While listening to the Tim Ferris Show with Brandon Stanton (founder of Humans of New York), Brandon talks about his life before pursuing photography; purposeless, and not happy with what he was doing. In the quest to find meaning, he committed to reading 100 pages per day, mostly biographies. He believes biographies are the “best form of history” and teaches you much more than a self-help book could. I couldn’t agree more.

“Reading brings us unknown friends” 

Honoré de Balzac

On 28th May after finishing 30 days of yoga and 21 days of meditation challenge, I thought reading 100 pages per day would be a fun and intellectually stimulating challenge.

So, I decided to give it a go, ordered a bunch of new books and waited for 1st June.

I read 3000 pages, for 75 hours, over 30 days, and finished 7.5 books. Here’s a brief reflection on my challenge.

Books Read in June

Google says it can take an average reader about 2.8 hours to read 100 pages. I am a below-average reader. I should’ve googled this before starting the challenge.

The first 5 days were immensely challenging, it took me 3 hours every day to finish. By 7 pm, I would have read 40 pages and I would get anxious and frustrated, almost deciding to lower my goal to 50 pages or skipping a few days in between.

If you consider taking up such a challenge, I recommend going for anything other than self-help books. Non-fiction and biographies are the best. From personal experiences, I read non-fiction much faster, especially if the story is gripping. With self-help, ideally, you would also apply the principles in your life, just knowing does not help.

It’s kinda like binge-watching Netflix. I can watch shows like Westworld, Stranger Things, or The Big Bang Theory for hours, but I can rarely do the same with documentaries like Our Planet, One Strange Rock, or Cosmos. There’s too much information overload and it gets boring after a point.

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” 

Groucho Marx

Mixing up genres always works. I had stocked a good mix for 30 days. A biography, a couple of memoirs, one travelogue, one business book, and a couple of fiction. Variety helps immensely.

Variety in length is also important. I don’t want to be reading 3 x 1000 page books for the whole month. My books ranged from 250-600 pages long.

Another important lesson is setting up the environment for success. I actually learned this from Atomic Habits by James Clear, which I read in February. An example: keeping your shoes next to your bed and sleeping in your workout clothes so it’s easier to work out in the morning. To make it work for me, I kept one book next to my bed and another one on my work desk. Seeing the book constantly reminded me to read. And putting my phone on silent whenever I planned an extended reading session helped tremendously.

Using the 2-minute rule :  “If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now.” Another solid tip from David Allen’s bestselling book, Getting Things Done.

When I open Instagram for a quick peek, I usually end up scrolling for longer than planned. I tried to do the same with reading, and if the book is interesting, it definitely works. I would start with 2-min power reading in between tasks and ended up reading for 15–20 mins at least. Better spend the time reading than on Insta.

Reading 2+ books a time:

At the start, I was obsessed with reading 1 book at a time, finishing it quickly, and checking it off on Goodreads. When I was reading Walden, I realized how incredibly taxing reading 100 pages of one book can be (I still recommend Walden, though some parts are boring). So, I tried 2 books at a time, reading 50 pages of each in a day. This works best if one is non-fiction and another is fiction. It breaks off boredom and brings the excitement of learning from 2 authors at the same time.

Reading tips by Austin Kleon

Eventually, after 3 weeks of toiling, my speed improved. The last 10 days were a breeze. I tried to fit in reading whenever I got time and was always searching for my book. I think I can do 100 pages in 2 hours now unless the book has a really small font size and is on quantum mechanics. A significant improvement from when I started.

Reading is one of the most rewarding habits I’ve built this year. If you’re struggling to build one, challenge yourself, and aim to read every day for 30 days. Choose a goal that works for you. You can do 10 pages a day or 50, or read for 10 or 30 minutes a day. I was already reading about 40–50 pages a day before the challenge, so anything lower than 100 wouldn’t feel challenging, and what’s the point of a challenge which is easy?

And if you don’t enjoy it, don’t stop reading. Try a different book, maybe experiment with a new genre, you might be surprised by what you like.

Thank you for reading. What’s your experience with reading? Got any book recommendations? I’d love to hear from you, you can contact me here!

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