Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash
Forty-five minutes a day is healthy brain exercise.
Until earlier this year, I was reading, on average, one book a month. I was exceptionally proud of this progress, considering the fact I wasn’t reading a book in a year when I was younger. Growing up, I sadly only read the bare minimum, which as an adult I have regretted and at times found a little embarrassing.
My reading improved as a young adult, and I rapidly found the joy so many had spoken of. Not only did it offer me a window into someone else’s life and perspective, but it is a brilliant tool for conversation, meeting new people, and nurturing compassion. Knowing the world is bigger than me and my immediate circle profoundly affected my once very insular outlook.
I got myself through those dinner parties when comparing takeaways from current ‘must-reads’ and bestsellers. Yet I felt caught out at the mention of a classic. Everyone was reading those classics in their early years, or maybe even having their parents read to them. These classics provided a crucial foundation to historical facts, previous beliefs, cities, political movements, music and trends.
Then it hit me:
I not only wanted to read more, but also catch up on all those masterpieces I had neglected in earlier years.
I am a big fan of Jim Kwik. He is bright, quick with his messaging, and I always admire someone who has overcome a setback. (A childhood injury left him, what he refers to as ‘scholastically challenged’). Jim Kwik encourages his target audience (assumingly young, enthusiastic Type A personalities), to read every day and aim to read as many as 52 books annually without speed-reading. I am not looking to lead anything too significant. Still, I am looking to take charge of the second half of my life, and I am confident that I can only but benefit from Jim Kwik’s tips.
Intending to read more and become better disciplined, I took heed of Jim Kwik’s tips and discovered some positive outcomes.
In a 4-step process, these are Jim Kwik’s tips to reading one book a week:
1) Keep an active book list, writing down all the books you want to read.
2) Test your reading speed. You can do this by picking up a book and timing yourself reading for 60 seconds. After the 60 seconds, count the number of lines you read and times that by 10 (average number of words per line). You will most likely reach between 200–250 words per minute.
3) As most books average on 64,000 words (around 350 pages), a person can read a book a week by dedicating only 45 minutes a day to reading.
4) Schedule a tradition of reading at the same time every day around a time that you know you can do this, ideally around your peak time.
My four take-aways:
If you are looking to read a book a week, 45 minutes a day is one sure way! It totally works. Of course, the lighter, autobiographical style reading went faster than the more intense, old-style English classics. Still, I progressed through four (and sometimes more) books in the month and continue getting through my list of classics and current ‘must-reads’.
I compiled a list that extended from Animal Farm, The Catcher and the Rye and Jane Eyre. And to include Sapiens, Becoming (by Michelle Obama), and Matthew McConaughey’s autobiography, Greenlights. A colourful kaleidoscope of history, geography, power struggles, suffering, love, self-praise, heartache and more. I found myself having dreams of Squealer from Animal Farm being met with some resistance when trying to convince Matthew McConaughey that all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.
Relaying information is, of course, a brilliant way to retain the information. Suppose you are blessed with a partner like me who has an eye for detail. In that case, you will find yourself memorising those important dates, places, and historical facts before delivering your synopsis each morning over breakfast.
Dedicating a similar time every day and informing the household I was going into my 45-minute reading experience worked a treat. I cannot help but feel that if I had not told everyone that I was doing this experiment, my dedicated 45 minutes would not have worked as well. Then, everyday disturbances, such as Amazon deliveries, family calls, Zoom meetings and snack feasts, would have distracted me.
To conclude, it works. Simple and effective. I have thoroughly enjoyed putting this test to practice and seeing that it is possible. I did feel a little indulgent taking that time out during my day, but I have no doubt that my guilt will dissipate once work commutes on public transport recommence. Until then, I will try to better integrate it into my daily schedule, (maybe take my book with me as I treat myself to a leisurely bath in the evening, or read while I am waiting for dinner to reach the desired temperature). No matter what, I will be reading more than I was previously, if it isn’t four or five books a month, it will be double to what I was reading before this experiment. I encourage you all to give it a try.