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An Active vs. Passive Reading Practice

mindset May 24, 2020

First Question: How much does your mind wander when you read?

...and please note that you are superhuman, and I am jealous if this in not a problem for you.

Here are some fairly typical results that many of us experience based on a wandering mind:
  • We get less out of our reading… Sometimes it seems like we get nothing at all out of our reading sessions.

  • We start to feel that we are wasting our time and then reduce the amount and frequency that we are reading… Assuming that we don’t just give up on the practice all together.

  • We decide to give audio books a shot just to find out that our minds are no more focused while listening then when reading… Man we’re messed up…

  • Then based on the above points we begin to unjustly judge ourselves, and assume that we’re just not cut out or all that interested in this “reading-thing”.

Second Question: Is there hope for us?

Answer: Heck yeah there is! I have found that the key, ok MY KEY to dealing with this wonderful but wandering mind has been to be intentional about making my reading an ACTIVITY rather than just a passive experience.
Key Concept: I cultivate a playful mindset and make sure that I’m seeing this as something enjoyable and playful. In other words I intentionally approach this “problem” as a game. A challenge. An ACTIVITY.
Here are three examples of how to become more ACTIVE in your reading practice:

So try a few of the following on for size. Remembering to be intentional about doing what it takes to keep it both interesting and fun. This should not feel like work. It should be something you’re excited and grateful to be doing.

  • First Activity - Create an atmosphere of low commitment and then add in some repetition: I start by not allowing myself to read more than one chapter at a time. I don’t allow myself to think that I need to knock out multiple chapters or dozens of pages or do whatever it takes to get to the end. I intentionally set the bar low and only allow myself to see that I’m just committed to get through a single chapter on any given day. And since most chapters can be read in less than 10-15 minutes I’ve intentionally created and an atmosphere of low commitment.

  1. BUT here’s the twist… Read that one chapter at least twice, if not three times each day. For example, once in the morning, once after work and then once again before you go to bed (or twice could work as well)... I get it that we all struggle to find a free hour or two to really dig in and read, but we all can find 10-15 minutes (you could make a game just out of finding those as well - that game can be made fun as well - seriously).

  2. Then here’s the next twist… Let the first read through of the day be light. Don’t even worry about getting much out of it. You’re just soaking in the basic concepts of what that chapter will have to share with you once your ready for it. At most allow yourself to do some under lining if you’d like, but keep the “commitment” light. Then on either the second or third read through of the day commit to journaling for NO MORE than 5 minutes after that reading. There is magic in writing, but I’m serious when I say do NOT let yourself just keep writing past those 5 minutes. Put a limit on yourself, and see what a-ha’s you can document in that allotted time, but be intentional about keeping this a “low-commitment-game”.

  • Second Activity - Get excited and passionate about sharing. Commit to posting one book review per week - Here are a few ways to do that:

  1. Write a blog (keep these at one page or less - low level of commitment, but fun)

  2. Record a vlog or video and post it to YouTube (keep these at 5 minutes or less - low level of commitment, but fun)

  • Third Activity - Do more than just listen. Play with these two audiobook exercises:

  1. Listen to one chapter per day. Listen to that chapter at least twice that day (remembering that most chapters will only take 10-15 minutes), but take notes the second time around, and journal your a-ha’s (feel free to to post a blog or vlog on any of those little gems as well)

  2. Listen to for 5-10 minutes until you hear something that you just LOVE. Then turn it off, and commit to talking about that, out loud, to yourself, for the next 5 minutes (don’t go over 5 minutes). This will help you to internalize what you are listening to, and help you to become a more active reader and listener. This is an AWESOME game to play while driving. Yup.

I could certainly go on with a number of other ways to help you become a more Active reader, but play with a few of these, keep it interesting, and then come up with a few of your own. Remembering the key concept is to create an atmosphere of a FUN, yet LOW COMMITMENT level of reading for your practice.

I hope this sparks a renewed interest in your personal reading practice. Now go and get your read on!
Blog bonus: Here are three great book recommendations to try and put some of the above activities to the the test - All three of these work great on a chapter per day basis.
  • As A Man Thinketh by James Allen

  • The greatest Secret in the World by Og Mandino

  • Sit Like a Buddha - A Pocket Guide To Meditation by Lodro Rinzler


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