If you’re looking to broaden your horizons through reading, don’t let yourself get bogged down by these bad reading habits. Learn how to overcome your poor reading habits and become an avid reader who enjoys all the benefits of reading, from learning new things to improving your communication, reducing stress, helping you sleep better, increasing your empathy, helping you solve problems, expanding your worldview, helping you focus better, and even entertaining yourself.
This post will show you exactly what to avoid and what to do instead.
“Reading habits” have quickly become a popular topic with readers of The Literary Lifestyle. And, while I generally like to focus on the positive (like GOOD reading habits), the truth is that the good things in life often come from overcoming the bad. So, I decided to get clear about exactly what bad habits of reading you should stop if you want to improve your reading life.
Why does it matter?
According to James Clear, the bestselling author of the massively popular self-help book Atomic Habits:
“Good] [h]abits are the compound interest of self-improvement.”
In other words, improving yourself requires positive repetitious behavior over time. And successfully performing this positive repetitious behavior requires you to avoid the bad behavior that can get in the way. In order to do so, you will need to first be aware of exactly what constitutes bad habits of reading.
(These bad reading habits are based on my experiences as an avid adult reader of 100+ books per year, as well as the book reading habits I have noticed in other avid adult readers.)
First, I will share the bad reading habits you should avoid and, then, I will discuss how to overcome them.
Bad Reading Habits to Avoid
Having a Bad Attitude About Reading and Books
I’m an “attitude” person, and I firmly believe a bad attitude can make just about anything worse, and that includes reading. As a lifelong sports fan, I love to equate “mindset” to that of professional athletes. Before a championship game, you can hear them talking about how they plan to WIN, not lose — no matter how good the other team is. And we would be really angry with our players if they lacked this confidence on game day.
In your reading life, this means you should stop negative self-talk, like:
- I’m bad at reading.
- I never liked books.
- I’ll never finish that book.
Not only does it not get you anywhere, but it also can hold you back from reaping the many rewards of books and reading. In fact, Atomic Habits, James Clear specifically advises readers to engage in positive self-talk because of the life-changing power it can have over the negative.
Whatever has held you back in your reading life in the past, I PROMISE, can be fixed to work for you in the future. We’ll talk about some of these things below.
Setting the Wrong Reading Goals
Often, readers struggle in developing their reading habits because they are setting the wrong reading goals. Sometimes, it’s setting goals that are too hard to reach. This can have the exact opposite effect and actually stall your progress, if and when you start feeling like a failure.
Other times, readers set goals that are too easy, like reading the same books over and over. I promise we can find you great new reading material!
Not setting any goals can also keep you from progressing toward good reading habits. Reading goals provide so much in terms of accountability and motivation.
Reading in the Wrong Environment
The wrong reading environment is a recipe for a bad reading experience, and a bad reading experience may likely lead to bad reading habits.
The wrong reading environment may have distractions or bad lighting, be uncomfortable (and give you poor reading posture that causes pain), and so forth. It only makes sense that this can set you up to fail.
I’m not saying you need an Instagram-worthy home library, but mindfully tweaking a few little things about your reading environment may make all the difference in your habits.
Reading the Wrong Books
It’s all too common that readers read the wrong books. Even the most avid among us sometimes push ourselves too far in finishing a book we just don’t like. This is your permission to “DNF” (did not finish) any book at any time (that’s not required reading)!
Other readers don’t know exactly what to read next or may hastily pick something for the wrong reasons.
Some people also think that because they didn’t like the books they read, they will dislike all books. (This was once my husband’s perspective, but I successfully changed his mindset with books that were a better fit.)
Reading the wrong books can cause us to read slower, lack enjoyment in the experience, or even stop reading altogether.
Reading the Wrong Format
A corollary to reading the wrong books is reading the wrong format. Books now come in a variety of formats, from print to digital, audio, and even graphic.
Even as an avid reader, I’ve often found myself reading better with one format over the other, or using different formats and different times for different books.
For example, a visual learner would likely read worse via audiobooks. Someone who has poor eyesight may prefer an audiobook or even an ebook by which they can manually increase the font size.
It just doesn’t make sense NOT to consider your own unique needs and be mindful of changes to make along the way. It goes back to the saying that “failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Reading at the Wrong Speed
Believe it or not, the speed of your reading can also cause bad reading habits. Speed reading can cause a lack of comprehension, whereas reading one word at a time can keep you from progressing.
Even avid readers like myself make these mistakes all the time, and they can really impede the reading process. Again, mindfulness can go a long way.
Reading in a Vacuum
No, I don’t mean reading within the confines of your Dyson! What I mean is that many readers fail to seek resources outside the book itself to their own detriment.
This happens a lot with difficult books like the classics, as well as books with a lot of details. Readers may shy away from reviewing things like character guides, timelines detailed summaries and analyses, or even image searches to bring the text to life or make it more impactful.
This can bleed into other bad reading habits, like negative self-talk.
Not Reading at All
Lastly, and possibly worst of all, is not reading at all. If you don’t read at all, you have zero chance of getting it right and enjoying all the benefits that reading offers. It’s only when you test and tweak things, that you can succeed in improving your reading life.
So, get started and keep going!
How to Overcome Bad Reading Habits
Now that you know all the bad habits of reading, let’s talk about how to overcome them.
Good reading habits include:
And, here is exactly how to develop better reading habits:
Still struggling? Try this:
- Ultimate Guide to the Habit of Reading
- Best Books to Start a Good Reading Habit
- Quotes About Good Reading Habits to Motivate You
- Surprising Changes in Reading Habits
- How to Apply the Reading Habits of Successful People
Now you know the bad reading habits to avoid and how to overcome them in order to enjoy all the benefits of reading. Go forth and become a better reader today!