There is beauty in reading; it is one of the most productive hobbies as good books have the power to change your life. However, if you get easily distracted like me, reading a book can be tough, especially in the challenging times of today with at least ten other activities demanding our immediate attention.
There was a time when I used to struggle with finishing a book. As much as I concentrated on reading, all it took was one message tone from my phone, and I was sucked into this never-ending rabbit hole of posts and stories, my book lying forgotten by my side.
“There are many little ways to enlarge your world. Love of books is the best of all.”
— Jacqueline Kennedy
If you love reading, but have been unable to stick with a book long enough to complete it, I can share some tips that might help you read without getting distracted. The key is to actively engage with the book and make conscious efforts to stay focussed.
Get Into the Mood
Make the time and space for reading first. Don’t sit with a book when you know you have other tasks that require to be completed. Set aside a few minutes or hours for your book and tell your brain that in this time, reading is all you’re going to do.
Make the space conducive
If you’re reading at home, sit facing a blank wall or an open window that looks out into something serene. Turn your back to open doors, so physical activity by other members of your family doesn’t catch your attention.
You can even build a blanket fort like you might have done when you were a child. There is nothing as cosy or comforting as the familiar walls of a safe place only you have access to.
If your home is noisy, maybe you can take your book out for a stroll, and sit and read in a park, cafe or public library. Have your headphones ready so you can plug in some relaxing music while reading.
Set expectations from people around you
Let everyone around you know that you are going to be reading for the next few hours and are not to be disturbed. This applies to family members, co-workers, friends, and roommates. Make it clear that once your reading time is over, you will catch up with them, but until then, you are to be left alone.
Keep that Phone Away
You can either keep your phone in airplane mode or use a “Focus Mode” that only lets you access some specific apps.
My biggest problem while reading was that a single notification from WhatsApp or Instagram would get me distracted. I would pick up the phone, but not stop at checking the notification, and would end up spending hours scrolling through social media.
If you feel this resonates with you, then keep that phone away while reading. If you don’t want to be as extreme as keeping it on airplane mode, you can at least silence all notifications, except incoming calls.
Here are some additional tips that might help-
Use a physical dictionary
Instead of looking up for word meanings on the internet, keep a physical dictionary handy. Otherwise, you might get sucked into the internet rabbit hole of excessive information if you turn to your phone each time to look up a couple of word meanings.
Highlight, don’t take pictures
Earlier on, I was apprehensive about leaving marks on my books. When I came across an interesting passage, I would take a picture of it and either store it in my online collection, or share it on social media.
Now, I have realised that taking pictures is just another excuse for me to pick up the phone again.
Don’t do it.
Instead, highlight the passages in the book. Write in the margins if you have to. Use page-markers and bookmarks to keep important passages safe. They not only help you get more engrossed in the book but also make a future re-read much more fun and personalised.
When it comes to being a better reader, it all comes down to how much you value your reading goals and how accountable you can promise yourself to be to them. Here are some ways you can bring in accountability to your reading-
Set A Timer
You could set your phone’s “Focus Mode” to ring an alarm after one hour (or however much time you have decided to dedicate to reading). Whenever you start getting distracted, you can remind yourself that there are just a few more minutes left and you can do it. After all, some more concentration and a little strength of will are all you need to keep those distractions at bay.
Keep Track of Reading Habits
You can try maintaining a “Reading Journal” where you can list all the books you have read in a particular period of time (a week, a month, every ten days?). Of course, there is Goodreads to keep track of the books you’ve read, but a physical journal also helps.
You can step it up further by taking a print-out of a calendar and sticking it on your workplace, so, it is never out of your sight when you are working. Write down how many pages or chapters you read each day. Celebrating your small successes is like patting yourself on the back for being such a dedicated reader.
Apart from the ones I mentioned, here are a few other tips that might help you avoid distractions while reading-
Read for yourself
Don’t force yourself to keep reading a book just because it has been recommended by all famous book bloggers. Find your comfort genre and stick to it. Read to learn or enjoy, not to please others or fit into the crowd.
Don’t feel guilty for giving up
No matter how much time you might have spent in selecting a book, if it’s not working for you, it’s okay to drop it half-way and pick something else.
You are not obligated to finish every book you started. After all, not every book is meant to be enjoyed by every reader.
Listen to something while reading
A great way to avoid people from distracting you from your book is to listen to relaxing music while reading. Don’t choose a song with complicated lyrics, but stick to piano music or nature sounds that might help you focus better. I have come across several writers here on Medium who recommend binaural beats to improve focus. Though I haven’t tried them myself, I’ve heard they play a huge role in improving concentrating.
Know your weaknesses
After all, no list of tips can appease every reader. You are the only person who knows your weaknesses inside out. If you love watching television, you can try locking up your TV remote, so you aren’t tempted.
If web series is your thing, you can keep your computer away in a different room. The mere thought of getting up, walking to a far-off room and starting to watch something might act as deterrent enough.
The Bottom Line
When you find yourself getting frequently distracted while reading, try and understand the core cause. Ask yourself why you are reading and what is it that you hope to get out of it. If it is an inspiration, life lessons, or escape, you should be able to prioritise them over things that give you instant gratification like TV shows or social media.
After all, the things important to us deserve our undivided attention. Summing up, here are the steps you can take to avoid distractions while reading:
- Go to a comfortable place to read and make it known to everyone around you that during this time, you are not to be disturbed.
- Keep your phone on silent or “Flight mode”.
- Set a reading timer and keep track of your daily reading habits on a physical calendar (stick it to your workplace, if possible).
- Read for yourself, not for others. Understand that it is okay to abandon a book half-way if you’re not able to get the hang of it. Know your weaknesses and make sure you don’t succumb to them while reading.
Follow these steps the next time you pick up a book and enjoy your time of uninterrupted reading.
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