Creating A Habit: Reading Books

This year 2020, I tweeted about my reading.

Many people reach out and asked me “How did you pull this off? “. Since I like the DRY(Don’t Repeat Yourself) principle I thought of putting this into a blog post so I don’t have to repeat myself ๐Ÿ˜‚

Let’s get started.

How I started reading books

I was one of those kids who loves to read comics. My parents brought me one comic book of Chacha Chaudhary while visiting Udaipur. We don’t get such kind of comics in the village. So I was excited.

After that whenever they went outside the village I asked for more comic books. I read Chacha Chaudary, Billoo, Pinki, Nagraj, and Dhruva (For Non-Indian this are all Indian superheroes and character). As I grew up, I started playing more video games and lost my interest in reading comics.

The point is that most people have a reading habit. It can be in form of comics, storybooks, and newspapers. I always had an interest in reading but somewhere I lost it.

Fast-forward 15 years, I was about to complete my two years as an android developer in the software industry. Most of the things I learned from videos and technical blogs. I realized those things are most helpful to get things done. But I wanted to have a deeper understanding of it

One day I saw the book “Zero to One” on my colleague’s desk and Borrowed it.

In excitement, I completed half of the book in 4 days. As we know excitement and motivation do not last long. I stopped reading in a few weeks. I picked up again. Read for 2 days and stopped. It went on for 3 months, just to read a 250 page book.

I realized two things.

  1. My Reading was not consistent. I was reading on random days as I feel.
  2. I did not value the book because I got it free from my colleague. I won’t lose anything from not reading it.

At the same time, I was struggling to write clean code (I Still do ๐Ÿ˜Š). One of my colleague suggested reading “Clean Code” book.

At that time, my monthly salary was not sufficient enough to afford this book. But I brought it anyway thinking this as an investment to grow my skills professionally.

Similar thing happened again. I was not able to read consistently. But this time the gap was less because now I’ve invested my money in it which forces me to read 10-15 min regardless of my “Mood”.

One day I was scrolling through Twitter and saw a tweet by Donn Felker on reading 10 pages daily.๐Ÿ‘‡
It hit me. I thought “okay, Reading 10 pages daily is not that hard “. I can do that.



So keeping the consistency of reading daily 10 pages regardless of my “Mood”. I was able to complete the book in 5 months.



It was the beginning. After that, I read Working Effectively with Legacy Code, Refactoring, The Pragmatic Programmer , and the list goes on.

I found that reading was not that difficult. As a developer, we read a lot of code and documentation. We are used to it. The challenging part is to have discipline and consistency which eventually leads to creating a good habit.

Discipline is doing what you know needs to be done even if you don’t want to do it.

Why creating a good habit is important.

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

Many things in life are not in our control except habits.

Habit is not created in day or week. It takes time, consistency, and discipline.

We as a human are not design or born with good habits. We need to learn and develop habits. Like child who is born will do all sort wrong or not good things. The child need to understand and develop new habits and as parents it’s our responsibility to let them teach them properly.
– James Clear, Atomic Habits

Reading 10 pages per day is nothing but doing 1% better every day.

Improving by 1 percent isnโ€™t particularly notableโ€”sometimes it isnโ€™t even noticeable โ€” but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference, a tiny improvement can make over time, is astounding.
– James Clear, Atomic Habits

Habit is not a one time job. It’s a never-ending process. In the beginning, it looks difficult, but over a periods of time, it becomes easy.

All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.

Everything has a trade-off. Reading books have as well.

Advantages of reading books.

  1. Open One’s Mind:
    • Books help us to understand different ideas or ways of thinking. Creativity is nothing but combining different ideas in your own unique way.
  2. Connecting Dots:
    • I used to avoid refactoring the code because of the fear that I will break something. I knew I was missing something, but did not know exactly what?. Then I read the book Refactoring where it mentioned to “having a test before refactoring”. That’s where it clicked me on how to properly refactor the code. I’ve experienced many examples of such instances.
  3. Learning from other people mistakes:
    I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
    – Thomas A. Edison

    • There are two ways to learn anything. First from your own mistake, and seconds from someone else mistake. I would prefer the second one.
    • If we’re trying to do something for the first time, we better ask someone who already did that. Most of the time, it will save a lot of trouble and time for us.
      Reading on the subject before we dive completely into it helps.
  4. Writing Well:
    • Improving writing by reading is like, watch and learn.
    • Reading more will help us understand how to form a sentence, making your point, when to give an example, when it’s appropriate to make a joke, how to ask a question and how to explain the answers, what’s the part we should leave for audience’s imagination, etc.
    • Reading opens one’s mind and helps one to write down their thoughts in an organized manner.

Disadvantage of reading books.

  1. Few books are good:
    • Best selling does not mean a great book. I’ve read a few of them and they were not even close to a decent book. Most of those book can be turned into 2-3 blog posts.
    • You have to be picky. The checklist I follow before reading a book is
      1. Watch 10-15 minute summary on Youtube.
      2. Check how old the book is.
      3. Read reviews.
      4. Check the index of the book.
      5. You can also check my reading list where I write short summaries.
  2. Analysis paralysis :
    • Now we know 50 ways of doing one thing, sometimes we overanalyze or overthink a situation which can make our decision-making to become “paralyzed”. Earlier I used to get sucked into this a lot. As time passes I learned that we need to balance things out. This is something we learn as we go.
  3. Tracking Knowledge:
    • If you are reading just for fun then you might wanna skip this. If that’s not the case then you need to preserve all the knowledge in the form of writing. Building your second brain. Our brains have a very limited memory. It keeps forgetting stuff. There are a few tools that can help. Will talk more about it in the next section.

Myths of Reading Books

  1. Readers Never Makes a Mistake:
    • People assume that you are hardly going to make a mistake if you read a lot. I still do a lot of silly mistakes. Does that mean whatever I read is a waste? Definitely No.
    • You don’t run fast instantly by reading a book on “How to run fast.” Once you start practicing, you will fall and will go through a lot of pain. Those books are there to give you a good head start. Books can show you the doors. But you have to open it yourself and while doing that you make a lot of mistakes.
  2. More Knowledgeable:
    • In some context it’s true. But just knowing is not enough. Most of the time we misunderstand “Knowledge” with “Understanding”. We understand something when we experience it or put it into practice.

Theory without practice is empty, practice without theory is blind.

Organize and Tracking Knowledge

I used the combination of Evernote and Notion.

Tracking Tools

I used Notion to keep track of my reading. You don’t need any advanced tech knowledge to use notion. You can use any reading template in notion to get started.

I started with a simple book name and status. As I progressed I added a few more fields and kept improving. Now it looks like this.

notion reading list

For a more advanced use case, I linked my reading’s table to the my daily Bullet Journal. This helps me to understand how much time and the number of days I take to finish a book.

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It looks like a lot of work. But in reality it’s not. It will take only 5 min per day to log the entry. We just need to be consistent.

Highlighting Notes

Highlighting notes help to take out important points to remember. For the physical book, we usually use a pencil or a highlighter. But please don’t do this.

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We highlight notes to reference back the important points in the book.

But searching notes from a physical book is time-consuming. We need to convert those notes into digital format. I use Evernote for its offline supports and powerful search.

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Now you might be wondering how do I convert the physical notes into digital ones. The answer is simple. Type notes manually. Now, this is a lot of work. If you earning well then hire someone to do it. If not then you can ask any family member or friend to help you out. In my case, my father does this for me.

To ease the process, I use Google lens app to scan and convert the page into text format. It won’t be accurate all the time. But 90% of the time it gives accurate text. If you have any better way or suggestion of doing this, let me know in the comment section.

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We are living in a digital era. Now someone might argue to buy a kindle and avoid all this task.
Yes, that will save a lot of time and space.
Also, I would recommend to create the reading habit first and then go for kindle when you are confident enough.
If you are a person who travels a lot then kindle will save a lot of space in your bag. But I don’t see any much of traveling in 2021 or anytime soon.

Short Review

After completing each book. I write short summary of my learnings, takeaways, and action items. Sometimes I share that on social media as well.

Conclusion

Reading books has helped me to think, write, and speak more clearly. The habit creation process is long and needs patience. It took me 2 years to build this habit and the tracking system. I will repeat. It took me TWO YEARS.

Don’t just read this blog and move on. Execute it. I will be happier to hear stories from people who have created the reading habit.

If you are still finding it hard to read. The best way is to start with small storybooks or even comics. Once you get used to it then you can pick up more technical or lengthy books.

Don’t give up if you don’t see a result in the first few months/weeks.

Just keep it consistent and remember to Read 10 pages regularly and become “1% better every day”.

Finally, I will conclude this by Naval Tweet.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

In case of any question, you can reach me on Twitter or Email me.

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Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash.

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