how to stick with an intentional self-care habit (like reading)

I just finished my 69th book of 2020. When I talk to people about reading, they often tell me that they’d love to read more, but that it just doesn’t happen. These strategies have helped me to stick with a self-care habit such as reading.

You might not have a desire to read (more). 
But you might crave some time for yourself. Some quiet time. Time intentionally set aside for yourself. To recharge. 

In her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think Laura Vanderkam writes: 

“We don’t think about how we want to spend our time, and so we spend massive amounts of time on things—television, Web surfing, housework, errands—that give a slight amount of pleasure or feeling of accomplishment, but do little for our career, our families, or our personal lives”. 

As with anything that is important, we need to prioritise doing it—and we need to make it easy for ourselves to keep it up.

It might not be reading, for you. It might be embroidering, knitting, gardening, drawing or something else that you love. Either way, it is about intentionally setting aside time for something that fills you up.

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Four strategies to help you set and stick with a self-care habit

Stack your new habit. 

Habit-stacking is adding your new habit to something you already do. Like connecting brushing your teeth to going to bed. Or, for many people, waking up and grabbing your phone. My habit-stack is to have breakfast, then settle down to read—ideally for 30 minutes, before work. 

Set a timer.

Setting a timer is one of the best ways for me to deal with distraction. Because I too get distracted by Instagram, by the thought of new email or just by the shininess of my iPhone. Setting a timer is a commitment I make to myself. And a permission slip: nothing to do for the next 15 or 30 minutes but read. 

Train those muscles.

Reading, and staying focused, is also a muscle, as is any activity that requires you to focus. The good news is that you can train it (and that doing so is good for your brain!). Every time you do something focused for just 15 minutes, it gets easier.

Make it fun. 

I don’t need to track how often I read to motivate myself, but I do love to keep track of what I read. The vain part of me likes to know how much I’ve read in a year. But mostly I track so I remember what I’ve read. I use my paper calendar for this, and my website. Other people like using Goodreads, which also hosts lots of reading challenges, and enables you to follow your friends (accountability!). 

You can make your own habit tracker on paper—making a mark every time you do your new habit—but my favourite paper tracker is the one that Elise Cripe sends out to her newsletter subscribers. I’ve also had success with the Habit App on my phone.  

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What habit do you want to create? How are you intentionally making time for yourself?

Share in the comments, or come share on Instagram: it’s my favourite place to connect with people. 

If you want more ideas on how to start and stick with a reading habit, I can really recommend Michelle Gately’s episode of her podcast Content Etc in which she interviews Lorna Scully about how to train yourself to love reading.

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