To read without getting distracted in the times of the internet and sophisticated mobile devices is quite tricky. There is so much distraction, and inside one distraction, there are many other distractions. For instance, your phone has a few social media apps and games, and one social media app, like Twitter, has hundreds of millions of content creators. So, it’s easier to forget what’s important once you’re hooked.
This post will look at the main causes of distractions and the effective solutions. It all boils down to knowing the general cause and understanding the primary causes.
How to read more and not get distracted
Don’t start with tips. Start with the cause of the problem. In a short sentence, try to answer why I can’t stay focused. Your answers will be different from mine. My answer could be work; yours might be because you are a nursing mother. In that regard, it’s stress, but the sources of stress aren’t the same. Try to answer the question, why is it hard to focus? Are the books boring? If that’s the case, your solution is to find interesting books to read.
Two Main Causes of Distraction While Reading
First, the two main culprits making you get distracted are:
- Your electronic devices
- Your brain
Your electronic devices are designed to get you addicted to them.
Most of these devices, especially phones and PCs, have social media apps or features that can only be monetized by how much you use them or how much time you spend on them. If you stay away for a few minutes, they will send notifications. If you visit Twitter or Instagram, they refresh new content every minute to keep you there. The interface lets you see several contents at a time. So, your mind is already planning to scroll to the next once you finished the current one.
That’s your number one distraction, your devices.
Your brain is your number two distraction. It’s not designed to focus on one thing for a long time except, often, entertainment. Can you focus on one single thought for two minutes? The answer is no. You’re not designed that way. The brain or mind wanders from one thing to another. One time you’re thinking of food, and the next, you’re thinking of that time in junior secondary school.
You can read more about the stream of consciousness.
Why do you get distracted while reading?
As humans, we are not designed to focus on one thing for too long, except if that thing does give us a certain dopamine level every few minutes. Many books do not give us that, so we get distracted quickly.
Moreover, the two major reasons you get distracted, your mind’s ability to wander and your electronic device, have combined to ruin your reading habits.
Remember, your mind isn’t designed to focus on one thing for long except occasionally. Now you have tools like social media, which offer endless entertainment. All you need is to unlock the device, and there you go. There is YouTube and TikTok. Twitter has loads of trending posts. You’re hooked, but not really. You’re scrolling from one post to another. Your mind wants to wander around, and those devices give you that.
Social media imitates the mind in a lot of ways. They let you wander from one thought to another just like a normal brain would do at rest. This is a lot of fun for most of us. And it’s how we get easily distracted when reading.
Let me ask you this, How long can you be at home sitting down before you notice your phone is not with you?
Two minutes? Three?
For most people, I think it’s less than five minutes. Your brain is constantly looking for things to think about and consume.
We have a short attention span, and our mobile devices are not helping.
Now you see why it’s hard to read. If you have read to this point, you may already be thinking about how to solve this on your own.
Well, let’s talk about the solutions.
How to Read Without Getting Distracted
This section contains a few tips for those who are easily distracted.
#1. Use 20-minutes rule
The idea is to set the alarm for a period of time, say 20 minutes, and start reading. When time’s up, you stop and take a break. It’s like the Pomodoro technique, but here, we are not talking about productivity at work. You’re reading. You can repeat the process again and again. You would have read for two hours if you repeated the process six times a day. With practice, you can increase the duration to an hour or more.
#2. Read 20 pages at a go
This is another version of the first exercise. If you don’t want to go into the trouble of setting timers, pick a book and read twenty pages. Then, do it again. By the time you do that five times, you will have read 100 pages. That will be 25% of a 400-page book.
Caveat: I am not an advocate of making reading a kind of metric. There is no point in reading if you are not enjoying or learning from it. So, the point is to have a kind of rule to prevent distraction. Once you trick the mind and make the goal look small, it gets easier to become disciplined. For instance, your goal will shift from ‘I want to read this whole book’ to ‘I just want to read the first 20 pages.’ It’s hard to put your undivided attention to something that might be hard at first. It becomes easier when you start small.
In that regard, feel free to change the rule to 10 pages if that’s what you can handle for now. If a book is boring, pick another book if you can, and stay consistent until reading becomes a habit again.
3. Remove your distractions
Write down your three primary distractions.
Mine are phones, food, and interest.
I do most of my reading on my phone, so it’s hard to concentrate if there are notifications and calls. Social media apps are always sending out notifications to bring me back because, you know, our attention is their source of income. So, when I want to read and finish a book in time, I put my phone in airplane mode or do not disturb.
I read first thing in the morning because the day hasn’t started, and I have fewer notifications from people.
Put the phone on silent. Turn off notifications and start reading.
4. Don’t ignore your primary needs as a human
Humans have emotional and physical needs. You need to attend to your primary needs if you want to read without getting distracted. This should be your priority if you want to know how to overcome distractions while reading. Attend to your primary needs first.
Your primary needs are food, water, sleep, shelter, and everything that makes you feel calm and functional. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re feeling sleepy, go to bed. You won’t achieve much reading if you neglect these needs. Worse, you will cause serious damage to your health.
5. Record progress
Try to record some progress. Seeing that you have started reading more and enjoying it will encourage you to try another book. We are humans, and progress shows us that we can get into greater places. If I can read one book in a week, then I can read four in a month.
You can start posting your short reviews on social media. Like reverse psychology, use social media to encourage yourself to read more books. Once you have an identity as someone who reads, you get to do it repeatedly.
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