Tips to read more this year

Would you like to be able to read 1 book a week? Do you feel like you could be reading more? Is reading a habit you’ve been trying to implement? Why do we sometimes struggle to finish books that we’re so keen to read?

My objective in this post is to motivate you to read more books and read faster. I’ll discuss a few simple strategies to help get the ball rolling. I’ll also talk about the benefits of reading and how to read faster.

Start with why

Your intentions are the driving force behind your behaviours. Starting with why allows you to put those intentions in perspective. Why do you want to read?

To gain knowledge and to share that knowledge with the world. To get smarter, more efficient & more productive. That’s what I see as the reason for reading. A critical question that I also ask myself is:

Who will this knowledge serve?
Ultimately, we don’t just gain knowledge for our own benefit. We use it to serve the world around us.

What are the benefits of reading?

How can I read more?

I’ll talk about this from my own point of view, as to what has been working for me. My objective for reading is to finish at least 4 books a month; 1 book a week.

It doesn’t just come naturally come to me. I sometimes find it difficult to sit down and read every day. I barely spent any time reading in school either, in fact I dreaded English.

I started a few years ago, reading roughly 1 book every 3 months. But action causes motivation as much as motivation causes action. (Don’t wait until you’re in the mood!) So I started reading more and more until I went from 1 book a month to 1 book a week. Here’s the strategy I now use (thanks to Jim Kwik):

  1. Write it down on your to-do list (stay consistent).
  2. Divide the total number of pages by the amount of days you aim to finish it by.
  3. Further divide the average number of pages by 3: giving you 3 sessions to read per day.

For example if I’m reading a 315 page book that I’d like to finish in 7 days, divide 315/7= 45 pages per day. To make that even simpler and read it over 3 sessions, divide 45/3= 15 pages per session.

Each reading session takes around 20 minutes, which makes it far more manageable than sitting down for an entire hour. I have a session in the morning, afternoon and evening to meet my daily reading requirements. Find what works best for you and stay consistent with it.

How can I read faster?

Avoid a concept called subvocalization. You can read faster than you can speak, therefore reducing this habit will allow you to improve your reading speed.

Subvocalization: “This occurs when you mouth or silently say words to yourself as you read them.”

To reduce subvocalization, count silently to yourself or hum as you read. This will prevent you from from saying the words as you read them.

Another trick I use to retain the information is to take notes. I usually write down the most important concepts or insightful quotes in a small journal, to keep the wisdom with me. The teacher always learns the most, so remember to also explain what you learn with friends and family.

Another very motivating reason for me to read is because it was the first verse brought down in the Quran. This emphasizes the importance of reading and attaining knowledge.

I’ve hopefully managed to convince you to start reading or to at least read a little more. Remember to always start with why and keep your intentions clear.

There are several benefits to reading: it sharpens your mind, lowers your stress, enhances your imagination and fosters empathy. Use a strategy to get more reading done and avoid subvocalization.

Happy reading! May the year ahead be filled with books, libraries, nature, adventures and joy. Stay present my friends. Now is all you have.

Some of the books that I’ve read which I highly recommend.

5 tips to help you with tough decisions

When was the last time you were stuck making a difficult choice? Do you feel like there’s a decision that will change the rest of your life? There’s always going to be a point in our lives when we’re going to have to make a sacrifice between several options, to move forward.

This post will deal with how to approach difficult decisions. Not in the sense where you’ll figure out exactly what to do, but rather a guiding tool to help you understand your situation better.

Better awareness, leads to better choices which ultimately leads to better result. So let’s try and enhance our self-awareness skill-set. I’ll dive into asking the right questions, starting with why, walking, then finding time to sit with your thoughts, praying & writing.

It’s like another collage of all my favourite topics. But again, reminders are extremely important, especially when you can use the concepts in every aspect of your life.

1-Ask the right questions

Questions are the answer. Every thought you have is a result of some question you’ve asked yourself. Once you realize the impact that has on you, you’ll be able to start asking yourself better questions.

I’ll give a few examples of what you can ask yourself in face of difficult decisions, but you should try and find what works best for you. Use them according to your own needs & circumstances.

  • Will this be in line with my values?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • Will this help me serve others?
  • What do I feel passionate about?
  • If I were to die tomorrow, will this really matter?
  • What impact do I want to have on the world?

Ask those questions relative to the options you have & use the most relevant answers to guide you.

I know some of these questions are rather vague, but you shouldn’t be expecting an immediate answer either way. It’s about giving yourself something to ponder over, and assisting your intuition to serve you.

2-Start with why

Another key aspect that directly relates to questions, ask yourself why you’re doing this. Find out the root cause of your indecision. Remember that the Golden Circle has 3 components, as introduced by Simon Sinek.

If both decisions are in line with your WHY, then you’ll have to do a lot more work. This would require some introspection and self-awareness. This comes in the form of meditation (or sitting in stillness) and journalling.

3-Go for a walk then sit in stillness

Walking as many of you may already know, is one of the healthiest habits to have. Not only does it serve as a mild form of exercise -which in itself has tremendous benefits- but it also does wonders for the brain.

Walking specifically helps you digest thoughts, get more creative, and deeply reflect. These mental benefits can’t be attributed to other forms of intense exercise (such as gyming or running), as those will distract your mind.

After giving yourself a topic to ponder over, go on a 15-20 minute walk (preferably in nature). When you’re back, find a safe space to sit in stillness. This would also be a lot better if you’re surrounded by nature.

Allow thoughts to come and go, without judgment or force. Focus on your breath initially, to immerse yourself in the present moment. Then allow yourself to reflect over the decisions you need to make.

You can also use your previous experiences to help you with the thought process. We’re feedback machines. We’re constantly learning from our mistake (hopefully), and using that knowledge to make better decisions in the future. So think of aspects in your life where you needed to make tough decisions and reflect on how it turned out.

4-Identify pros, cons and alternatives

Part of your introspection can include identifying the pros and cons in your decisions. Don’t dive too deeply into this, but use it to see if a certain decision would be far better than the others.

We often hold onto a tunnel vision and see things from one point of view. Look for alternatives (if possible) and try to identify other perspectives.

Asking people for advice can also work, but don’t rely too much on their opinion. Remember that it’s you who’ll have to live with the decision for the rest of your life (no pressure).

5-Pray, write & choose what feels right

Pray for guidance and constantly remember your purpose in life. We haven’t been created randomly. We’re here to each serve a cause greater than ourselves.

Time and time again, I bring up the notion of death. That’s because this life isn’t going to last forever. Don’t give decisions too much weight over you. There’s always room for learning and forgiveness.

Keep a tab of your thoughts by writing in a journal. This will allow you to easily notice patterns and aspects of your life that you wouldn’t otherwise see. It also gives you a bird’s eye point of view, seeing yourself from a completely different perspective.

At the end of the day, choose what feels right. The aforementioned tips will only serve as guide to help your intuition.

There’s no right or wrong. Life is full of lessons. Whatever you end up choosing, embrace it fully and live your best life. We can’t determine the outcome, but we can always choose our response. So choose optimism. Choose growth. Choose to learn.

Now is all we have, so let’s be thankful for that and strive to contribute to our best ability.