Building a Reading Habit

Six steps to building a reading habit:

  1. Trigger the desire by making the reading material obvious (i.e., place articles around the house/lab/office).
  2. Acknowledge the positives you’ll gain from reading.
  3. Make it easy to succeed (e.g., easy material, short time or small number of pages).
  4. Reward success.
  5. Publicly state your reading intention (the crowd can help hold you to account too).
  6. Stack reading with other positive habits (e.g., reading and morning coffee/meal).


Good day there, bakers, writers, and rock stars. Richard Huysmans here. Today talking about building a reading habit, and most of this information comes from James Clear’s work. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it or read it. I’ve done a quick review of his book, Atomic Habits. So, in his book, he talks about 4 parts of building a habit or breaking a habit. The queue, what triggers what we might, that triggering the habit. The craving, the motivational force to do it or repeat it. The response the actual habit itself and then the reward what you get for completing the habit. Thus, to build a reading habit according to James Clear, you should go through each of these 4 stages about creating cues, having cravings, having a response, and having a reward. Other things that might help you stating an intention helps you maintain progress and stacking habits can generate cues where one habit leads to the completion of many. So, if you want to build a reading habit, here are 6 things that or how you might do that from a cue craving response reward statement and stacking perspective.

So, cue from a reading perspective, that’s trying to place the material close to hand. So, that might be if you’re going to read journal articles or if you’re going to read books making them available to you. So, don’t leave the book in your study. Put you know, bring the book around the house with you. Don’t leave the articles in a poll, in a in tray or an outrage or to read tray. Make them really available. So, if you read digitally maybe it’s a case of putting your articles on your desktop in order that you get reminded to read them. if you read in an analog way or hard copies or printouts then you might go ahead and you know like I said, leave them near your desk.

Cravings. So, craving to read for some people might be hard. Particularly, if you’re thinking about building a reading habit you might not have cravings to read. So, how can you build a craving? One thing that you can do is write down all the positives that you’ll gain from reading. Whether that be entertainment or knowledge or understanding or new ideas. All of those things can be things that can ultimately become a craving. Your response. So, this is really what we care about. How do you read? One of the things that I think we get stuck in as potentially academics or as academics in training is that we start reading by trying to read really hard material. Material that is difficult to read takes long. It’s technical. So, I would suggest reading material that is much easier for you to understand, and definitely trying to read stuff that is more for pleasure than it is for any other purpose.

The other thing that I reckon you should do is only read for a short amount of time. So, if you have not got a reading habit currently reading for 1 to 2 minutes or 3 to 4 minutes is going to be better than trying to sit down and read an entire article every day. That’s going to be dense. Difficult. The response that you generate for yourself is going to be a negative one rather than a positive one. So, I would be setting a timer and limit yourself to reading probably 4 or 5 minutes and adding a minute each day or each week until you get to a level that you think is useful. I personally think 20 minutes a day is perfect. I tend to read books rather than journal articles. So, I kind of translate that into 20 pages a day rather than 20 minutes a day.

The next thing that you should do is set up yourself a reward of some type. So, these could be tracking your habit and just seeing every day gets it ticked off. It could be food you like or doing an activity that you like. It could be rewarding yourself with the purchase of something. Who knows what the reward is, but you get to choose what the reward is for reading? Then like I said, stating your intention and stacking habits are really important as well. So, stating your intention that might be something as simple as, “I will read for 4 minutes a day in the morning”.

Now, if we talk about stacking habits, that’s connecting one habit to another. So, your reading habit might be connected to your breakfast eating habits. So, in that case you might redesign your intention or rephrase your intention and say, “I’ll read for 4 minutes a day while I’m eating breakfast”. And the whole idea is that breakfast triggers you, “Oh yes! I should be reading now”, and you go ahead and read. It might be something else that is a trigger for you. Whether that’s your morning walk. Whether that’s a workout down at the park. If you take a break, then you’ll take this information to read. It might be that you read on your mobile. So, when you’re in a line or waiting for coffee or whatever it might be you read articles rather than scrolling through social media. So, that’s some ways you can help build a habit that will help you with reading.

Now of course, one of the things that you can often happen when it comes to reading is that you get distracted from reading. So, we might want to think about breaking bad habits or breaking habits that distract you from reading. So, in terms of the cue, if the cue is boring or other things distract you then reduce the simulation in the place that you read. So, if you’re reading in the living room and the TVs there maybe move from the living room and read in your bedroom. Or move from inside to outside or outside inside. Or leave the kitchen if you know getting snacks is a distraction for you. If your phone distracts you from reading, you know, turn off notifications if you’re reading on your mobile device. Same with your computer. Craving. So, when you catch yourself being distracted from reading, know what the habit is that is distracting you from reading, and make that more difficult particularly at the time of reading.

One of the biggest things that I think happens is people get bored reading. I’ve seen a few responses to this. One of such response is to create an even more boring location. So, let’s say you’re reading, and you get distracted from reading, it’s not so much that your thoughts wonder. Because I think part of reading is about having diverse thoughts and thinking through your research. But you might you know, get distracted and go to the computer. You might essentially put yourself in the naughty corner. Go and sit in a boring place for a couple of minutes, and when that boredom is so strong that you want to read then go back to reading. Rather than releasing the craving by going and scrolling on social media or doing something else. A case you could in terms of the response, you could create rules about when you eat or that you know, you can’t have a snack until you’ve read all that kind of stuff as well. Obviously, if you’re getting distracted by the same thing or all of the time, you could change your reward for that thing whatever it might be. Obviously, if you’re getting distracted again by the same thing or you could state an intention that says, “I will not do anything else at breakfast other than read” or “I won’t do anything else until I’ve read for 5 minutes”. And then stacking activities, “I’ll only do something fun once I’ve read”. So, what I used to do is, “I could only exercise for the day that’s something that I enjoy having read for 20 minutes first”. So, often then that means that I would read, and then go for a run. That also created a positive cycle for me as well in that reading was connected to running, and which was really good for me.

So, there you have it! Some different ways that you could potentially build a reading habit using techniques talked about by James Clear in his book Atomic Habits.