.
- Government sites: look for .gov and .mil
- Educational sites: look for .edu
- Nonprofit organizations: look for .org
4. Use Metaphors
Some of the best teachers are the ones that can take a concept that students don’t understand and relate it to something that they do understand. Metaphors are an excellent way to help your readers fully understand your claims, allowing them to relate to something they understand well already.
5. Avoid Clichés and Jargon
Although some of your readers may have a full comprehension of industry-specific lingo, a significant percentage won’t. Using too much technical jargon can alienate readers. Instead, be clear, concise, and simple.
6. Respect Your Readers
At the same time, you shouldn’t dumb down your writing so much that you’re explaining things that your readers already know. Instead, it’s best to strike a good balance between making things clear without being overtly obvious.
7. Be Real and Transparent
Most people can sense when someone isn’t being entirely honest with them. In turn, this can make them question your integrity, and lower your conversion rates. Be yourself, be transparent, and be honest with your audience. This is paramount to gaining trust and getting readers to take you seriously.
One common mistake made by marketers is trying to get readers to take action too early. Typically, the right time to include a call to action is at the very end of your content, after you’ve established your claims, built a case for your credibility, and established trust with your audience.
At this point, at least some level of trust should be established, while skepticism will have largely diminished. This is the ideal time to include your call to action. Getting your readers to take action starts with satisfying the four elements of any action: opportunity, incentive, ability, and willpower. Satisfy the requirements for each of these elements and your readers will take action.
Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing firm, as well as EmailAnalytics, an email productivity app, and Kwippy, an iOS/Android app in which…
Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing firm, as well as EmailAnalytics, an email productivity app, and Kwippy, an iOS/Android app in which users receive themed photo challenges randomly throughout the day. I’m on a mission to demystify and simplify online marketing for entrepreneurs. When I’m not writing or researching, you can find me traveling, exploring the world, bit by bit. Follow me on Twitter @JaysonDeMers.
“Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” – Researcher George Gallup
Until about five years ago, I was one of those Americans who revered the Bible but didn’t read it much. Of course I knew it was important, that it was God’s Word, and (fill in the blank with every other thing I was supposed to know after many years of being a Christian). But to actually want to read the Bible regularly? I thought that was a desire only a pastor could possibly have.
Frankly, I thought the Bible was about as interesting as watching paint dry. Seeing as how studies regularly show most Christians are biblically illiterate, I’m probably not the only one who has struggled with this.
Fast forward to this weekend. On Saturday night I was about to turn off the light for bed when I realized I hadn’t read the Bible yet that day. I let out a pleasantly surprised, “oh!” and reached for my Bible with genuine anticipation for the reading minutes ahead.
I love reading the Bible today. I would never have imagined myself saying that just a few years ago. If you struggle to actually like reading the Bible, here are six tips to help you out.
1. Change your underlying beliefs about the importance of reading the Bible.
It’s well known in psychology that your underlying belief about something drives your attitude toward it, and that attitude drives behavior. If you merely try to change your Bible reading behavior without changing your attitude toward the Bible, you’re setting yourself up for failure; furthermore, you can’t change your attitude toward the Bible without changing your underlying beliefs about it.
So that begs the question: what exactly do you need to believe in order to have a positive attitude toward the Bible that results in regular reading behavior? I suppose there are a variety of possible answers depending on the individual, but I believe this one is the common thread:
You have to believe that reading the Bible actually matters.
Ask yourself if you whole-heartedly believe that. If not, why not? Do you have unanswered questions about the Bible’s reliability? Get answers. Do you not believe regular Bible reading would actually change your spiritual life? Read this research. Do you have trouble understanding what the Bible is saying when you read it (we all do at times!)? Buy a good study Bible.
If you don’t believe reading the Bible matters, you’ll be very unlikely to suddenly start liking it.
2. Make sure you understand the overarching structure and story of the Bible.
I got through high school English without ever reading an entire book. I hated literature and survived on “Cliffs Notes” (book summaries you can buy). This approach to reading carried over into my young adult life. There was no way I was going to actually read a book the size of the Bible, but one day I decided to pick up “The Bible for Dummies.” I hate to say it, but reading “The Bible for Dummies” was a turning point for me. (That’s crazy to think of now – I’ve turned into a voracious reader!)
In 18 years of church, I had never really learned what the overarching story of the Bible was; I had simply picked up bits and pieces with no meaningful understanding of how they fit together. After reading “The Bible for Dummies,” I no longer saw the Bible as one huge, daunting book I had no interest in reading. I finally felt like I had a map and could enjoy visiting the different parts. If you’re fuzzy on what happens between “let there be light” and the resurrection, I highly recommend starting with a summary book. (For $.99, you can get the highly rated ebook “Know Your Bible” to help.)
3. Target your interests.
If you’re not yet at the point of enjoying reading the Bible, it may not be the best thing to dive into a reading plan that goes from Genesis to Revelation. Consider what you need spiritually at this time in your life or would like to understand better.
- Are you interested in or challenged by questions related to origins? Study Genesis.
- Do you wonder “what’s up” with all of those Old Testament laws? Study Leviticus (with a really good study guide…)
- Are you interested in the similarities and differences between the gospels? Read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
- Do you need encouragement for finding joy? Read Philippians.
You get the picture. Don’t force yourself to read the Bible in its entirety when you’re just getting going. Once you learn to enjoy parts, you’ll learn to enjoy the whole.
4. Treat every opportunity to read the Bible as a learning adventure.
I truly believe I will learn something new every time I read the Bible. That makes a huge difference in my desire to read each day. Using a good study Bible gives you insights on history, geography, culture, language, and theology that you would never gain on your own.
I use the ESV study Bible (which I read on my iPad, using the OliveTree app). I usually read a full chapter and then go back to read the study notes so my reading flow isn’t interrupted.
5. Treat every opportunity to read the Bible as a heart adventure.
True to the statistics I linked to in this blog post, I’ve personally experienced that nothing in my spiritual life has drawn me closer to God than reading the Bible. I think many Christians assume that’s the privileged role of prayer, but reading and studying God’s Word is just as much a “heart thing.” When you start to see it as such, your anticipation for reading the Bible will greatly grow.
6. Don’t feel bad if you don’t enjoy reading certain parts.
I just can’t get into the book of Psalms. But that’s OK. It’s absolutely fine (and normal) to enjoy reading some parts of the Bible more than others!
What are your Bible reading barriers?
If you’ve ever learnt how to drive a car, cook your favorite meal, or learnt another language; then you know that achieving success requires that you go beyond simply reading. It’s easy enough to read through a bunch of self-help books, guidance notes and success techniques, but the fact is that all the resources in the world can only get you so far.
What good does it do you to simply know of an effective technique if you never try it out?!
Why you must stop reading and start taking action now
Reading is a great first step to making the necessary changes in your life, however, the changes can only be made once you actually take action. If you keep reading and reading and you don’t do anything with what you are learning, it’s a form of procrastination and success and procrastinating aren’t friends.
If you are not convinced, here are 4 reasons why taking action is a crucial element to achieving results :
1 . Actions activate information
What changes after you’ve read a particularly motivating piece of information with useful, practical tips? Nothing, unless you’re able to use the information to make real, tangible changes! Reading a book on becoming more confident, for example, won’t magically transform you into an individual free of insecurities. Only through application can information really be made useful. There is no exception.
“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.” – Dalai Lama
2 . Actions facilitate the method of elimination
How will you ever know what techniques/tips do or don’t work for you if you never give any a real try?! Making the necessary changes requires that you go through numerous trial and error processes that will help you to eliminate the techniques that don’t work for you – this will leave you enough time and energy to focus on practising and perfecting those that do!
3 . Actions create habits – which lead to success
It’s important to understand that change and success is an ongoing process. You can’t just take one action, make one attempt, and call it a day. New actions that initially require a lot of effort do eventually turn into habitual patterns of behavior. The hardest part about taking actions towards change is actually getting started. The more you repeat a new action, the more natural it becomes, but if you never start, it will never become a habit.
4 . Actions substantiate your sense of accomplishment
Making the effort to research and read up on different topics can give you a false sense of accomplishment. You put all that effort into reading all those books so now you’re bound to change, right?! Wrong! If you find yourself reading tons of books/articles but never actually taking any action, then you need to explore the possibility that this is your way of justifying procrastination and resisting change.
“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso
So you’ve acknowledged the importance of taking action… then what?! No matter what you’ve been reading or what you’re trying to achieve, the three general guidelines below are designed to set you on the right track to becoming more action-oriented :
- Determine what you need to take action on: What areas of your life do you need to make changes in? Whether it’s your morning routine that’s leaving you less than productive or your eating habits that are leaving you lethargic throughout the whole day, you need to get crystal clear on your problem areas before you can set any effective plans. Change is never easy so expect setbacks and don’t give up!
- Identify the necessary steps of action:It’s important to differentiate between impulsive actions without direction and well-determined and thought out actions that will bring you more success in life. Before you jump into taking aimless steps in the wrong direction, take a moment to identify which actions would have the intended results. Think about how your current actions contribute to the problem and make a note of how you’re going to change/replace these actions in order to achieve success.
- Prepare yourself to ensure the best possible outcomes:The more prepared you are to face a wide variety of eventualities, the more likely you are to be successful at making changes in your life. How can you tell whether you’re prepared enough?
A quick way of gauging how prepared you are is by asking yourself the four questions below:
- Do you need any resources in order to bring your plans to fruition?
- Of the resources you need, which do you currently not have access to?
- Can you foresee any potential obstacles in your path to success?
- What are the possible actions you could take to avoid/overcome potential obstacles?
Are you ready to take action?
There’s a reason that despite all the wealth of information available out there today, so many people still struggle to turn the knowledge available into real, practical actions and benefits. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that taking action requires a lot more motivation and will-power than reading!
In the words of Sean Reichle: “Doing nothing gets you nothing” – remember that the next time you decide to read through potentially beneficial information! You could read all the self-help books in the world and have all the intentions of achieving success, but unless you take massive action on the knowledge you gain, you’re better off reading fairy tales!
Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving. Read full profile
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Somewhere after “lose weight”, “stop procrastinating”, and “fall in love”, “read more” is one of the top goals that many people set for themselves. And rightly so: A good book can be hugely satisfying, can teach you about things beyond your daily horizons, and can create characters so vivid you feel as if you really know them.
If reading is a habit you’d like to get into, there are a number of ways to cultivate it.
First, realize that reading is highly enjoyable, if you have a good book. If you have a lousy book (or an extremely difficult one) and you are forcing yourself through it, it will seem like a chore. If this happens for several days in a row, consider abandoning the book and finding one that you’ll really love.
Other than that, try these tips to cultivate a lifetime reading habit:
- Set times. You should have a few set times during every day when you’ll read for at least 5-10 minutes. These are times that you will read no matter what — triggers that happen each day. For example, make it a habit to read during breakfast and lunch (and even dinner if you eat alone). And if you also read every time you’re sitting on the can, and when you go to bed, you now have four times a day when you read for 10 minutes each — or 40 minutes a day. That’s a great start, and by itself would be an excellent daily reading habit. But there’s more you can do.
- Always carry a book. Wherever you go, take a book with you. When I leave the house, I always make sure to have my drivers license, my keys and my book, at a minimum. The book stays with me in the car, and I take it into the office and to appointments and pretty much everywhere I go, unless I know I definitely won’t be reading (like at a movie). If there is a time when you have to wait (like at a doctor’s office or at the DMV), whip out your book and read. Great way to pass the time.
- Make a list. Keep a list of all the great books you want to read. You can keep this in your journal, in a pocket notebook, on your personal home page, on your personal wiki, wherever. Be sure to add to it whenever you hear about a good book, online or in person. Keep a running list, and cross out the ones you read. Tech trick: create a Gmail account for your book list, and email the address every time you hear about a good book. Now your inbox will be your reading list. When you’ve read a book, file it under “Done”. If you want, you can even reply to the message (to the same address) with notes about the book, and those will be in the same conversation thread, so now your Gmail account is your reading log too.
- Find a quiet place. Find a place in your home where you can sit in a comfortable chair (don’t lay down unless you’re going to sleep) and curl up with a good book without interruptions. There should be no television or computer near the chair to minimize distractions, and no music or noisy family members/roommates. If you don’t have a place like this, create one.
- Reduce television/Internet. If you really want to read more, try cutting back on TV or Internet consumption. This may be difficult for many people. Still, every minute you reduce of Internet/TV, you could use for reading. This could create hours of book reading time.
- Read to your kid. If you have children, you must, must read to them. Creating the reading habit in your kids is the best way to ensure they’ll be readers when they grow up … and it will help them to be successful in life as well. Find some great children’s books, and read to them. At the same time, you’re developing the reading habit in yourself … and spending some quality time with your child as well.
- Keep a log. Similar to the reading list, this log should have not only the title and author of the books you read, but the dates you start and finish them if possible. Even better, put a note next to each with your thoughts about the book. It is extremely satisfying to go back over the log after a couple of months to see all the great books you’ve read.
- Go to used book shops. My favorite place to go is a discount book store where I drop off all my old books (I usually take a couple of boxes of books) and get a big discount on used books I find in the store. I typically spend only a couple of dollars for a dozen or more books, so although I read a lot, books aren’t a major expense. And it is very fun to browse through the new books people have donated. Make your trip to a used book store a regular thing.
- Have a library day. Even cheaper than a used book shop is a library, of course. Make it a weekly trip.
- Read fun and compelling books. Find books that really grip you and keep you going. Even if they aren’t literary masterpieces, they make you want to read — and that’s the goal here. After you have cultivated the reading habit, you can move on to more difficult stuff, but for now, go for the fun, gripping stuff. Stephen King, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Nora Roberts, Sue Grafton, Dan Brown … all those popular authors are popular for a reason — they tell great stories. Other stuff you might like: Vonnegut, William Gibson, Douglas Adams, Nick Hornby, Trevanian, Ann Patchett, Terry Pratchett, Terry McMillan, F. Scott Fitzgerald. All excellent storytellers.
- Make it pleasurable. Make your reading time your favorite time of day. Have some good tea or coffee while you read, or another kind of treat. Get into a comfortable chair with a good blanket. Read during sunrise or sunset, or at the beach.
- Blog it. One of the best ways to form a habit is to put it on your blog. If you don’t have one, create one. It’s free. Have your family go there and give you book suggestions and comment on the ones you’re reading. It keeps you accountable for your goals.
- Set a high goal. Tell yourself that you want to read 50 books this year (or some other number like that). Then set about trying to accomplish it. Just be sure you’re still enjoying the reading though — don’t make it a rushed chore.
- Have a reading hour or reading day. If you turn off the TV or Internet in the evening, you could have a set hour (perhaps just after dinner) when you and maybe all the members of your family read each night. Or you could do a reading day, when you (and again, your other family members if you can get them to join you) read for practically the whole day. It’s super fun.
Have any tips for creating the reading habit? Or any favorite books or authors to share? Let us know in the comments!
By Annie Murphy Paul
- March 17, 2012
AMID the squawks and pings of our digital devices, the old-fashioned virtues of reading novels can seem faded, even futile. But new support for the value of fiction is arriving from an unexpected quarter: neuroscience.
Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.
Researchers have long known that the “classical” language regions, like Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, are involved in how the brain interprets written words. What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive. Words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.
In a 2006 study published in the journal NeuroImage, researchers in Spain asked participants to read words with strong odor associations, along with neutral words, while their brains were being scanned by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. When subjects looked at the Spanish words for “perfume” and “coffee,” their primary olfactory cortex lit up; when they saw the words that mean “chair” and “key,” this region remained dark. The way the brain handles metaphors has also received extensive study; some scientists have contended that figures of speech like “a rough day” are so familiar that they are treated simply as words and no more. Last month, however, a team of researchers from Emory University reported in Brain & Language that when subjects in their laboratory read a metaphor involving texture, the sensory cortex, responsible for perceiving texture through touch, became active. Metaphors like “The singer had a velvet voice” and “He had leathery hands” roused the sensory cortex, while phrases matched for meaning, like “The singer had a pleasing voice” and “He had strong hands,” did not.
Researchers have discovered that words describing motion also stimulate regions of the brain distinct from language-processing areas. In a study led by the cognitive scientist Véronique Boulenger, of the Laboratory of Language Dynamics in France, the brains of participants were scanned as they read sentences like “John grasped the object” and “Pablo kicked the ball.” The scans revealed activity in the motor cortex, which coordinates the body’s movements. What’s more, this activity was concentrated in one part of the motor cortex when the movement described was arm-related and in another part when the movement concerned the leg.
The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.
The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.
Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, performed an analysis of 86 fMRI studies, published last year in the Annual Review of Psychology, and concluded that there was substantial overlap in the brain networks used to understand stories and the networks used to navigate interactions with other individuals — in particular, interactions in which we’re trying to figure out the thoughts and feelings of others. Scientists call this capacity of the brain to construct a map of other people’s intentions “theory of mind.” Narratives offer a unique opportunity to engage this capacity, as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies, neighbors and lovers.
It is an exercise that hones our real-life social skills, another body of research suggests. Dr. Oatley and Dr. Mar, in collaboration with several other scientists, reported in two studies, published in 2006 and 2009, that individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels. A 2010 study by Dr. Mar found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind — an effect that was also produced by watching movies but, curiously, not by watching television. (Dr. Mar has conjectured that because children often watch TV alone, but go to the movies with their parents, they may experience more “parent-children conversations about mental states” when it comes to films.)
Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”
These findings will affirm the experience of readers who have felt illuminated and instructed by a novel, who have found themselves comparing a plucky young woman to Elizabeth Bennet or a tiresome pedant to Edward Casaubon. Reading great literature, it has long been averred, enlarges and improves us as human beings. Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined.
Your attitude determines your altitude. “Succesful people don’t just drift off to the top. Getting there requires focused action, personal discipline and lots of energy every day to make things happen,” says American author and entrepreneur Jack Canfield. And he couldn’t be more accurate.
So, don’t let old habits hold you back. Start building these simple yet essential habits for a happier and more productive life:
- Create a morning ritual. Maybe you like to go for a run. Or, maybe you like to meditate or enjoy a healthy breakfast. Whatever it is that makes you feel supercharged, kickstart your day with that habit. Establishing a meaningful morning ritual helps you start your day on a positive, proactive note. Having a structured start to your day instead of rushing to make up for the lost time also helps eliminate stress, mental fatigue and enhances your productivity. Don’t know where to begin? Check out the morning rituals of some of the most successful people to get some inspiration!
- Follow the 80/20 rule.The Pareto’s Principle or the 80/20 rule means that in any situation, 20% of the tasks yield 80% of the results. So you can maximize productivity by investing most of your time and energy on those specific tasks that will create the biggest impact. Once you’ve finished those tasks, you can focus on other activities that are on your to-do list.
Developing these habits require determination, oodles of patience and constant effort. Maybe it’ll take just a few weeks or maybe more than a year, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to build the habit as long as you don’t give up.
Now pull up your socks, it’s time to win at life!