As the infamous nagging statement from our mothers goes, “kaka-kompyuter mo ‘yan.” Often, teenagers and young adults are wrongfully lectured for spending time in front of their computer screen because while adults think that we’re solely online to mindlessly scroll through social media or tune our thoughts out with games, often it’s because a majority of our work and schooling now are mostly on the cloud. Focusing so much on our screens can’t be helped lots of times, especially when we’re trying to chase fast-paced and demanding deadlines, coworkers, and/or teachers.
However, there are times when we simply just have to take a moment and reconsider these kinds of nagging from our parents and other adults. Sometimes, they may also be completely right in their assumptions and that we also need a timeout from the Internet. After all, too much screen time can become harmful for us not only physically but also mentally and emotionally.
Because of this, it is equally important now more than ever to also invest in our hobbies outside of work and school, particularly those that are offline. As our fellow kids on the Internet would say, we need to “touch grass” from time to time—find our own offline outlets for leisure and play. This is especially true now that we’re slowly reaching the end of a global pandemic and society is adjusting into a new normal that promotes more home activities.
Some kids “touch grass” by literally going outside safely and socializing with their peers or their environment. Some pick up active sports and exercise while others gravitate towards creative outlets such as drawing, writing, knitting, and crocheting.
Specific to this article and to the pandemic set-up, a significant handful of young adults have started to pick up on leisure reading as their new offline hobby. This is further promoted by online spaces that actively advocate for leisure reading especially during the height of the lockdown such as #booktwt or BookTok. More and more young adults in recent years have been exploring for the first time or rediscovering after a long time their love for books, springboarding it as one of the more popular means of spending time offline.
However, there are still admittedly certain young adults who may be hesitant about picking up reading, specifically about maintaining it as a hobby. They may be intimidated by their peers who are more established in their habits, busy with school and/or work, or simply don’t know where to start among others which are understandable and common reasons for not wanting to start at all.
But, really, if they don’t start now, then when?
Worry not as we have some tips on how to build your own personalized reading habit even in your 20s! Simply try and go through these at your own time, pace, and style and you’ll be an established reader in no time!
The key to starting and maintaining any habit, including reading, is to make sure to integrate it well into your schedule instead of forcing it at the expense of your other activities and usual routine. But to young adults specifically, this is very important because we’re at a point in our lives where we’re either finishing school or kickstarting our respective careers. Forcing a new hobby into your life, regardless of how important it is to you personally, will eventually interfere with your day to day routine and give you more stress which is something that we would like to avoid.
Instead, find the best and most suitable for you to read, even if it’s just for five to 10 minutes, and start from there. It doesn’t have to be a rigorous two-hour session everyday from the get-go, instead just see what time works at the moment and see where this can take you eventually. As long as you have the intention to cultivate this habit into something bigger into your daily routine, then you’ll slowly get to a point where you have a solid and dedicated time but also motivation to read.
While it is always good to get recommendations from family and friends, building a good and sustainable reading habit also starts with how you actually get yourself motivated to read. One of the ways you can do this is by starting with topics and genres that genuinely interest you instead of those that make you feel as if you’re obligated to read them.
Only when you do start getting a sense of your niche can you work with what other people have previously recommended you or even confidently take on topics and genres that you didn’t think of exploring before. Otherwise, you’ll feel demotivated in no time because you’ll view reading similar to how you view your own work or academics instead of as a hobby where you can enjoy yourself.
A lot of times, people stop trying to pick up leisure reading all together at the first instance that they break a certain streak or don’t get to read for a long period of time. This is especially true to people in their 20s who may be busy with the hustle and bustle of their work lives or personally struggle to put their focus on establishing new habits.
Fret not because building a habit really just takes time and you may take breaks. Again, reading is not like physical exercise where you have to put up with it strictly in order to maintain your body. For an activity focused on the mind such as reading, it’s equally important to take long breaks as much as it’s important to work. This is because it’s in resting where we find our motivation to pick up books again and actually gain momentum in the long run.
So take the time off when you really do need it and take as much time as you need. Just make sure that when you do pick up reading again, you do it at your own pace without too much pressure on yourself to be a pro reader in such little time.
The idea of strength in numbers is just as powerful and effective in a venture such as building up a reading habit. You may find yourself as one of those people who find inspiration and motivation to read more by surrounding yourself with fellow readers. By finding a community, you may be able to further expand your reading catalog and discover books that you wouldn’t have easily found on your own as well as interact with like-minded individuals who’ve also read the same books as you.
You may also find a sense of structure in these reading communities. Alternatively, you may find that you’re the kind of person who can be kept motivated by reading challenges, reading lists, book clubs, and the like. If not, then don’t feel pressured to conform to them and simply be present at the reading community in the best way that you feel comfortable in. Like reading in general, joining a community shouldn’t feel like a burden or responsibility for you but rather should be something that you enter because you want to find more books and make friends along your personal journey.
With the rise of e-books, reading anywhere and anytime has never been easier. Digital copies of books and other reading materials aid in addressing reading-related problems such affordability, especially in young adults who may not have the money to invest in collecting physical copies of books they like, and accessibility for the physically and intellectually impaired such as the blind who may not have access to physical copies in Braille, those who are not adept to reading, or those who do not have the capacity to bring physical books everywhere.
In building a stable reading habit, we may look into e-books for easy access to books that we may not be able to easily attain through our usual bookshops. Having digital copies of books in our devices also helps to remind us to make time for reading even when we get busy with our other work. In a way, this also overturns the usual assumption that some adults may have on us that we’re not using the Internet for conventionally productive activities. Looking into other ways of reading means that you can make reading fun and easier for you by applying your own little ways of focusing and keeping motivated according to your own context, including investing more in e-books and e-libraries if that’s really what works more or what feels more convenient for you.
There is no one way to build a strong and stable reading habit but there are some useful tips as outlined in this article. As long as you’re able to pick up a book, physical or digital, and make good use of your time enjoying and immersing yourself in the stories they tell, then you’re good to go. Much like any other hobby and habit, reading should be something fun and enjoyable, it should make us appreciate the beauty of life through creative storytelling and aid us in discerning knowledge and information in our day-to-day, and not a chore that we feel that we should do in order to appear a certain way to people.
by Divina Aloisa Tolentino