How to Power Through a Book You Must Read

There are many of us, especially those in school, for whom reading is an essential part of our job. It may be a textbook. It may be a novel. It may simply be a report or research article. Sometimes they’re enjoyable reads, but oftentimes, the opposite is true. Sometimes we hate the reading or it bores us until we fall asleep. But no matter how we feel about it, we have to read it or suffer consequences in our grade or job performance.

So how do we get through the difficult books? I have a few helpful tips that have gotten me through many a difficult read.

  1. Make a plan. There was a study a while back that said goal-setting was an important step in meeting your goals. This is an excellent time to apply that idea. So take a step back and look at your required reading. Start with the due date. If there isn’t one, give it a reasonable due date based on either when you would like to have it finished or when it would be appropriate to have completed it. Next, evaluate how long the work is. Only a few pages or an entire novel? Then, break it up into manageable chunks. Figure out how much you need to read within a certain period to meet the goal.

    That was kind of abstract, so let’s look at an example. Let’s say you’re taking a literature class and you have to read a 200 page novel in a week. But you really really hate this book and would rather do anything else, like watch paint dry or stick your fingernails in your eyes.

    Due date: 7 days from today
    Number of pages: 200
    Pages per day to finish on time: 28.5

    So we calculated that to finish this book by the due date, you need to read 28 and a half pages per day. That sounds a lot more manageable, right? There’s your plan.

    Note: you can also base your calculation on number of chapters or number of sections rather than pages. Find what works for you.

  2. Schedule your time. Figure out when you are going to read those pages. Morning? Evening? Between classes? Before you go home? Just find a chunk of time that works based on what you have available and how long it will take you to read it.
  3. Do the reading. That’s it. Follow your plan and read those pages or chapters or sections each day or hour or whatever schedule you worked out. Pro Tip: you’ll be done faster if you can make yourself read past your goal. Once you hit your daily or hourly (or whatever) goal, see if you can do just a little bit more. It really adds up by the end of your deadline.
  4. Reward yourself every session. When you reach your session goal, make sure to give yourself something to celebrate. Eat a piece of candy. Go hang out with a friend. Or, my favorite (which also doesn’t use food as a reward, which is dangerous), now you get to read a fun book. Yes, once you finish the pages for whatever reading you are required to do, you can relax with reading you actually want to do!

A special note for the writers out there: these methods also work for getting yourself to write on a schedule! Woot! NaNoWriMo taught me that one. However, one different note for writing is that you could also base your goal off of daily writing time rather than word count, pages, chapters, etc.

Now, I know this isn’t the most timely post, since schools are finishing up (congrats, grads!), but these tips can be so handy at any time. Use them for school readings, for reading books for reviews or critiques (hey, looking at you, writing critique partners out there! and beta readers and anyone else this applies to), and for completing reading in your job. Personally, I used to have a lot of school reading and I currently do review reading, critiquing, beta reading, reading to build my internal library, and reading articles and protocols for work. Sometimes these readings can be rough, and these tips have seen me through them!

Your turn: tell me what tips and tricks you use to get through difficult reading. Share below! I can’t wait to see how everyone else deals with these things. 🙂 Happy reading!

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