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THE READING HABITS OF HIGH-ACHIEVERS

When it comes to success, there isn’t a guaranteed recipe. But no matter what your goals are, or even what your definition of success is, the fact is high achievers have one thing in common: they read. A lot.

Reading is considered one of the best habits you can cultivate for the overall fitness of your brain. Unlike most skills that are hard-wired into our brain as part of our evolutionary drive, reading and writing are things that we’ve developed over time. They stemmed from our desire to communicate through pictures and stemmed from the tradition of storytelling. That means it involves multiple parts of the the brain, as the language and visual centers of the brain worked in tandem to bring the oral and then written words to life.

Reading and the Brain

Reading has been shown to increase the amount of white matter in the brain and create new neural connections. Studies have linked reading with higher empathy, increased focus, improved spatial navigability, lengthened attention span, and improved vocabulary. It’s no wonder that highly successful people like Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates make time to read every day.

What you read is more important than simply reading. Scrolling through social media feeds involves reading, but reading short, punchy captions doesn’t produce the same effects that focused long-form reading does. Like any healthy habit, reading needs to be cultivated carefully and practiced mindfully to achieve the maximum benefits.

We’ve compiled four insights from the reading habits of successful people around the world; which you can incorporate into your daily routine.

Schedule Dedicated Reading Time

Warren Buffet famously devotes 80% of his day to reading. Bill Gates commits reading at least 50 books every year. To them, reading is not a hobby. It’s part of their recipe for success. They consider it necessary for business and personal development, as essential as brushing their teeth or taking a bath.

Scheduling reading time helps signal to your brain that this is a priority. It also helps you develop reading as a habit. Try to schedule it for the same time every day, such as during your morning commute or before bed. Turn off distractions and focus on your reading exclusively for the entire scheduled time.

Read At Least One Hour A Day

Health experts recommend that a daily physical exercise routine should at least be an hour. And since reading is exercise for the brain, you should take it just as seriously. While Buffet’s example may not be doable for many, an hour of devoted reading every day sharpens focus and increases comprehension.

The length of time is important because extended reading is necessary to increase working memory. It also develops other skills such as event processing and improved concentration. And just like any exercise, the prolonged time ensures maximum mental stimulation, which helps slow natural brain aging and lowers the risk of brain-related illnesses.

Read Nonfiction

While reading fiction and poetry helps exercise the brain by developing visualization and pattern recognition, nonfiction offers readers the ability to learn and absorb specific knowledge and applied skill sets. Books written by experts allow you to take decades of experience and download that knowledge in a matter of days. It’s a valuable resource that high achievers refuse to waste.

Nonfiction also activates your brain differently than fiction. Nonfiction activates your analytical, problem-solving skills. You digest the data into manageable chunks and break down complex ideas into step-by-step applications. Your brain strives to apply this knowledge in useful ways, creating new neural pathways and strengthening already developed pathways. In addition to gaining new perspectives, this type of reading keeps you at the forefront of technology and can elevate you in your career field, which is why high achieving individuals make time for reading.

Even more exciting, when you read, your brain actually interprets what you’re reading as experience. Studies show different areas of the brain activate as you read, demonstrating that to the brain, reading is doing. So reading topics on self-improvement, developing a hobby, or learning a new skill are extremely beneficial.

Take Notes

When you’re learning, it’s important to interact with the material.  Write down your thoughts, opinions, comments, associations, questions, reactions, and anything else that comes to mind while reading. Taking notes has been shown to improve memory and increase your learning capabilities. Bill Gates has a reputation for taking notes in the margin while he reads, but a notebook or reading log works the same.

Another important aspect of note-taking is it allows you to continue reading through difficult or cumbersome passages without stopping. Momentum is key, and stopping to look up words, reference terminology, or to research concepts disrupts your learning process. If you make a note and continue reading, you will actually retain more information while reviewing as it forces your brain to practice recall, and strengthens the neural pathway.

Conclusion

Making reading a habit has numerous benefits for the brain, with the added side effect of providing you with enjoyment. Reading helps you learn, exercises the brain, and allows you to gain experience like never before. No matter what field you work in or what subject you study, reading can give you the tools and resources you need to be successful.

If you want more tips and tricks on how to read faster and retain more, watch this video playlist:

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