1. Know why you’re doing it.
Ask yourself why you want to read more than you already do — if you can’t articulate this, or it’s not something you really want, you’re not likely to change your reading habits (or lack thereof). If you’re doing it for a parent or partner, you’ll still struggle unless you can find reasons of your own to develop a reading habit.
What do you expect to get out of increased reading? Make a list. Be aware that some of the benefits you’re hoping for might not materialize right away (e.g., you don’t get an improved vocabulary from two days of reading).
When you find yourself losing enthusiasm for daily reading, you can refer back to your reasons and benefits to help you keep going.
2. Start with baby steps.
You don’t need to read for huge chunks of time. Many people are reluctant to “sit down to read” because it’s perceived as leading to a hour or two of time gone, but you don’t need to commit that much time every time.
Set a reasonable time goal for your daily reading, something that feels right for you — fifteen minutes? Twenty minutes? Half an hour? You can help yourself with this by choosing books that don’t have painfully long chapters; some imprints, like Every Day Novels, specialize in bite-sized reading, and you can also choose to read short fiction, poetry, or essays.
Even five minutes of reading counts. It all adds up.
3. Read what you love.
You won’t read if you don’t enjoy what you read. If you find yourself making excuses to put off reading, maybe it’s the book.
If you’re not eager to read your current book, put it aside and read something else.
If you haven’t yet found what you love to read, try going out of your comfort zone a little — you might not expect to get passionately drawn into, say, a collection of essays about being a doctor or the poetry of WWI, but if you don’t sample some different books, you’ll never know what might have interested you.
4. Make it a habit.
Make time for reading at the same time (or at the same point in your schedule) each day. Some people like to read in bed before sleeping. Some people can find a little time in the morning (maybe while eating breakfast, if you’re not sitting down with family).
If morning or evening don’t work for you, you’ll need to find time during your regular day. Do you have a scheduled coffee or lunch break at work? Could you make time to stop at a coffeehouse or library or other suitable reading place on your way home? If you’re a full-time parent, maybe you could make quiet reading an everybody activity — with a little practice, even little ones can look at picture books for a short while without help.
Try to create your reading habit at a time of day that appeals to you. If you’re not at your best first thing in the morning, forcing yourself to read while grumpy and half-awake won’t do anyone any good. If you’re sluggish and ready for a nap most days after lunch, that’s probably not an ideal time to fit in some reading.
5. Do it with a friend.
Nearly everything is more fun and easier when shared. Buddy up with someone else who wants to get into a habit of daily reading, and you’ll be able to talk about it, support each other, and encourage each other when enthusiasm flags.
Making a commitment to someone else gives you a bit of accountability. Not that it’s a good idea to actively police each other on this thing — it’s not! — but just the fact of knowing that a friend expects you to do your reading might be the push you need not to skip it.
You could even make it a competition — who can go for the longest stretch without missing a reading day? The loser treats the winner to… an ice cream? Coffee? A home-cooked dinner? A clean bathroom? You choose.
6. Keep a reading journal.
Every day, write down one thing you learned (or were reminded of, or particularly liked) from your day’s reading. It doesn’t have to be profound.
Any sort of notebook will do, or a desk calendar, or use a calendar or notebook app on your phone.
Not only will this help to form your reading habit, at the end of the year you’ll have an incredible record of your year’s reading wisdom and insights.
7. Surround yourself with people who love reading.
It’s hard to work on anything when the people around you don’t value it. If the people in your life circles (family, friends, work) don’t make reading a priority, you can’t expect much support from them as you try to develop your reading habit. Unfortunately, you can’t change other people’s values, and you shouldn’t try.
What you can do is add readers to your life — consider going to library and bookstore events, joining a book club, etc. Put yourself in places where you have the opportunity to meet people who read and talk about books.
Even if your real life isn’t conducive to meeting new people, you can surround yourself with readers online. The new Communities feature from Google+ is particularly conducive to meeting new people who share your interests — come join our new Every Day Novels Community for support and then look for some communities that serve your particular reading interests (just search… whether it’s chick lit or sci fi, there’ll be people talking about it).
8. Find new ways and places to read.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, hundreds of literary magazines are literally only a Google search away. Many are free to read (but don’t forget that they take money to operate, so regular readers should make an occasional donation to help keep the stories coming). Serialized novels are apparently the next hot thing, so you’ll find those too — some by subscription, some on a donation or pay-what-you-will basis, some free. If you’re at your computer anyway, maybe reading from your desk is the way to go.
Even if you don’t have a dedicated e-reader, you can get e-reader apps for any smartphone or tablet — you only need to pick your shopping preference: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, Kobo — and the world of e-books is yours. If you’ve always got your smartphone or table with you anyway, you could be reading instead of playing Angry Birds…
Drive a lot? Audiobooks may be the best choice for you. (And yes, audiobooks count as reading.)
9. Have a day (or weekend) off.
Maintaining anything every single day is hard. If you try to keep it up every single day, indefinitely and without a rest, you’re going to drop the ball at some point.
Option one is to have a scheduled day (or the weekend) off. If there’s a specific day of the week that’s super busy, or you know your weekends are chaotic compared to your weekday routine, you might want to just call it/them your day(s) off.
Option two is to have a floating freebie every week: essentially a weekly coupon or permission slip to skip your reading once. This can work better for those who don’t work regular hours and whose schedule isn’t the same from week to week — it’s hard to know in advance when a crazy day is going to come up, and the freebie can be applied whenever (but only once a week!).
10. Treat yourself.
Bribery works. Tell yourself that reading time comes with a treat, and you’ll be twice as likely to sit down and read.
Make reading itself pleasant — enjoy your book in a comfortable place, with a cup of coffee or tea and maybe a sweet biscuit or a piece of chocolate (or whatever your preferred little treat may be). Positive associations will help you want to read more in the future, so anything you can do to increase your environmental satisfaction — comfy clothes or pyjamas, a scented candle, an appealing view from your reading chair, etc. — will add to your reading habit.
Look at what you’ve achieved, and be proud of yourself. You’re a reader. Every day, no less. Take yourself out to dinner (or dancing, or to a movie) to celebrate once in a while.