How to read for a longer time

Why can’t I get past a few pages?

Picture this: you’ve picked out your favorite book. You’re a few pages into the first chapter. Despite the coffee you’re drinking, you are dozing off. You will yourself into attention, but your mind wanders into the forests of Narnia. Staying focused on lines of words on the page is hard.

That’s understandable. We live in a world where we really only have to pay attention to something for 30 seconds at most. While it’s definitely possible to read faster, ergo read more books, holding an engaged state while reading a book is different. It means you’re more likely to remember and understand what you read. What’s the point of reading so much if only to forget it all?

Since it’s summer where I live, I recently started going down to our pool in the mornings to “swim” in place of weight training. Anyone who knows me knows that I cannot actually swim, so the exercise I get in this change of routine is questionable. On the other hand, I noticed a significant difference in how much reading I get to do.

One morning, I finished a novel that I had left off at about 30% read. It had been some time since I had experienced such an immersive reading experience; I asked myself how I had managed to stay with the book for so long. Here are some things I noticed.

Find a peaceful environment.

While my bedroom is a peaceful environment, it’s also a highly distracting one. It’s full of items that I use to work, create, or tidy up. My cat also likes to hang out there, and the temptation to grab and snuggle him always wins (to his dismay).

Being by the pool clears away the clutter, quite literally. There is only the breeze, the occasional laughter or cries of a toddler in the distance (ugh), and the gentle ripple of the pool water. It is sufficient static noise to keep me engaged in the story I am reading.

Get rid of the phone. Seriously.

I leave my phone when I go down to the pool. It makes a world of difference in my attention span. Notifications don’t pull me into a rabbit hole. I am not endlessly scrolling through a confusing amalgam of entertaining but senseless reels about dating horrors and cute cats. I know that if I have my phone around, I’ll be reaching for it incessantly. Not having around is literal liberation. Trust me, you won’t miss it with a book in your hands.

I’ll say it again: read something enjoyable.

The book I finished the other day was In Five Years by Rebecca Serle, something I considered a light read to alternate with my nonfiction pick, W. David Marx’s Ametora.

It’s easy to get lost in a book when you are enjoying it. Do not force yourself to read something that feels like a chore. That will make the activity of reading a chore. We are all about fun here at Shelf Developed. Make reading fun for you, no matter what genre or book it is. The only person who will care is you.

In short, make it easy for you to read longer. That means removing distractions. Prepare yourself a time and space to get lost in a book. Reading for longer is not just a matter of sheer will. It helps to be in a conducive reading environment. Other times, a book just won’t do it for you—in which case, change your book. Always read something that you enjoy.

If you’re looking for a book to check out this month, join me as I tackle my TBR for May!


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