Habits Productivity

Relearning to Read in an Info-Snacking Society

By Jon Rumens on 17 August 2020

“I Can’t Focus When I Read Anymore.”

When was the last time you sat down and truly sank into a good book? 

A book that takes you to another place, with imagery so clear it came alive? Where you could actually see the characters? Understood how they think and why? 

And the scenes typed on the page were not just two-dimensional pictures in your head but felt like real experiences?

When’s the last time you dug deep into a topic (instead of fooling yourself you could appropriately understand it from pieced-together sound bites on Facebook and YouTube)?

Even if you’ve grew up a total bookworm, chances are it doesn’t happen as often as it used to…

Indeed, In Today’s Society Reading is Becoming a Lost Art.

But wait…

Isn’t everyone reading CONSTANTLY? On Facebook? While surfing the web and checking out articles on their various interests?

Well, you may be reading a lot online, but how much are you really focused on what you’re taking in? Because it’s certainly not the reading your grandfather knew…

And you may have noticed that when you sit down to read an actual book now, your brain has lost its ability to focus. You make it through half a page, maybe a page or two, before your mind loses your place.

Or you just bored…Maybe even read an entire chapter and forget it all…

We’ve been hearing it from people again and again: “I can’t focus anymore when I’m reading!”

So WHY Exactly Can’t You Focus on Books Anymore?

Well, it comes down to the nature of consuming info online.

The brain is a muscle. And when you constantly use it in a particular way, it gets stronger at performing those types of tasks…while getting weaker at functions you’ve avoided.

So most of us teach our brains to jump from one thing to the other, never digging deep for long…

Pop-ups with catchy titles jump at you. Enticing you to click down one rabbit hole after another. Social media pings grab you, interrupting you, whisking you away – just to see that your friend posted yet another stupid picture of his cat. 

Work emails flash across the screen, demanding your attention.

It’s almost impossible to truly focus on your reading while on a cellphone or laptop. And the end result is we’re losing the ability to enjoy a good book.

It’s Time to Rediscover the Benefits of Books for Your Brain

Is relearning how to read actually worth it, though?

Just like a balanced diet and exercise is important to keep your body healthy, in-depth reading is important for keeping brains strong and healthy. 

And sure, internet snacking and quickly-accessible information has its advantages in a changing society. But knowing how to go deep as everyone else loses that capability can only reward you with the benefits of a more well-rounded brain.

In my opinion, you should be reading daily.  It’s as important as having a proper breakfast, getting plenty of sleep, and putting in workouts at the gym.

For example…

Relearning to Read Is Crucial to Your Brain Health.

Relearning to Read May Help Fight Aging of the Mind Too

Many tests like the research above indicate reading can keep you sharp in your later years. Reading may also help fight off dementia, prevent Alzheimer’s, and promote healthier cognitive functioning.

Relearning to Read Makes You Better at Relationships

While reading a book, you have the opportunity to get inside the character or characters (or, in non-fiction, the perspective of the author). You see what they see and even feel what they feel. You get a front row seat inside their mind during their adventure or tragic struggle.  

This practice of understanding someone else’s inner world transfers to increased empathy in the real world, making you better at relationships at work and in your private life.

Relearning to Read Improves Your Ability to Communicate

Readers naturally grow larger vocabularies than non-readers because they are constantly exposed to words. And the spend a lot more time digesting ideas put into a structured form, which is an invaluable for thinking and communication improvement.

To go further, this has great economic value on a planet where people from different backgrounds and cultures must constantly communicate. Often without ever actually meeting in person.

So better communication skills can help get you that job you want or help you reach your market. Perhaps allow you to get your point across better when working in groups. Move through the world with confidence. 

Relearning to Read Can Help You Relax.

Ever suffer from insomnia or poor sleep because you lay in bed at night looking at your phone? This is a great way to ruin your health and mental state. 

The blue light emitted by phones and laptops unnaturally stimulates your brain during nighttime hours, causing it to work harder and preventing you from dozing off.

WebMD recommends we stop looking at our devices for at least 2-3 hrs before going to bed. Read a book at night before turning in instead, and it will relax you, resulting in a much better night’s sleep. 

I never go to bed without a Kindle at my side. If I wake up in the middle of night, I use it to quickly lull myself back to sleep.

Relearning to Read Can Reduce Your Stress as Well.

Just like Yoga or meditation, reading can help you wind down. Research shows it may lower stress by up to 68% while slowing your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and relaxing your muscles. Helping you shed the daily pressures put upon you and preserving your mental and physical health.

And all that, in the end, will make you a much happier person.

Unfortunately, Relearning to Read is No Simple Task (Once Your Thinking Patterns Have Changed).

If it were as easy as putting the phones and computers away and focusing on a book…

We probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.

If you’re convinced that rediscovering the long-lost art of in-depth study would improve your life, just understand there will be a bit of a learning curve.

Here are some tips as you take on the challenge.

Rediscover Reading Tip #1: Cut Yourself Off of Social Media

Making time for relearning to read is no easy task when every extra hour is sucked up by social media and other digital addictions. So instead of trying to find extra time in your daily routine, cut yourself off from these terrible time-wasting distractions for a short period – this alone will leave your brain craving something to do.

And then you can fill that void with reading.

I generally take an entire week off social media if I’m trying to rediscover my reading habit after some time away.

If cutting yourself off of social media sounds like an insurmountable challenge, maybe our web blocking software can help you force yourself to focus.

Rediscover Reading Tip #2: Read Whatever Material Captivate You Most

Non-fiction books can be particularly useful in your life, sure. But they may not take you away on a mind trip if you haven’t done much in-depth reading in a while. For many non-readers, non-fiction is too dry and devoid of creativity. They pack your mind with knowledge but leave you feeling empty. 

Save them for after your reading habit takes hold again.

For now, try chasing a feeling of escape and adventure. Try biographies, autobiographies, or historical stories to capture the imagination more while still informing you.

Better yet, use fiction and completely run away with your imagination. Rediscover reading as entertainment and “fun,” and it becomes that much easier to get sucked back in. 

Rediscover Reading Tip #3: Make Relearning to Read A Part of Your Daily Schedule.

Set specific times to start reading. It doesn’t have to be hours at a time; break your reading sessions up throughout the day. 

Or just start with 5, 10, 15 or so minutes at a time to keep the barrier to entry low – as your brain rediscovers the habit, your sessions naturally become longer.

I also recommend reading in the morning before work; charge your brain and start out the day with increased focus. As mentioned, reading before bed is another great time.

Rediscover Reading Tip #4: Repeatedly Guide Your Mind Back on Track

A common problem when relearning how to read, as I’ve discussed, is that your focus will repeatedly falter. Just keep at it.

Every time you find your mind loses the plot, just gently guide it back to the last part you remember reading (without beating up on yourself). 

Think of it like training a puppy that hasn’t quite learned how to behave. Thankfully, it usually only takes about a week for this flaky thinking pattern to sort itself out.

Rediscover Reading Tip #5: But Only Continue Reading if You’re Loving It

Don’t force yourself to keep going if you get bored of a particular book. 

If you aren’t enjoying what you’re reading, you won’t want to do it anymore. So, until the habit sticks, feel free to put down one book for another when it completely loses you.

Rediscover Reading Tip #6: Keep a Book on You at All Times

Hopefully you’re already heeding the advice to forgo social media or your smartphone while reteaching your brain to read. So, here’s a hot tip – replace the missing phone with your books. 

When there’s a break in the day, pull out your book instead of checking your Facebook. Turn waiting rooms into learning centers. Bus rides into a time to grow your brain.

You’ll be addicted before you know it – only, this time it’s a good thing to be addicted to.

Rediscover Reading Tip #7: Set Your Environment Up for Minimal Distractions.

Your brain is already misbehaving – don’t give it an excuse. 

Choose a reading location with minimal distractions. Put your phone in a drawer (yes, even if it’s off), turn off the TV, lose the music, shut the door…

Or post up in the local library. No shortage of material, and the environment is inspiring for getting some quiet study done. 

Rediscover Reading Tip #8: Read at Your Level.

Now is not the time to take on huge reading challenges. 

Don’t start off by tackling big novels like “War and Peace” or “The Lord of The Rings.” Start with a pop fiction paperback or a book of easily-digestible short stories. 

You’ll get a good little feeling every time you finish a short story and start building momentum. 

Start Your Reading Journey Today and Rebuild Your Brain’s Ability to Focus.

Here’s an important thought from Cal Newport, in “Deep Work”:

“The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”

And that’s what it really comes down to!

In a society where the ability to focus is scarce, reading can give you a monstrous edge. And turn you into a standout in a society where most people can’t even stop looking at their phones.

To top it off, I think you’ll be much more satisfied with your life in the process…

Want Help On Your Journey?

Whether relearning to read…

Or just blocking out social media and other distractions when it’s time to work deeply…

Our tools can help. Watch the video or hit the link to check out what we’ve been doing with FocusMe.