I love reading but I have hard time regularly saying no to online distractions in order to focus on a book. I’m also awful at remembering, applying or even explaining the things that I read about.
While reading a book I am fully immersed in the story knowing many interesting details about the particular situation, subject matter or person, but only a handful of days later the details get blurry and I have hard time summarizing even the larger points.
I don’t want to spend my days scrolling on social media news feeds, and I don’t want the reading that I do not to result in any long-term benefits either personally or professionally. I want those lessons to stick and become my knowledge. This blog is here to help me change that.
Why do I want to read more books?
I want to disconnect from the distracting online world a bit more. I work online and even some of the things that I do in my spare time are online so I find myself on a computer (or phone) throughout the day.
It’s just getting too much.
Being able to regularly disconnect and relax for at least a while to read a book is something that I’d like to achieve.
Similar to the above, looking at a computer or mobile screen all day long is not ideal for my eyes and my overall health. Reading more books will allow me to rest my eyes from the digital screens more often.
I try to either read paperbacks or on e-ink readers as these don’t give me the eye strain that I get on a normal computer screen.
Pretty much all the news and media that I consume are online. Going offline to read books will help me find some new sources of information and inspiration. It will hopefully make me less addicted to the constantly on, algorithm-powered social media news feeds.
Cultivating a book reading habit
I’m slowly getting better at securing blocks of time without internet where I fully focus on the book I am reading.
Simply turning on the airplane mode and putting down the phone or shutting down my laptop and immersing myself into a book is becoming a more regular occurrence.
One thing that helped was that I tried to pare down my sources of information online:
- Twitter is my social media drug of choice and I’ve unfollowed many news sources that distracted me
- I’ve removed addictive apps that I found myself mindlessly tapping on when my monkey brain was at the strongest
- I’ve restricted the number of emails I get and respond to by filtering, unsubscribing from most newsletters and by ruthlessly deleting a lot
- As an alternative I’ve subscribed to a few hand-picked RSS feeds and am now (again) getting my news fix through an RSS reader
Tired: Social media. Wired: RSS?
This is the first time I am using an RSS reader since Google Reader died and it feels good. It’s an experience I can control. No algorithms, no reshares, no ads and other distractions. It’s easier to say no to.
Just pure content from a well curated list of sites that I trust to respect my time and keep me informed in as little time as possible. This way my signal to noise ratio is second to none. Especially compared to the noisy social feeds.
So all this means that I have more time and more willpower to read books a bit more.
The monkey brain and undistracted reading
The problem then is being able to read in full focus and undistracted. My monkey brain is still very energetic and tries to distract me to check my notifications but I am getting better at ignoring it and resisting it too.
The method I use is kind of like in meditation where you’re supposed to think about your breath and simply return to thinking about your breath when you find yourself distracted by something else.
If I notice myself distracted from the book by for instance thinking about what may be going on in the world of social media, I compose myself and remember to fully focus on the book again.
I may need to go back and reread the last few lines that I did not even process as I was too distracted, but overall I have found this method to work in extending the time I spend on a book without checking my phone or the web.
My biggest challenge with reading is remembering
Reading is a nice hobby and can be used as entertainment instead of browsing Instagram or watching sports or Netflix for instance. I would like my reading to be something more than just entertainment though.
I’d like to grow, learn new things, expand my horizons, make better decisions and improve myself overall. Both personally and professionally. And this is where I find my biggest challenge with the current way I am reading books.
I do not seem to remember what I read very well and I find myself needing to look up things regularly just to remind myself (a side benefit of this is that I am now very good at looking things up and finding answers quickly).
And I’m not even talking about actually using some of the things I learn in books.
Better memorization and retention of lessons
I am exploring different tactics and tools for better memorization and retention of lessons and one of the first steps is this blog.
Here I will be:
- Highlighting the points of books that I find most interesting
- Editing these book notes for them to be ready to be published on the web and have them available in a simple and searchable site
- Summarizing the books, the main points and writing my thoughts on them from my experience and my perspective
These actions will force me to think more about the books that I have read. They will make me reread, review and think about certain sections of these books.
This will make me process things I have read in a better way and hopefully also better memorize the lessons learned and retain that knowledge.
That will definitely make my book reading habit a more fulfilling one and help me actually have something to show for all the time spent.