How to Read More: The Simple System I’m Using to Read 30+ Books Per Year

Warren Buffett, the man commonly referred to as the greatest investor of the 20th century, was standing in front of 165 wide-eyed students from Columbia University.

One of the students raised his hand and asked Buffett for his thoughts on the best way to prepare for an investing career. After thinking for a moment, Buffett pulled out a stack of papers and trade reports he had brought with him and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” [1]

Buffett estimates that 80 percent of his working hours are spent reading or thinking. It’s enough to make you ask, “Am I reading enough books?”

When I asked myself that question recently, I realized that there were some simple reasons I wasn’t reading as much as I would like to, and I developed a reasonable system that is helping me read more than 30 books per year.

Let me explain…

How to Read More Books

If you know how to read, then reading books is relatively easy. You simply have to make time to read. Easier said than done, of course.

When I looked at my own reading habits, I realized that my reading habits were mostly reactive, not proactive. If an interesting link flashed across my screen on Facebook or Twitter, then I would read it as a reaction. I wasn’t proactively making time to read books each day. I was simply reading interesting ideas that were pushed in front of me.

As a result, most of my reading was done online. Now, there are plenty of excellent articles on the web, but generally speaking, the quality of good books is better. Books typically have better writing (more tightly edited) and higher quality information (better fact-checking and more extensive research). From a learning perspective, it’s probably a better use of my time to read books than to read online content.

So, I had to figure out a strategy that would allow me to read more books without letting typical distractions get in the way.

How do you that?

20 Pages Per Day

Here’s the only pattern I’ve been able to stick with consistently:

Read 20 pages to start the day.

I usually wake up, drink a glass of water, write down 3 things I’m grateful for, and read 20 pages of a book. For the last 10 weeks, I have followed this new habit. As of today, I’m 100 pages into my 7th book. At that pace (7 books per 10 weeks) I’ll read about 36 books in the next year. Not bad.

Here’s why I think this pattern works: 20 pages is small enough that it’s not intimidating. Most people can finish reading 20 pages within 30 minutes. And if you do it first thing in the morning, then the urgencies of the day don’t get in the way.

Finally, 20 pages seems small but adds up fast. It’s a great average speed.

If time allows, I’ll read at other times as well. After the research I did for my article on how to get better sleep, I have added reading to my “prepare for bed” routine as well. But regardless of what happens during the rest of the day, I still get my 20 pages in each morning.

The First Hour

How do you spend the first hour of your day?

Most people spend it getting dressed, getting ready, and rushing out the door. What if that time was spent making yourself a better person? What if you woke up an hour before you needed to each day and worked on yourself? How much better would you be at work, in your relationships, and as a person?

That’s essentially what this reading strategy is asking you to do. Before you move on to the normal bustle of the day, invest in yourself. Before your life turns into a whirlwind of activity, read a book that will make you better. As with most habits that can greatly impact your life, this will never feel urgent, but it is important.

20 pages per day. That’s all you need.

James Clear writes about using behavioral science to master your habits and improve your mental and physical health. If you enjoyed this article, join his free newsletter.

Sources:

  1. Investors earn handsome paychecks by handling Buffett’s business by Steve Jordon, Omaha World-Herald

150 Comments

  1. Excellent. Just excellent. Thank you, James. I think this is especially a must read for people who want to become better writers. Reading more gives you a rich well of wisdom to draw from when working on your own writing.

    Thank you for your commitment to create consistent, quality content!

  2. Great actionable items here! I also love delving into books. How do you feel about incorporating audio books into your day?

    My routine is to throw my earbuds in and listen to a book while doing chores or while on the road to / from work.

    • I know plenty of people swear by audio books because they can fit books in while cooking, running, mowing the lawn, and so on. For me, I prefer to do one thing at a time and do it well. I find that my retention is better if I simply read. That said, I’m typically reading to learn versus reading for entertainment. If you’re reading mostly for enjoyment and not to understand new or difficult concepts, then audiobooks might make even more sense. And some people simply prefer that style of learning.

      Basically, if it works for you, then it works. Tweak as needed for your lifestyle and goals.

      Thanks for reading!

      • I love reading books, but audiobooks have been a true gift of knowledge for me.

        I walk my dogs 2-3 times per day for 30min to 1h every time and I always have a great audiobook playing. I’ve been through so many books in a short period and I’ve also had time to listen to some over and over again.

        I’ve learned Spanish in less than a year using audiobooks and I still listen to some lessons to keep up with it.

        I don’t even listen to any radio in the car… Only audiobooks. I do it with my girlfriend and we can pause the audio and have excellent discussions over the chapter we have just listened together. This is another great way to share ideas and beliefs with your friends and family on long rides.

        I still read good old books at night before bed but I could never read as many books as I do with Audiobooks… The habit is now so into me that I feel naked when I forget my earbuds when I go for a walk with the dogs! :)

        I really like your introduction to the subject James.

        I agree that the first hour of the day should be one that fills your mind with positive and insightful energy, either through book reading, audiobook listening, exercising or meditation…

  3. I have long wanted to have more time to read books. It usually takes me many months to read a single book. Mostly because any one book can’t hold my interest over a long period of time. I’m in different moods each day, and I want to read different books each day. I like your suggestion of making time for self-improvement. I’m one of those “get up, get dressed, rush out the door” types. I like the idea of making time for reading each day, but I know that for me, 20 pages are unrealistic. I won’t stick with that. So I wonder if I should start by reading 5 pages each morning. I have no interest in reading 36 books a year. If I could wrap up this year having read 3 books in their entirety, that would be fantastic.

    • Sure, five pages seems like a perfect way to start. It’s similar to my strategy for adding pushups into my daily routine, which I wrote about here. I started with a new habit that was so easy I couldn’t say no to it. If 5 pages is that threshold for you, then start there. You’ll probably be surprised how quickly 5 pages per day adds up.

  4. I think your hiatus was just what you needed. Your last 2 posts (sleep and this one) are dead on. Goes back to my comment from a while ago about writing more quality and less quantity. Nice work.

    • I second this. Hiatuses for all!

      I’ve added your friend Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning, and the reading piece is a joy! I used to vow to get up an hour or two earlier so I could get more “work” done and had no motivation to lose sleep just to slave-drive myself again answering to the demands of the “world”. The hour of self-development each day the last couple months is so wonderful. I don’t mind getting up now–now I love it.

      Another thing that’s great about James Clear’s blog posts–even the comments are helpful.

  5. So that Buffet guy spends 80% of his workday reading and daydreaming? Hmmm, great way to hold onto a job?!? I’ve been told he also likes to eat at McDonald’s. I’d say he’s an ‘iffy’ hire… at best.

    Another really good piece, James. The ‘sleep’ article was outof the park! Thank you,
    Bill

  6. I enjoyed reading this. Thanks, James. I read and have been making time to read more, I actually have set aside a number of books that I have planned to read… and the list seems to keep growing. I’m trying not to let it become overwhelming to the point that I won’t ever start reading, not let the fear of the list take over, so I’ve decided to stop collecting (as much as I can) to make room for more READING TIME.

  7. I am a voracious reader and purchased a Kobo thinking I would love having an entire store of books at my fingertips. I quickly realized that it’s more than the words and story lines that make up a book. For me, it’s the book that makes the book a book! The paper, the smell, the weight of it in my hand; all of these things and of course, the content, are what I love about reading a book. It’s the whole experience for me.

    • That’s exactly what happened to me. I initially embraced my Kobo but have since stopped using it in favour of “real” books. I prefer the latter now!

  8. As it happens, I also recently committed to read more on a regular basis, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m going to adopt your strategy of reading twenty pages each morning, in addition to the nighttime and occasional daytime reading I’ve been doing, and I thought I might pass on something else that’s been helpful to me: I opened a Goodreads account and have entered most of the books I’m looking forward to reading. [It's easy to add or delete books at any time.] There I can log the books I’ve read, the books I’m currently reading, and the books I plan to read. I can also rate the books and leave a comment, so that it’s easy to know which books I might want to re-read and which didn’t work for me. Goodreads is free and it’s an easy site to navigate.

    I’m one of those people who finds logging my progress helps me stay motivated, so that’s an extra bonus to me in using this site.

  9. Can I add that catching public transport instead of driving might be a way to get through those 20 pages in the morning?
    Also it’s better for the environment.

    • Tried that once. Ended up walking half a mile back to get to my destination… :p

      Also, don’t try to read and walk (especailly if you’re crossing the road) at the same time. If I’m doing that, I have someone lead me around. (More :p)

      Can you tell I’m one of the types who thinks 30 books a year is “light” reading? I often have twenty or more out at a time from the public library, and perhaps five or so of them will be read within the three week time period. I haven’t tried audiobooks or Kobo, but my kids (who read as much or more than I do) really like them because they’re more easily transportable. Yesterday, we weren’t allowed to leave the restaurant where we were eating until my daughter’s upload from the library had finished loading, so she could read on the way home!

      Seriously, though, great article! Reading, both for information and pleasure, is one of the foundations of a truly healthy and enjoyable life.

  10. James: I love this post. I read a fair amount of books but not with any consistent pattern–mostly if I am waiting or bored or desperately needing to escape my current reality. I think this approach will work for me and help me read more broadly. I tend to read more than one book at a time. Not sure why – just seem to need variety. Do you read one book at a time? Do you vary the books each day? Do you choose books that feed your mind, heart and spirit? What would you suggest for someone like me who needs choice and change to keep me motivated. Really appreciate your approach to sharing your thoughts and opinions.

  11. Great post, James. I read about 90 minutes a day on my commute to and from work and I’m on track to finish 100 books this year.

    To make sure you are getting everything you can out of the books, I recommend reading How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler. It’s interesting to learn techniques for something we learned in grade school. I’ve found it very useful.

  12. Thanks for writing on this very valuable subject. The 20 pages rule can be applied only for the fast-reading material. When we have to take notes, prepare references, or note down the quotations to be used later on, it is doubtful if we can adhere to it regularly.

    Usually I keep two books as on-going reading material. One for studying and another for reading. This classification cannot always be very rigid but in a general way it helps. Sometimes we may stumble upon some serious matter in the books reserved as light material; that would be exception.

    I have found that two practices help us in reading fast. One is conscious prioritizing the books selected for reading in both the categories and committing ourselves to gain as much as possible from them. The next is trying to concentrate and ward off wandering thoughts.

  13. Well done . You always seem to come at rescue to whatever is bothering me. A perfect timing and solutions are seldom found to work on it immediately. Thankyou so much. Dig into more stuff that can help people relieve their worries and go with the flow of life.

  14. I’m starting tomorrow morning. Like you I usually read the things that I see before me on-line. I like the idea of proactive reading. Thanks for the great tip.

  15. I have been using the same process to read Marcel Proust – 4,000 odd pages of “In Search of Time Lost”. At the start I was daunted. However, instead of focusing on the 4,000 pages I made a commitment to read 10 pages a day … Ok it will take me a good year and a bit to get there – even if I stick to every day – which I haven’t – yet I am a long way into the book and having a real sense of accomplishment … I am now trying the getting up an hour earlier routine you have to fit in to do my business reading … also wonders what you accomplish by actually turning off the TV — in my case disconnecting it — so if I want to watch anything I have to make a conscious choice.

  16. Very easy, indeed. I am exactly as you were, James. I read A LOT, but mostly online articles and blog posts. Although, I am quite choosy when it comes to reading, I agree it is not a “b00k” quality.

    As to my first hour of the day, for the last few months I’ve been trying to make writing my morning routine. I have to do it the old fashion way, pen and paper, because if I type on a computer, I am tempted to read something online.

    I’d love to try your system and give you feedback if you are interested. I can do both writing and reading in the morning. BTW, James, which one should I do first? It would be interesting to know your opinion.

    I studied Literature in college, and I was reading about 50 books a year. Now, I am down to shameful 5 or 7. I hope, your system will help me read more books.

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. James, this post is EXACTLY right. Reading 30 books in 2014 is one of my goals and I’m doing very well at so far. Among other titles, I’ve read several Dan Kennedy books on business, “Influence” and even some fiction (Frankenstein).

    Building on your comment about the first hour of the day, Charlie Munger comes to mind.
    ” He thought to himself, ‘Who’s my most valuable client?’ And he decided it was himself. So he decided to sell himself an hour each day. He did it early in the morning, working on these construction projects and real estate deals. Everybody should do this, be the client, and then work for other people, too, and sell yourself an hour a day.”

    That’s one of the best ways to look at it, especially if you are a services profession.

    • G’day Bruce
      What a wonderful comment. Thanks for passing on this tip. I’m a great believer in selling and this idea of ‘who is my most valuable client?’ is excellent.
      I’m rather old now and I did most of my financial reading back last century in the 80s and 90s. I can attest that it works. My commitment in those days was at least one book per month. I’ve now a large passive income and I’m still investing my time in reading books on business, finance and how to live a better life, even though I’ve been ‘retired’ for 7 years. ALL the good stuff I’ve learnt has been through books.

  18. Something I have been doing over the past month. I actually read 15 minutes of something fun, typically a biography and 30 minutes of harder reading (psychology) and have been doing this for about 6 weeks. I’ve finished over 5 books and can’t believe at how much comes from aggregate marginal gains!

    Thanks for the reminder!

  19. I am going to give it a try. I will let you know what happens. I have the same problem of reading too much on the internet. Feel that I am missing out. Thanks for the suggestion.

  20. Definitely implementing this. I sectioned off my 20 pages for tomorrow. Currently reading Chris Hadfield’s “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”.

  21. Thanks James. Great idea.

    I also have realised that there is one thing to read a book and another thing to actually integrate the learning. I am experimenting with how to derive as much as I can from each book I read rather than just moving to the next book without fully absorbing the one before.

    Keep your articles coming, great inspiration.

    Elise

  22. It’s amazing how much smarter you feel after reading a book, compared to Yahoo and glossy-magazine articles. Thanks for this advice!

  23. My comment pertains to your prior article about sleep. This is one of the most clear, concise and worthwhile articles on sleep I’ve read. Yes, we all know the lists about how to enhance quality sleep but your article goes beyond ‘tips’ and delves into the how and why. Thanks for doing that research for me.

  24. Another great entry, James – thank you!

    I just wanted to thank you for your lucid insights and practical advice. This “reading” article is a great example. Your tips have helped me to build the habit of investing that first hour of the day for making myself a better person. My routine? An 8km jog, every morning, followed, most mornings, by church service. By 09:30 every morning my physical and spiritual needs have been tended to, and I’ve reflected enough during those activities to make my day more productive. It’s been 2 years since I’ve started that routine, and it has changed my life.

    Thank you for playing an important role in making me a better person.

    Leo Salazar

  25. Thanks James for this article and other countless articles for which I haven’t thank you already but I do read them the day I get them in my inbox.

    Reading is a great habit to have. I used to read 20 pages everyday as a habit and now you know why I was so delighted to read this particular post that I came up here to comment. :-)

    But now I don’t find time to read books anymore. But I still take out time to learn. I am a software engineer and never had any of the social sciences in school. But I find them very interesting. So I am taking a course on Social Psychology from Coursera and Economics 01 from Stanford.

    Every morning before I go to work, I spend one hour learning. Everyday I get home from work, I again spend one hour learning.

    Thanks for this post. Keep learning!

  26. Excellent idea. Have been trying the 30 minutes a day with my kids (not very successful). Maybe the 20 pages a day will sound more attractive … 30 minus 20 = (-) 10, I might be able to trick my younger one.

    I am so sad my children lost absolutely all interest in reading after the thousands of hours I spent reading to them while they were young…

  27. Thanks for the post, James! Insightful as always! I wonder where you stand on the question of speed reading techniques? For my account, I have shortly experimented with it, but honestly found it exhausting to learn and accommodate the new techniques (as you paralelly must forget about the old one, which seems to me really hard).

    I recently discovered the ease of cloud-based Google Play Books where you can now upload your own pdf, epub collection and you can also read those from multiple devices such as phones, iPads, tablets, PCs from exactly where you left the last book off. I wonder what tools others prefer to handle their ebook collection?

    Also would be nice to see that book list of yours for inspiration. :) Thanks!

    • Thanks Zoltan! I’m sure there are some people who are true speed readers, but most of the people I know who are voracious readers (150+ books per year) simply make more time for reading than others do. Speed reading sounds like a nice “quick fix” but I think it also misses a larger point: many of us live our lives in a rush rather than make hard decisions to eliminate, simplify, and enjoy the time we have more. Basically, I’m all for improving your learning skills (like speed reading), but I think simplicity, making time, and doing the work is usually the best answer.

  28. James,

    I want thank you for the way you simplify the life enhancing strategies you share in your emails. They are quick and easy to read, life changing and anyone can do them if they care to. I really enjoy reading them and they inspire me to want to do and be more as a person. I also like that they are practical. Real life stuff we all need. You are doing a great job, and providing a great service to humankind. I appreciate your work. Keep it up!

    Sincerely,

    Aric

  29. Hi James,

    Nice one again. Here’s a few good habits I developed due to your influence:
    - Waking up each day at 6 am and spending time on myself (gardening, exercise, feeding pets, meditation and getting a proactive start to the day)
    - Taking the stairs instead of the lift to my office on the 7th floor (keeps me more energetic throughout the day)
    - Reading your articles religiously twice a week for the last 6-8 months

    Thanks for your advice and simple techniques that makes developing good habits easy. I regularly direct my close friends and relatives to your site and articles to help them benefit as I did.

    Take care,
    Bhushan

  30. Dear James,

    I am getting up at 4:30 AM daily,and after reading your article,now it seems simple for me,now to start reading books in first hour of the day.

    Great!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks

    regards
    Mahesh Ghai

  31. I have been using a system just like this myself. I’d like to add a few things however. The first thing is to get an idea of how fast you read. You’ve obviously calculated that you read a page in 1.5 minutes. then you need to see how much you think you need to read and calculate the necessary time you need to put aside each day.

    In my case I calculated that I need 2 minutes per page because I’m a fiction writer and I think you need to read fiction a little more slowly because you have to feel it as well as extract the facts. I calculate I need to read for about 50 pages a day to read around 45 books a year although it depends on the size of the book of course (50 x 356/100,000). It is going to take me about 1 hour and 40 minutes. This doesn’t include my non-fiction reading. I don’t always think reading first thing in the morning is the best use of your time, particularly if you are reading fiction which is a pleasure anyway. I want to use the early morning for something more creative. I tend to push the fiction to the end of my day, after 9 pm. I finish my writing goals by 9 pm each night.

    However, I may read non-fiction for my novel in the day because sometimes it stokes me full of ideas. I find reading specialized dictionaries or encyclopedias is good. For instance, if I’m writing horror reading a dictionary of demonology in the library, as I have done this week, is sure to fill my imagination with all sorts of weird possibilities. I read as a break from creative work because it requires less effort.

    Also, I find a number like 50 pages is easier to stick to because it is simpler to remember where you were each day and know when to stop.

  32. Excellent article and advice. I can’t wait to try this as part of my morning routine.

    Your articles are so well written and interesting. Thanks James!

  33. I love this idea. I struggle to make time to read books in my day. Reading 20 pages seems achievable. Thanks for the suggestion.

  34. Thanks James. I read all your articles during your sabbatical — it was like a good book that I couldn’t put down. I average about 5 books per year and the thought of reading about 30 books is sick. I’m gonna try this reading strategy — the power of average speed!

  35. Ha, ha. James, I’m from the times when all we HAD to read were books.
    It’s very funny to me that you should need to explain the benefits of reading books.
    You’re not really explaining WHY we should read so many books? Just because some big investor does it? How is his health? Is he a happy man?

    I also think that you should report about how to read 30+ books per year AFTER you’ve accomplished that fact yourself.

    • Completely disagree with Jessica.

      I didn’t need to hear you give a big explanation of WHY to read. Nor do I need you to read 30+ books and then tell me about. I want to know the strategy now and see how I can use it.

      Great article James.

  36. Nice article, but i would like to know is there any reason behind mentioning 20 pages(not more or less).THANKS.

  37. This is a fantastic idea. The single most refreshing and energizing thing I do is reading. I am at about twelve books this year. “There is no difference between a man that cannot read and the man that can read and doesn’t” Mark Twain, I think.

  38. Thank you fo much for this. I’m a writer, blogger and in a number of writing groups and two intensives. The list of books to read on various subject is insurmountable; but I’m going to try climbing it 20 pgs each day.

    Thank you!

  39. Thank you for this challenge. I’ve been considering pushing myself to do this very thing and you’ve given me the extra incentive.

    Those 10,000 hours to become a master can be helped along by spending that one hour a day reading toward your goals.

  40. Very good article, James, my sleep ritual is to read 30′ before falling asleep. I used to read several books at once, different thema, different author, so according to the day’s mood, I can read what is convenient for me, either a book about buddhist philosopy when I want to calm down or think about the life in general or a book about nutrition when I want to learn more about fat loss, ha, ha.

  41. Reading books in quantities does not mean more knowledge and wisdom, most the books are repetitive, one may get the same concept in 100 books, the improvement is in practice not in reading. If one practices an idea of one sentence in the morning, his/her life will be completely changed, it is far better than reading 20 pages of the book.

    • And one more thing, if I read as many books as Bill Gates read or Eisenstein read. Did this mean I will be next Bill Gates or Eisenstein, everybody is different, I am totally disagree with this concept. I know a person with lot of knowledge and have the bank balance in minus.

      It is the systematic implementation of ideas, one idea at a time, even if it is borrowed from somebody else.

  42. Good advice! My reading habits are reactive too, so quite often I find I’m not reading as much as I’d like.

    Regarding sleep, reading before going to bed really helps me wind down as long as it’s a fiction book. I’ve realised that non-fiction books put my brain into work mode and leave it wired for a while. They also demand certain levels of energy and attention that I usually don’t have at that moment.

  43. Thanks for another excellent actionable piece of advice.

    Another great option for me are audio books, or even videos. I used to “waste” hours exercising, until I finally figured out I can use that time to learn some new stuff as well.

    This can also be done while commuting, or driving your car.

  44. Thanks James for all your great articles. They gave me so much valuable input so far. A couple of months back I started to incorporate a morning run in my schedule….I just have to get up 45m earlier. No big deal after your Body/mind gets used to it after a couple of weeks. The result was that I lose weight rapidly and feel mentally much stronger. Even if I get up in a rotten mood I feel so much better after the run. If I have then a lousy day I know that I did at least one positive Action in the morning for myself. Will try to incorporate your reading advice as well.

    Best, Roman

  45. Thanks James. You are truly bringing simple yet powerful ways of changing people’s habit… I do follow my morning rituals religiously and read books during bedtime…

    I have spent significant amount of time in industry and now I am aspiring to be a writer and have started writing blogs on LinkedIn, WordPress etc… When do you think is the best time to write? When is your creative writing juice flows most?

    Many Thanks
    Pratyush

  46. Fantastic article James! I recently purchased Blinkist, an app that provides very good summaries of a huge selection of business books. Before I paid for the app I did an ‘audit’ of books I had previously read and yes, the summaries are excellent. Reading each ‘blink’(aka book) takes approx 15-20 minutes. This also gives me the opportunity to decide if I want to purchase the book and get into the nitty gritty of it. I’m loving it!

    • Totally agree, Blinkist is a fantastic way to preview books and get the general principles without over-investing time.

  47. Nice article James.

    20 pages sounds good progress made every day, but I developed a faster and more effective way to read that it allows me to read at least double that in a fair amount of time.

    Simply get the audiobook and the written publication. Listen AND read at the same time. Paradoxically, your cognitive load will decrease by more than half and you will be able to concentrate on the actual content that much easier. Plus, the voice narrator will create a character behind the words and it will force you to read at his/her constant and steady pace.

    I read at minimum at least a book each week in this fashion. The downside is that you can’t find audiobooks for every single book out there, but more are being produced every day.

    Respect,

    Andreas

  48. I like this idea a lot and have been working to put something similar into practice. I’ve only been at my new routine for 2 weeks but so far so good. I’m waking up an hour earlier to meditate (25 minutes) and write in my gratitude journal. I’m going to add in the reading!

  49. I love this, thanks for sharing. Many people say that, if you adopt this morning ritual you describe, the time should be spent WRITING for 20-30-45 minutes, rather than reading, because morning is when your brain is freshest. Can you comment on this? I want to incorporate both into my daily ritual and assume writing should come first, before distractions, but maybe reading first if it is research-related writing? Would back to back reading and writing or writing and reading work each morning? What about physical activity? What are your thoughts!?

  50. Hey James,

    Great article and reading is something I’m really passionate about and try to provide effective strategies to read more, as well.

    Here’s something I recommend that has worked well for me. I usually don’t read in the AM as that’s when I do my weight training. I will read at night, usually before bed and it helps to wind down and get in a good “state” before going to sleep.

    I have recommended the “10 minutes every day” strategy (similar, but different to you 20 pages per day).
    Here’s what I’ve found. That if you can commit to reading just 10 minutes per day, it’s easy to do and we can all find 10 minutes every day to read.

    Here’s the thing…10 minutes is never just 10 minutes, it usually always ends up being much more! 10 minutes is usually 30 to 60 minutes, but having a small target like 10 minutes just gets the ball rolling! I do this and have recommended it to others and it’s worked really well.

    This is a great post James and thanks for sharing the tip and inspiration. We can all read more! Great insight and enjoy your work!

    Scott

  51. Awesome, I am going to try this to get through my lit review for my thesis!! Thanks James, keep the good articles coming.

    Al

  52. Begin the day reading from the wise and a seed of wisdom is planted. Treat everyone you meet as a story where you can learn something from their character, their habits or from what they have overcome.

  53. As you mentioned in your article on sleep, it’s preferable to turn your eyes away from electronics an hour or so before bedtime. I’ve always been a big reader, but now I make reading a part of my getting-ready-f0r-bed ritual. I also do so in a room with just enough light to illuminate the page I’m reading. That helps make me sleepier, too.

    Reading for sleep is also a great way to get through books that I *should* read, but that are boring. Nothing like reading a chapter on digital analytics techniques to make my eyelids droop…

  54. Thank you James for your insights. I came across your newsletters right around when I wanted to change my habits. It’s been 5 days and counting…

    God bless

  55. Subscribing to your articles is one of the best things I have done in a long time. I could definitely identify with the part about reading online because I have fallen out of the habit of reading as I bought a new tablet and got a job requiring me to be in front of a screen all day. I will definitely start this 20 pages a day challenge, as I have so many good books lying around, and I hardly ever read them. I think I will also transfer this skill to improving my music practice, too. Thanks for the info. Now off to read about improving sleep.

  56. This was a timely article for me. Not in the way it was intended perhaps, but a nudge. I’ve been telling myself that I need to read less and get some actual life done. I’ve done it before, but I LOVE to read. I have a nasty book buying habit. I have quit many times but I suppose I’m just not serious enough about it.

  57. Laughing… my problem is not reading enough- it’s stopping the reading to actually get my work day going :) Thanks, James, for another great article.

  58. My only concern would be your comprehension. To set an anchor in your mind and fixate on 20 pages would cause me to periodically break my train of thought to glance at the page number and do the arithmetic of how much further to go. I have to think that this would be detrimental to your comprehension.

    By way of solution I think a better plan would be to time approximately how long it takes you to read 20 pages once or twice and then in subsequent sessions set a kitchen timer to tell you when to stop. Set the timer far enough away that the ticking doesn’t distract you. At the end of the session who cares if you got through 20 pages, its average speed that’s important and you will have achieved it with better knowledge retention.

  59. Great post James. Allow me to add a few tips:

    • Use your local library to borrow instead of buying books. Most libraries have great websites that allow you to maintain a reading list and reserve/hold the books that you request.
    • Take advantage of long commutes by listening to audio books.
    • Keep a list of books that you want to read. There are plenty of smart phone apps that do this function.
  60. I don’t read in the morning simply because I have to leave the house at 5:00, but partly because of this “habit” series, I’m learning to have evening habits for self-improvement. Setting a specific amount of time for reading is going to be my next step. Thanks for the tips!

  61. Love it – so important to ensure that do what is important prior to getting caught up in the spin of daily life (which I’ve recently conceded is inevitable and allowed myself to do it outside of structured times) Thanks James!

    - Ben

  62. I’m not sure it makes much sense (for me anyway) to put a page number on reading. For pushups that’s one thing, but for books that’s another. The page number entirely depends on content, and if I get sucked in, there’s no way I’m reading only 20 pages!
    I set a goal of reading 20 books this year, and I’m well on track. The way I’ve been doing it is by reading during my commute when I’m not driving, since I’m part of a carpool. My commute is about an hour each way, so I read for about an hour on most days. It’s become a huge part of my life! I realize this kind of thing is not possible for a lot of people, but I think it’s more about finding a consistent way to fit it into your day than about how many pages you are reading.

  63. This is a great suggestion, and I am going to try it. I read constantly as a child, but have trouble making the time now to do as much reading as I would like to do. James Clear’s posts are one of the few online blogs that I find are worth my time to read! Thanks, James!

  64. I’m the mom of a toddler (who wakes at all hours) and someone who can’t possibly start my day reading 20 pages (though, gosh I wish!). But I still read 2 books per week. One business related (I’m a media coach) and 1 for fun. My secret? Audiobooks! This way I can “read” while cleaning, cooking, walking the dog and even running. It’s work-life integration at its finest. Yes, it’s true that sometimes I fall asleep in the middle of a chapter (I use the Audible app on my phone and set a timer), but I’m happy to just rewind to where I was and go from there. My pro tip: when I’m lying down to nurse my little guy and know I’m getting sleepy, I set a timer for 30 mins and then immediately tap on the bookmark button on the app. That way the book shuts off automatically around the time I’m totally asleep and to pick things up, I just go back to my bookmark. It works really well.
    And one last thing I’ve noticed: I’m happpiest and get the most from my reading if I read “learning” books (often non fiction) early in the day and novels at night when I’m more tired and want to escape. Thanks for sharing, James.

  65. Awesome, I will certainly adopt this approach going forward and also add at bedtime to wine down the day’s activities into sleep formation.

  66. Thanks James! This article is a timely reminder that I should read one book at a time, finish it before moving to the next.

  67. I like this post! As I kid it liked to read and my favorite series was Nancy Drew. I ended my sophomore year of college this past spring and realized that I wasn’t reading near as much as I used to. Therefore, this summer I made the commitment to read more. I like watching TV (such as Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory) but I realized that even if I read a novel instead of watching TV then even that would benefit me more. Keep in mind I still watch TV but I am watching less and I am trying to see how many books I can read this summer.

  68. James,

    Welcome back! I hope your time off was wonderful. Thanks, again, for great tips. I can’t tell you how much I am grateful for the tips you have shared about habits and consistency.

    I’ve shared with you in the past about the exercise program you inspired – walking up my flight of stairs in the morning before the daily shower. My goal is 100 times up and down at least 5 days a week. Again, I may have shared this already, but I have 2 beautiful jars ( one upstairs and one downstairs) with beautiful beads, rocks and just fun little “memorable” things and I dump them all out and start carrying them one by one to the other jar. I started small, and now I am up to well over 50 a day.

    The physical benefits are amazing. I have replaced several “fat” pounds with muscle pounds and the strength in my whole body is just fun! Everyone close to me has noticed and it’s so much fun to see someone I haven’t seen for a few months — they are so complimentary.

    Because of my “type A” personality, I struggled with overdoing and not building in the habits that would allow for true maintenance or growth.

    You helped so much. Not only by sharing the tips , but also by packaging your entire message in a way that is excellent and credible — you deserve some accolades for that as well. Thank you.

    Very Best Regards,
    Kathryn

  69. I can’t believe you haven’t heard yet, James. If you want to read more faster use Spritz.

    Spritz is reading technology that flashes a single word on the screen. Apparently it is the eye tracking motion that is the main limiting factor in reading speed. Average normal reading speed is 150-200 wpm. With the flashing a word you can easily double that or with a little practice go even faster.

    The current apps I have found leave a bit to be desired, like a window showing where you are spatially in the text, the ability to book mark where you leave off, support for a wide variety of text formats…but it is still awesome.

    • Oh, I’ve heard of Spritz. (Thanks for bringing it to the conversation though.)

      I was simply focusing on reading more in this article, not reading faster. I like to build habits first, then focus on improving the speed, efficiency, or quality later. (Most people take the opposite approach. They try to do something impressive first without building the habit.)

      That said, thanks for reading and sharing!

  70. For me reading is too passive when I first wake up. I prefer to write spontaneously to get what’s inside out. Reading first tells me I’m a consumer of ideas first. I think that what we do first in the day says a lot about who we are and what we’re doing. I need to bring myself to the day.

  71. I agree, it sets the tone of your day. You can let your day own you, drive you, or you can own your morning & drive your day. Get a routine for success, James listed a great recipe, but make it your signature move for a successful day. Like Jordan’s new laced up shoes, Tigers cleats in the Buick, or a Pilot’s chair-flying the mission–set the tone for your day! Reading is a great way to jump start it. – LG.

  72. Great idea, but I start work at 6am. I get up at 4:50am so there’s no way I can wake up an hour earlier to read. I go to bed at 9pm. If I read in bed it makes me fall asleep straight away. Will just have to read early evening.

  73. Nice article, James. I think the key is making the time to read. If you make it a priority, you can do it – just like anything else. I start my morning with a workout, but I enjoy reading a book while I eat breakfast, and again when I eat lunch. I primarily read on my Kindle, which gives me flexibility and portability to read wherever I am. My Kindle comes in my bag when I travel, have appointments where I expect to wait awhile (doctor, haircuts, etc.), and other times I expect to have a little down time. I would much rather spend a few minutes in a book than mindlessly flipping through a magazine I have no interest in, or surfing the web on my cell phone. I also read some evenings, but not every evening.

    I just flipped through My Kindle, and so far this year (through July 11) I have read about 17 full length books and 7 books that would qualify as short stories (50-150 pages). I have also read thousands of internet articles, and a couple paperbacks and hard covers (I often prefer reading non-fiction and reference materials in a non-digital format). I’m not an especially fast reader. I just make reading a priority over other forms of entertainment or information gathering.

    As you mention, average speed and small gains add up quickly. Thanks for the great articles!

  74. James,

    I’ve always been a voracious reader and for the most part a homemaker. I’ll turn off the TV or turn it to New Age music and pick up a book and read. However, I’ve always wanted(apparently not enough) to read the Bible straight through. I leave the computer or TV at ten, get ready for bed, then, read until 11:00pm. So far I’m up to Genesis 25 because I make notes in the pages and in a notebook for possible fantasy or sci-fi stories. Good ideas both from the article and the other comments.

  75. What a great thought. It had never really occurred to me to make it such a small amount, but I always fall short of my goals when I aim for something big. It’s too intimidating and I tell myself there isn’t time. Coupled with my earlier mornings lately (which I never seem to know what to do with) I think this is a great plan I’m going to put into action!

  76. I love to read. I’m happy to see that it is part of your morning routine along with water and gratitude. Such simple things can make the day better. My challenge is to stop reading after a reasonable time to do other things. Currently I am reading a book by Tony Horton (the P90X developer). Its title is “The Big Picture: 11 Laws That Will Change Your Life.” I have really enjoyed it, even though I’m not yet a consistent fitness person, there are many ideas in the book to strengthen mind and spirit along with body.

  77. Great Article! Another way is target a list of books you want to read at the start of the year. Monitor your progress every month. This way I could read twenty five books last year.

    But this year I have lagged behind badly. Will follow the twenty page formula.

    Thanks a lot.

  78. hH James, I’m a 45 year service veteran on the path to, well, making my own path. I really appreciate your quest to better yourself and find your articles very interesting, and more importantly, simple; which is hard to come by these days.

    Keep up the good work and go on improving.

    Pradeep
    Mumbai, India

  79. I was struggling to read enough every day, but this is a terrific and simple way to stick to.

    Thanks a lot for the article… Bravo. :)

  80. Thank you for the motivation
    It’s an excellent idea to read a minimum of 20 pages per day
    It’s going to make me feel that I have missed out on something if I don’t do it
    Thanks

  81. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this yet but this article is SCARILY inline with the Miracle Morning -> http://miraclemorning.com/ which is an amazing resource anyone on here should check out.

    James being such a motivated person and seeing now that he too has this routine has further confirmed for me the validity of the miracle morning methodology. Thanks James!

  82. Ideal for me is to listen to the book on my morning commute. I love the whisper sync Amazon books because I can book mark and annotate the book while listening. Then a week or so later I read the book, mark it up and let it steep. The I go thru my notes, create cards on the important points and concepts. Those I store for use later. This allows me to hear one book a week and to really absorb the information but also create a personalized retrieval system so I can use it later.

  83. Thank you James, very inspiring article, studying is defiantly should be a habit of successful people.

    Since our beliefs are creating our core identity which then determine automatically what we do during the day, then reading is a form of getting new beliefs into our system, through the content of the books which is always a type of a belief system. So by reading we are also changing our beliefs and ourselves and our world and daily habits take form and change for the better.

    —————————
    Allen Douglas
    A Spiritual Finder

  84. I’m curious to know some of the books you might suggest reading “to make me a better person.” I understand it could be very individual, but I’m always interested in what others find helpful.

  85. Twenty pages for breakfast. Nice one James Clear. Enjoyed reading, really helpful. I see Warren Buffet on some amazing companies walls too, so you are aligning everybody with winners. Having the time and competence to read 500 pages a day is a great thing to achieve. Like success its something to strive for and this is a decent preamble for that. Anyway I noticed your name mentioned on Charles NGO blog or Facebook share and decided to check it out. I hope to read some more. Just wanted to say thank you and success.

  86. What an excellent idea — what book are you reading at the moment? I am reading Trade Your Way to Financial Freedom by Van Tharp just finished Dark Pools by Scott Paterson.

  87. I had a similar thought process about reading. Your description of “reactive” reading is astute. Now I devote my subway commuting time to reading!

  88. It’s funny how you said you read 20 pages a day. When you posted something about forming habits – “constraints” to be exact – reading became part of my routine. But instead of 20 pages, I kind of commit to 15 pages ONLY as a start.

    I put the schedule on my calendar so as not to break the habit, which I eventually did. But since it’s in my calendar, it’s a constant reminder for me to read at least 15 pages of any books in my e-reader.

    I read the first book in 1 week using this technique. Looking forward to getting back the habit of reading again. LOL! BTW, I don’t like reading in the morning, so I read in the evening.

  89. Hi James,

    I can attest to the transforming power of such a schedule. I don’t have a specific quantity goal rather a time goal. I allow for about 1/2-45 minutes hour every morning. I try also to spend about 15 minutes meditating on what I’ve read which increases retention for critical points of greater personal value.

    Life does get in the way and causes a miss here and there but once it became a habit it was my new default and I really missed it so I was eager to get back to the routine.

    I hope others can benefit from applying your sage insights on this matter.

    Thanks,
    Greg

  90. Hi James,

    I have been reading your articles on regular basis. You have always promoted consistent work — small bits which add up in the end.

    This is no different and thank you for showing one more way of reaching goals.

    Can’t forget one line you mentioned in one of the articles — Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the bricks were laid every hour!

  91. Always I have made promises that I can’t keep, and the worst is that most of these promises are made to self – be it getting up before sunrise, exercising, or spending more time with my family.

    But your article has inspired me to start with something small. I have chalked two small tasks for myself. They are maintain a spreadsheet in which I will write one good thing that I have done today (or good thing that made me happy), and read 20 pages a day (as suggested by you). I promised that I would take up this challenge, and would stick with it for the reminder of the month.

    I know 15 days from now, nobody would be interested in knowing whether I have succeed or not, but it would matter to me! I will update you on Aug 1, whether I have succeeded in my little adventure!

    Either way, thanks for the inspiration!

  92. I have a decent morning routine (gym, healthy breakfast, news) but I still can’t shake the snooze habit. Between 10 and 30 mins per day. You have inspired me to try reading for that snooze time – my Kindle is always bedside from the night before. :) Thanks!

  93. Hey, James,

    I was just thinking the other days that if I learnt something new, first thing in the morning, I will be able to use it throughout the day.

    It seems that your article is a confirmation I was right about that.

    Great post!

  94. Dear Mr. Clear,

    Thank you for all the hard work you put in weekly and sharing your insights with the rest of us.

    Do you have a personal favorites book list that you can share with your readers? I am constantly reading and am always on the search for material.

    Best,

    Brian Bacher

  95. Simple, small and clear! Quality post James! I’m glad I found your site. I always make time for your posts.

  96. I’m going to read 20 pages/day starting with a book a friend loaned to me. She wants in back in 2 weeks. Dividing the number of pages by 20 means I can finish it in 13 days. I usually speed read books, but am low on retention. I think the 20 day limit would help me become more focused and retain more of the material I read.

  97. James, I usually love your articles. I liked this one too – until you suggested that what we mostly do is get up, dress and leave the house. I’m sure you don’t mean to but that comment will probably alienate many working parents out there for whom the early morning can be a nightmare of juggling their own and the family’s priorities. Could they get up earlier? Yes. I do. And then I get my kids ready for school. But tell that to someone who has worked into the night on their business, had interrupted sleep due to a young child and….well, I’ll stop there.

    Maybe we’ll settle for a lower reading target……

    Keep up the good work.

  98. Great article, that’s all I can say, I really appreciate your efforts and I am absolutely glad that I have subscribed to your blog.

    Keep up the good work!

  99. I’ve started doing this and find – big surprise – it works.

    My plan is to read a business/self improvement book in the morning, to get me revved up for the day and something more relaxing at bed time, as part of my power down routine for the day, inspired by another of your posts.

    I don’t want to read something “improving” last thing, as I’ll start to think how to apply lessons, what I can do with it etc etc. I want the reading equivalent of a warm bath or a drink of warm milk, so I’ll keep evenings for biographies or fiction.

    Thanks James!

  100. Hello James, would you be ok with sharing what books you have read? Are you able to write an article on your favourite books you have already read? Thanks.

  101. I gave this tip to one of my daughters who was struggling with Jane Eyre and guess what … she’s finished it in her holidays!

  102. You are awesome! I really need to make my life better and make some changes.

    How do you have time/energy/motivation to get up early everyday and read first? Do you have a normal 9 to 5 job, or are you a full-time blogger?

    Thanks so much!

  103. Hello James,

    I just can’t thank you enough for this article!

    Hardly can I walk past a book sales stand without seeing one or two good books to buy, yet I don’t get to read those books at as much rate as I buy them.
    What I now have is a huge pile of books, a larger percentage of which I haven’t read.

    I’ll sure improve with this article!

    Again, thank you very much!

  104. James, I love your articles, and I am really grateful that somehow I was led to your website and subscribed. I always learn something new and interesting, that I would not otherwise. However I also question and adjust what I read, and with this article about how to read more, I have a problem, because whenever someone suggests to learn a new habit, it is usually said to do it in the morning. If I wanted to do everything in the morning before I will start my day, I would have to not sleep at all. How to do things,not necessary in the morning and despite the daily duties that we all have. Or perhaps how to create your own routine???

  105. I enjoy reading your articles. They are simple, clear. Anyone can do what you suggest if he really wants to. James you are good,

  106. One thing is to start and the other thing is to continue. If the overarching goal is set to improve yourself as an individual, then everything else falls in place. Most importantly, it is the busy man who can always find time. Good article.

  107. James

    Once again you have hit the nail on head. While I am an avid reader, a lot of the time its is more reactive than proactive.
    I really like the idea of your morning routine and once again, it takes the decision making out of it and can become habit forming without too much hassle.

    Thanks for sharing:-)

    • Reading more books has also been an aim of mine so I set up a data sheet of all the books/authors/genre that I was interested in and (tried) to stick to reading just them.

      So far this year I have read 18 because I only reach for the ones that interest me although about half of these haven’t been on my original list but one led to another which led to another.

      And yes I usually have several on the go at the same time which depends on my moods. Now my “want to read” list has grown so much but it is interesting to see just where my mind flies off to.

  108. Everything you discuss pertains to the goals I have for myself. That includes reading more books too. Thanks for helping.

    And just so you know… (seriously) I rarely make comments on anything online, but I think spending time to make a positive comment to you is time well spent. Again, thanks for helping.

  109. Very inspiring. Will put this plan to action starting tomorrow.

    I love your blog by the way. Been following it for a while and this is my first comment. So many thought-provoking ideas. Looking forward to more great content.

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