The biggest barrier to reading for most people is finding the time. I am going to be very mindful with my words here to acknowledge that it is a valid reason for a lot of people and not an excuse.
One of my objectives and goals is to take the guilt out of reading.There are already so many things that people feel ‘guilty’ about not doing /doing and I don’t think reading should be one of them.So I will be sharing5 tips to help you cultivate the habit if time is a scarce resource or commodity.
Read shorter books– This one seems pretty obvious but is one that most people neglect. If fiction is your thing go for short stories,novellas etc If you are more the non-fiction person go for smaller abridged versions(100 pages or less) of areas of interest.
Repurpose ‘waiting’ times– Doctors appointment,waiting in line at the post office,waiting at the hair dresser/mechanic etc etc Use those times to get a few pages in. Every little counts
Read in short time bursts – Its very easy to set a goal of ‘Read for an hour everyday’ but we all know that it might be very difficult to get that hour in with all the things competing for our attention. So set shorter time goals e.g. 10 mins in the morning,10 mins at lunch,10 mins at bedtime. Do what works for your current season.
‘Read’ an audiobook– This is pretty self explanatory. This is time saving in the sense that you can do it while doing other things like walking,cooking,cleaning etc .This is classic habit stacking. I have a series on my YouTube channel on the book ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear where I go into this concept a bit more.Click on link to watch Atomic Habits Series
Read summaries– Yes I know this is sort of ‘cheating’! But you know what? there are millions of books in the world and so it’s unrealistic to expect that we can read them all. For me reading is also about learning. Sometimes all you need are the key learning points from a book to set you on the path to wanting to know more. There are loads of apps like blinkist, Instaread etc which are good tools to utilise. There are also loads of blogs/websites and book review(including some of mine). This is time saving as you get the essence or lessons without having to spend the hours reading the book itself.
My bibliophile self would always prefer that you read the book but I am willing to concede that time is such a scarce and valuable resource that we need to adapt and flex as we see fit. I hope you found these tips useful. If you did please do share with others who might also find useful.
Here’s wishing you a lovely Tuesday and week ahead!
So it’s the last two days of a year that has had every sort of adjective attributed to it … I guess everyone’s descriptor for 2020 will vary especially as our experiences of it are not the same but I am sure we can all agree that it’s a year that we will not forget in a hurry.
I remember writing Read more in 2020 around this time last year. At the time I was completely oblivious to what 2020 was going to turn out to be. Like a lot of my other blog posts, it was me basically writing out loud my thoughts and sharing it with others.
I reflected on my reading journey in 2019 and what had worked for me. I shared those tips as I knew that a lot of people (similar to myself in the recent past) often had the goal of ‘read more’ as they approached a new year. If you do click on and read that blog post, I still believe that all of the tips I shared are still relevant and would put you in good stead to cultivate and maintain an effective reading habit moving forward.
So as we approach the dawn of another year, I am once again reflecting on my reading journey this year and thought to share my highlights and lessons I have learned.
Despite initial struggles at the beginning of the pandemic, I was able to keep up a consistent reading momentum. Yes there were peaks and troughs,but reading was one of the ways I was able to entertain,educate and enlighten myself through the quarantine periods and even when things loosened up a bit in the summer.
Reading was also the activity that made me tap into the more introverted side of myself. It was a part of myself that really shocked me because I thought that I would get cabin fever after all of the time that we spent at home. I realised that I did not resent staying home as much as thought I would. In fact with a good book and good food I actually found that I ENJOYED it.
So yes, I did miss certain elements of human interaction but no, I actually did not (and still haven’t) gotten fed up of being stuck at home. I guess we evolve because even my husband who is more the home body has been shocked at how I eventually adapted to staying at home.I do believe having a steady supply of books(Amazon can attest to this) contributed to this.
In total I read 42 books and finished 41. And like my tastes,passions,interests they were an eclectic mix. From non-fiction books on writing,to prayer,to habits,to change to productivity to finance etc And fictional titles ranging from mechanics to serial killers, it surely was a varied mix.
Other noteworthy reading news from me in 2020 was me hosting two Bookclubs. I had always wanted to host or build a sort of community around reading and had started and stopped a number of times. 2020 gave me the opportunity to not just do this but twice!!
I started hosting the Chapters bookclub in the Super Abundant Woman (SAW) community in January. I can’t even begin to describe what a privilege it was to host and read with such an amazing set of women. Being the host,meant that I had to challenge myself to read all of the books and prepare the structure of our sessions where we met to discuss the learnings and takeaways from the books. These sessions proved me to me that we all read and process information differently. It was also an avenue for me to learn and glean insights that i might have missed while reading. It really is an amazing community and was one of my highlights of 2020.
In June, after a lot of persuasion from people who had followed some of the content I shared on social media,I also started the BookMark bookclub. This bookclub was open to people who might not be members of the SAW community and wanted an opportunity to rekindle or cultivate a reading habit.Like I shared in my previous blogs,it is my hope that adult women especially those of African descent begin to view reading as an activity that they can enjoy. It was always a relaxed fun atmosphere when we met on Zoom(like everyone else LOL).We read six fiction titles in total.
You would think fiction =stories =no learning? WRONG! The amount of lessons I learnt from all of the women in the bookclub over those six sessions on empathy,kindness, love,parenting were absolutely phenomenal. The sense of camaraderie is second to none and I feel a sense of gratitude that I have been able to bring together a great group of women around a shared love of reading.
This blog is getting far longer than I intended it to and I haven’t even touched on the book review videos, podcast appearance,book interviews and a host of other reading/book related things that I also got the opportunity to do this year. I even had the opportunity to proof text and edit a book that was published in December 2020. So yes,2020 was not all roses in some other areas of life but it surely was a fulfilling one for me on the reading and impacting others to read front.
All of the above said though, I am always one to review,reflect and respond. And as great as 2020 was on the reading front both for me and the reading communities that I serve,I know there is always room for improvement.
My reading focus for 2021 will be much more immersive.I might read less books than I did in 2020 and believe me that will be tough as I am always stumbling on books I want to read. My Want to read Bookshelf on Goodreads currently has 462 books and I keep stumbling on new books every single day.
That said though, I am going to be a bit more intentional about my reading choices.They will become more concentrated and focused around areas I want to grow and improve in. This doesn’t mean that I won’t read for entertainment(as most of my fiction reads tend to be) but it means that 2021 would be far less about quantity but more about reading for growth.
It has also meant-reconsidering the quantity of books that we will be consuming in both Chapters and BookMark book clubs. We might be reading LESS but we will be reading BETTER. There are also loads of ideas that are forming on the content and ways I can serve people to become better readers(and learners).
I am really grateful for the gift of creativity deposited by God in all of the authors I read in 2020. I am also grateful for all those who have allowed me to be part of their reading journey in 2020. As a result of all this I am really looking forward to my reading journey in 2021 and beyond! I really do hope that you will come along with me.
As usual thank you so much for reading and wish you a healthy,happy and peaceful 2021.
I am back! It was so heartwarming reading all of the responses to the first post.I was incredibly humbled by how much it resonated with so many people. Sharing personal stories can be quite daunting but I am glad that I shared mine as so many people were able to relate to it .Thank you to everyone who sent me personal messages.I must admit that the ‘I can’t wait for the part 2’ responses were what pushed my procrastinating self to start typing this.There is no greater accountability than not wanting to keep people hanging.
After my NYSC ,I started job hunting and eventually got my first graduate role. The realities of being an adult kicked in. Monday to Friday I would be mostly occupied with work and combating the manic Lagos traffic (anyone who lives or has ever lived in Lagos,Nigeria knows what I am talking about). The weekends were filled with a very full and active Lagos social life. From weddings, to funerals,to birthdays, to baby & bridal showers, lagosians sure do know how to party. At this point,I was still reading but remarkably less than I used to in my childhood and teen years. This era was also the beginning of social media(anyone remember My Space?)
It was also an era when the glossy magazine industry was at its peak in Nigeria.Magazines like Genevieve,TW,This Day style etc hit the news stands. I started buying a lot of these magazines and gradually found myself reading more magazines than books. I still read books but very minimally.
A couple of years passed and in this time, I got married and relocated to the UK. This was another adjustment phase.New country,routines,habits and culture. This phase though saw me having a bit more time on my hands at the weekend as I really didn’t know a lot of people.We lived in my sister in law’s old flat and I remember my joy at discovering her stash of books. This stash kept me busy and briefly rekindled my love for books. I discovered the joy of cuddling up and reading under a duvet in the winter.I also had a rather long commute to work and this time was converted into reading time.
My reading life was on a steady pace until the next major phase; I became a mum!Nothing truly prepares you for the change that accompanies a tiny screaming cute human dependent on you for everything.This event started my slow but steady descent back off the reading wagon. I went back to work after my first maternity leave and maybe read 1 or 2 books sporadically within that one year period.At this point Eastenders and Facebook had also become my escapist friends. Add in a dash of the fact that we could now get television series in box sets. After long days and finally getting the children into the bed,reading just didn’t seem like an easy or fun way to unwind.
If I wasn’t adulting i.e. being a mum & working,most of my downtime was mostly spent staring at a screen. I had my second baby and this cycle continued. I went through a spell of about 5 years where I couldn’t find it in me to start and finish a book. My husband even bought me a kindle at some point which eventually got consigned to the kitchen drawer purgatory that most unwanted items find themselves in.
Deep down in me though, I knew that I was missing an essential part of who I was.Year after year I would write ‘start reading again’ on my new year goals list (i don’t do new year resolutions anymore by the way). I also knew that that my creative side was dormant as the only time I got any mental stimulation was at work. The interesting thing was that through all of this,I was reading to and with my children almost every night.
It was very important to me that they were exposed to reading and books from a very young age. I would sit with them and we would journey through the Gruffalo and the very hungry caterpillar. It was an important part of our bedtime routine and it was a part of my day that I really looked forward to.
I knew that I really wanted to go back to reading but I sincerely thought that it wasn’t possible with the life that I currently had. These thoughts lead me to question a lot of other things.I realised that I had gradually began to let go of activities that were central to the core of who I was and everything I did outside of work centred around being a mum.Reading had always been the Avenue through which I opened my mind to countless possibilities out there in the world .
I knew that if wanted to grow in other other area and be a good role model to my children, I had to start reading again.The following things helped me go from barely reading one book in 5 years to almost 36 so far this year.
1. In 2016, I stopped writing down ‘Read more this year’. I changed it to ‘Read and finish one book every quarter’. It’s a very simple principle that applies to any other habit or goal you want to achieve. It has to be specific. I also need to caveat here that the number does not really even matter. For some people it might be ‘read and finish one book this year’ or ‘read 1 page a week’. It just has to be specific,measurable,attainable,realistic and time bound (I know SMART just had to make in it there😀).
2.One day I stumbled on a group in Facebook who were reading a book together and decided to join them. You would have someone come to present a chapter and we would all discuss it. Essentially it was a book club. Joining them spurred me on to start and finish the book so I could contribute to the discussions. And I have joined and been a part of some sort of book club ever since then. I even now host and co-ordinate two. So you want to keep up the reading habit,join a book club. You can reach out to me if you want to join one of the ones I host .This quote by James Clear in Atomic Habits explains it a bit better;”Remaining part of a group after achieving a goal is crucial to maintaining your habits. It’s friendship and community that embed a new identity and help behaviors last over the long run.”
3. I started viewing reading as a pleasurable activity and not a chore. I remembered what made me enjoy reading as a child and it was getting into stories. I love stories and words and i realised that in my head I had made ‘adult reading’ into this ‘serious’ thing that only helped my growth. I am a bit of a personal development junkie if I do say so myself so I thought I always had to be reading ‘serious’ books. I soon realised that reading had to be more than a way for me to ‘get better’. So I started reading fiction again. Reading fiction meant that a story could grip my attention for longer periods. This meant I could actually look forward to reading the same way I could look forward to watching a movie or TV series. The way I see this is that if you read what you love,you will eventually love to read. Don’t be confined to peoples expectations of what you ‘should’ be reading.
4. I made reading a part of my schedule. There are so many things that we would love to do but it just appears that we do not have the time. So what did i need to do? I made the time. Let’s face it, except one is retired (and even some retired people have a lot going on),life is always going to be busy. And I fully appreciate that seasons of life are different. But if it was something I needed to do, it had to make time for it. And that might mean other things had to go.For me it meant some of my evening TV time,some of my Sunday nap time etc. I also got in some reading on my commute into work. For some others it could be listening to audiobooks while driving to work, listening while running etc. If it’s important to you it has to get a slot on the schedule.
These are just a few of the things that helped me get back on the reading wagon. I also wrote a blog post back in 2019 titled Read more in 2020. That article also lists really easy tips to start reading more.I will be adding sharing the link on my social media platforms.
I do hope my story encourages someone who really wants to start or get back into reading again. It is possible and believe me when I say it is one of the most rewarding habits you can ever cultivate.
As usual thank you so much for reading and looking forward to hearing all of your plans for reading more in 2021. Compliments of the season and wish you a lovely week ahead.
Hello and hope you are well and keeping safe in these last days of 2020.
One question I get asked quite often is what sparked my love for books and reading. I sharing that story so I thought I might as well share the story in a blog post.
I will be sharing how my love for reading started,how I lost it for quite a while and how I gradually got my reading mojo back. It is bit too long for one blog post so it will be split in two parts.
I grew up around books. Both my parents were voracious readers. At a time when most homes had various decorative items in their living room cabinets(its was the 80’s when minimalism wasn’t a thing) ours was filled with Encyclopaedia Brittanica. My dad was a mixed bag of ideological ideas and beliefs that spanning being very progressive on some issues and very conservative on others. I believe this was largely due to how broadly he read. My mum often joked that she should have known my Dad was always going to be non-conformist. This was because in University he spent all of his bursaries and stipends on book volumes when everyone else was buying record players.
Some of my fondest memories of primary school involved going to the school library to check out Ladybird & Enid Blyton books.By the time I was 9, I had read almost every book that Enid Blyton had ever written.Growing up in Nigeria in the 1980/1990’s was a time when of squeezed disposable incomes which meant taking vacations abroad was not something that was readily accessible to the average family.Despite this,I had travelled the world through the books and stories that I constantly had my head buried in.My mum also travelled a lot due to nature of her job/business and my souvenir of choice from her trips was more books.This appetite for books and reading was evident in how I interacted with the world both socially and academically. Academically my vocabulary and verbal aptitude developed quite rapidly.
Socially,I was that child who went to parties with a book .I would play with the other children and even won quite a lot of dancing competitions along the way. But if the opportunity presented itself,I would sneak off to read my book. I can now see how even then my personality was such a contradiction. Most people think of children who love burying their heads in books as children content being by themselves. Not me though! I loved talking,dancing,meeting people but was also content being by myself as long as I had a book in hand.
Due to my talkative nature and love of reading,the clear career path as in most Nigerian families was the Law.Being a book lover meant that I could cope with the big volumes that are invariably part of studying law. I could also argue my point well in any debate and was also really good in the humanities.I also had a dad who continually impressed on me on that I could reach the heights of any career I chose. He always used to tell me that he saw a SAN in me (Senior Advocate of Nigeria similar to a QC in the UK). Oyinda the SAN was due to be unleashed to the world.
However,Oyinda wrote her SSCE exams (GCSE equivalent) and did not get the required grade in Maths required to study Law in university. I was really unhappy and it was agreed that I would resit my maths papers and take the university entrance exams (JAMB) again. That said,my grades were sufficient to get a place to study English. I took the place but always saw it as a stop gap till I got to study what I always thought was my true career path,Law.
In my first year of university, I got introduced to an even wider range of literary genres and thematic thrusts. I got exposed to literary greats from Shakespeare to Wole Soyinka, John Keats, Nawal El Sadaawi, Lorraine Hansberry, Toni Morrison and so many others.This exposure further deepened my love for stories and words. I also got the privilege to be part of a theatre production that was premiered at the Muson Centre,one of the premier arts venues in Lagos,Nigeria.I remember how accomplished I felt being part of something that brought a story to life.
In the midst of university life, I still found the time to resit my exams and this time I got the required grades and was able to gain admission to the University of Ibadan to study law. At this point I was in my second year of my degree in English and it meant I would have to start all over again on the 5 year law degree program. Now I am not sure what had really changed but by this time I had began to have second thoughts about whether or not I truly loved the law.Had I fallen in love with idea of what it meant to be a lawyer(thank you Matlock and Ally Mcbeall)? After all it had been what I had been told I would be all my life.
I discussed my second thoughts with my mum. We tried to weigh the pros and cons but decided to proceed with my dad ringing the bell for Law being a more ‘professional’ course.So I started my registration for the law course.During one of our visits to Ibadan I had a heart to heart discussion with my mums friend who was also a lawyer.That discussion and a couple of other things finally made me change my mind and I decided to carry on with my degree in English.
As you can guess my dad was not too thrilled with this decision. That said my dad believed a lot in personal responsibility and he finally agreed that I was the best person to make this decision as invariably I would be the one to bear the consequences.
I must admit I still wonder if I made the right decision. What if I had just stayed back got the year and got on to my law course? How different would my life be right now if I had become a lawyer? I guess that’s what life is about. The sum total of our present is a result of decisions made in the past and the future is a sum total of the decisions we are making now. I look back now and try not to wallow in regrets. Like I said earlier I am really thankful for the breadth and length of stories,ideas and writing that I got exposed to as a result of the academic work that I had to undertake as part of my degree. And who knows,the law might still be in my future.I now know that the path of life is not necessarily linear.
Studying English introduced me to a diversity of thought that extensive reading exposes you to.I remember writing my dissertation on Feminism in Islam and how passionate and excited I felt about researching the topic and the contradictions of the two ideologies. Reading and walking through stories really opens up the mind to different perspectives.
Malorie Blackman says that “Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” and i totally agree. Reading stories allows you to view life through another person’s lenses.The irony that this what my blog is named is not lost on me.
The quote below by Scott Fitzgerald is another one that totally captures why I love literature and in turn reading books
“ That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
I believe my love for words and stories was cemented in that phase of my life .Or so I thought! I soon left university and adulting realities kicked in. This took me through a phase when I didn’t read or finish a book in 5 years.
In part 2 ,I will be sharing how I lost and found my reading mojo and how you can too.
My last blog post written on the 1st of October ended with a prayer for Nigeria on the 60th anniversary of her independence from the United Kingdom.
If only I knew what was going to follow just a few weeks after.The last week has been an emotional roller coaster for most Nigerians both home and abroad .
It started with the #endsars movement which were a series of peaceful protests organised by Nigerian youth to call for an end to police brutality often perpetrated by this specialist arm of the Nigerian police force.
It soon descended into chaos with the shooting of some protesters by ‘unknown forces’. What soon followed was looting,violence,destruction of private & government property.
There was also the very eerie and odd denial by the government of what has now been aptly named the Lekki Massacre. It’s exactly one week today and I pray for comfort for everyone who might have lost loved ones.
It’s been really full on in 2020 hasn’t it?I must admit that it’s taken a lot for me to get myself out of the sadness I felt quite deeply last week.I know most immigrants can relate to this but no matter where you live,a piece of your heart always resides at ‘home’. And for me,’home’ will always be Nigeria.I guess the saying ‘home is where the heart is’ is not that cliche after all.
In all of the ensuing conversations,debates (and even arguments)that have followed ,I have been reflecting on a number of things.
And one thing that has really stuck with me is how easy it for most people to look at complex problems on a very surface level. A lot of times we oversimplify the solutions to a lot of problems because we neglect looking at the root causes and spend a lot of time treating the symptoms.
Problems are often highlighted by symptoms which often manifest in various ways. And a lot of times,we often jump straight to solutions when we are not even sure of what the real problem is.
I will illustrate this concept with my physiological response to all of the unrest in the last week.By Friday morning, I realised that my body and mind were not functioning optimally and I was feeling really drained. I popped a couple of paracetamols,drank some coffee (I am not a coffee gal)and was able to power through my day as I had quite a lot going on at work.
But the truth is me not functioning optimally was just a symptom of a much deeper issue .The paracetamol and coffee though helpful would never have been a long term solution to the problem.They were both just fixes.
And fixes only help temporarily as they treat the symptoms and not the real cause of an issue. To solve the problem in the long term I would need to spend some time analysing and defining what the root cause of the issue really was.
One of my favourite problem solving techniques is called the ‘5 Whys’. It is a technique that was popularised by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries in the 1930’s and became widely used in the 1970’s.
I say favourite in professional settings but believe me when I say I groan when my children use this technique on me.Any parent will know that ‘5 why’s’ is really just a start when trying to get children to do anything.Sometimes I get 7 whys in a row for just 1 simple instruction
Me -“You need to lay your bed and pick your clothes off the floor”
Child – “But why mum?”
The ‘5 Why’s’ is a simple yet powerful tool that allows us to dig deeper to the root cause of a problem.
I will apply this technique to the problem described above which was me not feeling great and going about my day not feeling a hundred percent.
Problem – I was not functioning optimally
1. Why was I not functioning optimally – My head was pounding due to a massive headache
2. Why was my head pounding? – I hadn’t been getting enough sleep for a couple of nights
3. Why had I not been getting enough sleep? – My mind and body was hyper alert due to all of the stimulus & traumatising information I was exposing myself to
4. Why was my mind hyper alert? – I had been spending more time than usual on social media,watching the news,tweeting and getting agitated about the ongoing situation in Nigeria
5. Why I was I spending more time than usual on social media? – I wanted to follow all that was happening and following all that was happening was actually making me more distraught.
And I could go on and on. Sometimes you might need to go further than ‘5 why’s to get to the root cause of an issue .
The ‘5 Whys’ in this case brought me to the root cause of my problem – All of the information I was digesting was affecting me physiologically .
Far cry from the headache isn’t it ?The real solution to the problem was not me popping more paracetamol or even just saying ‘I need to sleep more’ but trying to address the real reason why I wasn’t sleeping.
I won’t bore you any further with all I needed to do address this (which included a social media break)but please don’t worry about me,I am feeling much better as I type this.
My point though is,we often stop at the 1st or 2nd ‘why’ when trying to solve complex problems. Stopping at the 2nd ‘why’ would have given me paracetamol as the solution.
It is often easier to treat the symptoms and move on. Taking the time to actually look at what might actually be the root cause of the problem often seems tedious and so we apply fix after fix and then wonder why the problem keeps reoccurring.
A lot of the things that have manifested in Nigeria over the last couple of weeks are symptoms of much deeper issues and for us to begin to even scratch at the surface of solving some of them ,we need to do the long hard work of looking at analysing what the root causes are.
We already know what some of these root causes are but we also need to acknowledge that the solutions are also not going to be as simple as just popping a few pieces of paracetamol.
We need to be ready to dig deep! And after digging deep,we need to commit to challenging the status quo,iterating and adapting solutions as we uncover them and as they evolve. All of this takes time,energy and will most likely involve some sort of sacrifice.
I ended my last blog post with a prayer for Nigeria to become a nation of people with vision,purpose and integrity. I end this post with a slight adaptation of that prayer; which is a prayer for a crop of leaders who are willing to commit to digging deeper and not settle for surface level fixes to deep rooted complex problems.
If you have been affected like I was please do take time out to do what you need to do to find some joy. We can’t pour out or solve problems when we are not at our healthiest physically and mentally.
As usual thank you so much for reading and would really love to hear your thoughts as well. So please do comment share and will be looking forward to discussions both here and on all of my social media platforms.
Heres wishing you a lovely Tuesday and week ahead!