We all know the feeling: one minute you’re sitting down to begin the next great American novel, the next you’re down the rabbit hole flicking through email, Pinterest, and Facebook on your phone. Pavlov’s dogs had nothing on the anxiety that builds from ignoring the little ding of a new notification, and that can wreak real havoc on our reading habits. So how do we cope in the ever-more high-tech world of reading? We’ve got a few helpful tips for you.
Set Aside Specific A Time For Reading
Maybe this sounds too basic, or a little like you’re back in elementary school with scheduled reading breaks, but it doesn’t change how effective it is; blocking out time every day actually works. Innumerable authors and artists have extrapolated on the need to set a daily creative habit to get work done, and the same principle holds true for reading. If we want to prioritize reading in a busy schedule of constant distractions, setting aside even a few minutes every day where you know this is reading time can change everything. Maybe it’s during your lunch break, when you first get up in the morning, or before you go to sleep. Maybe it’s on public transit during rush hour; it doesn’t matter when you set your time, just that you set aside time. Blocking off just 30 minutes every day can mean you churn through about 400 pages every two weeks! Keeping designated reading times relatively short can also ease our notification anxiety; you don’t have to hold back from checking for hours, just for a few more minutes while you let your brain relax with a good book.
Utilize Your Phone’s Restrictions Setting
Again, this might sound elementary, but I can’t believe how long it took me to begin doing this. Go into your settings, select restrictions, switch off Safari or whatever web browser you use. Can you turn it back on with only a few swipes? Sure. But the mental switch this provides is outstanding. Just having that alluring little icon disappear from my phone screen means I’m significantly less likely to check my phone at all, let alone fall into the pit of unnecessary internet scrolling. So go ahead. Remove that extra temptation to have the entire internet at your fingertips, and let yourself sink into a story instead.
Pick And Choose Which Apps You Actually Need Notifications For
For some of us, email notifications might be non-negotiable, but what about Snapchat? Instagram? We all know that little kick of endorphins from being instantly reassured that someone just liked that perfect sunset photo, but is it really necessary? Consider cutting back on notifications from apps that are really just for fun or between friends. My boss may not want to wait all day for an email back, but my new Facebook friend across the country probably doesn’t care if her late-night dance party status doesn’t get a comment for a few hours. By streamlining your notifications, you’ll be less likely to get sucked into unimportant distractions and allow your brain to focus — one of the best ways to de-stress! And this way you’ll know that whenever you do get a notification, it actually warrants your attention instead of you constantly divvying up your mental resources between every app known to man.
Turn Off Your Ringer And Go To A Different room
This one goes for your laptop too; the only electronic device allowed is your e-reader. The same way turning on restrictions can act as a mental “switch” into focus mode, so can leaving your phone and electronics in a separate room from wherever you do your reading. This may be a special reading nook you use every time, or just ensuring that your phone is physically separated from you. This can help reset your brain for a new task, and the old adage has some truth: out of sight out of mind. This may not come easy at first for those of us used to having our phones around every moment of the day, but start small and it’ll get easier with time.
Yes, we know: everything in your world could hinge on that one text message you just got. You could miss out on the most fun day of your life because you didn’t immediately check your phone. All your friends probably think you’re totally lame because you were busy reading instead of getting right back to them... Oh, wait. That’s right. None of that’s true. Part of what makes it so difficult to settle in and focus is feeling like everything exciting is happening right outside; that everyone we know is busy doing x, y, or z amazing thing. This emotional restlessness naturally translates to a fear of sitting still, even if we want to kick back for a good read. That’s why it’s crucial to remember: you’re doing something valuable by reading. You’re enriching your brain, engaging your imagination, and flooding yourself with ideas. Not reading is missing out. And chances are, most people you know aren’t doing that many thrilling things in a single hour (or less) anyway. So go ahead and give yourself permission to settle in. The action’s on the page.