Can You Really Read 60 Books a Year? The Average CEO Says, ‘Yes’

An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Reading 60 Books in 2020

Nobody buys books anymore.

Reading is dead.

Why read when you can watch a YouTube video or listen to a podcast?

Statements like these are frivolously tossed around like candy at a parade. And if you give them too much weight, they’ll ultimately influence how you view books, reading, and your own personal learning experience.

But here’s the irony: Successful people do read. In fact, they read significantly more than the average person – and it’s not a coincidence. Even in today’s digitally saturated world, reading and learning go hand in hand.

As you seek to grow and improve as an entrepreneur, don’t underestimate the positive and transformative power of reading. Regardless of how much time you think you have, there should always be space for books.

The Reading Habits of CEOs and Successful Leaders

Warren Buffet believes reading is the key to success. He recommends people read 500 pages per day, which allows knowledge to build up like compound interest.

Bill Gates reads for at least one hour per day.

Successful entrepreneur and TV start Mark Cuban attributes much of his success to the fact that he’s willing to read far more than the average person.

The average CEO reads 50-60 books per year, or roughly four to five books per month. The average non-CEO, however, reads more like four books per year. This means that, in some cases, successful people are consuming 15-times as much knowledge on an annual basis as average or unsuccessful people.

This doesn’t seem like a coincidence. On the contrary, it seems as if leaders understand the power of reading and recognize the role it plays in their success. As such, they purposefully carve time out of their busy schedules to read as much as they possibly can.

What’s Holding You Back From Reading More?

How could a busy CEO with a company to run have time to read 50-60 books per year? This is a common question – and one that people ask with raised eyebrows and healthy amounts of skepticism. But what seems impossible on the surface really isn’t overly difficult. All you have to do is break it down into smaller, more digestible bits.

Let’s say that the average book is somewhere around 70,000 words. Let’s also assume that you can read at a pace of around 225 words per minute. This would mean it takes an average of 311 minutes to read a book. Thus to a read a book per week – 52 books per year – you only need to read for 45 minutes per day.

Seems a little easier, right?

When you come to the realization that it only takes 45 minutes per day to read on the same level as a successful CEO, the challenge becomes a little less insurmountable. And instead of asking how can I read 50 or 60 books per year, you’re left asking, why aren’t I?

Be honest with yourself. Why don’t you read on a regular basis?  We all have different circumstances, but it typically comes down to either a lack of time or an inability to efficiently read and comprehend high-level material. In many cases, it’s a combination of the two.

The good thing is you can create time to read and you can learn how to become more proficient at it. You simply need a purposeful strategy and relentless discipline.  

Carving Out Time to Read

Understanding that it takes just 45-60 minutes per day to read 50-60 books per year is the first revelation. Once you realize this, reading no longer looks as impossible as it once did. You just need to set aside an hour of each day and you’ll instantly become better read than 99 percent of the population – including your peers in business. Here’s how you do it:

  • Set Smaller Goals

Saying you want to read 50 books per year is one thing. Doing it is something else entirely. You may know it’s attainable, but your brain has no tangible way of latching onto this objective. It’s just a big number.

If you want to read 50 books per year, you need to break it down into smaller, more digestible goals. Otherwise, you’ll read a couple of books per month and realize in November that you still have 30 books to read.

It’s best to set weekly goals. And as we’ve shown, you should be able to read one book per week with relative ease. So why not set a goal of reading one book per week? This goal adheres to the SMART goal framework, which says goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

  • Get Off Social Media

Research shows that internet users now spend an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social media and messaging platforms. Some people spend more and some people spend less, but we’re all wasting valuable time by swiping, scrolling, and gluing our eyes to screens on a daily basis.

Don’t think you have time to read a book per week? You don’t even have to quit social media cold turkey. Simply cutting your social media time in half would create more than enough time to read.

  • Utilize Your Daily Bookends

Between kids, work, and other responsibilities, the majority of your day may be consumed by busywork. However, you can still find time on the bookends of each day.

Your daily bookends are mornings (before you leave the house) and evenings (prior to going to bed). Regardless of how jam-packed your schedule is, you can find 30 minutes in the morning over a cup of coffee, or 30 minutes in the evening over a glass of wine.

  • Recover Lost Blocks of Time

You don’t need a solid 30-60-minute block of time to read. A few minutes here and a few minutes there can add up to create a solid hour of daily reading time.

Recover lost time in the form of commuting to work on the train, eating lunch at your desk, sitting in a waiting room, running on the treadmill, etc. Your day might be filled with a dozen tasks, but there’s always downtime.  

  • Convince Your Partner to Read More

If you have a spouse, partner, or significant other, it can be difficult to squeeze in reading time at the end of a long day. Your partner wants to spend time with you, yet you’re in the corner reading. And if you aren’t careful, they may interpret your reading habit as selfish and reclusive.

The best strategy is to convince your partner to read more, too. When you’re both reading, it actually feels like a mutual activity that you’re each enjoying simultaneously.

  • Use the 50-Page Rule

We’re all familiar with the experience of reading a page-turner where we can’t wait to pick up the book again. We’ve also all had the experience of reading a boring book that fills us with dread. Books in the latter category slow down our reading and stand in the way of our goals.

Most people think that they have to finish a book they start, but feel free to remove this pressure. Instead, practice the 50-page rule. This rule states that you should give every book a chance by promising to read the first 50 pages. If, however, you no longer want to read the book after 50 pages, you’re free to shelve it and start another book.

  • Read Books You Enjoy

It’s always good to take book recommendations from people you trust, but make a habit out of reading books you enjoy. This will keep you motivated to prioritize reading on a daily basis.

Strategies for Improving Reading Speed and Comprehension

That all sounds great, you’re thinking, but what about slow readers and people who struggle with reading comprehension? If you fall under this heading, it might take you twice as long to read a book (and even longer if you really want to grasp the content). In this case, it would require two or three hours of daily reading to reach a meaningful threshold. Not so practical, huh?

Three hours of daily reading might not seem realistic, but there’s another way. What if you could simultaneously enhance your reading speed and improve your reading comprehension? Believe it or not, even adults who’ve been reading for decades can improve these skillsets with a little practice. Here’s how:

  • Read Books for Pleasure

When it comes to reading for business knowledge, people often make the mistake of assuming that they can only read best-selling non-fiction books. The issue with this approach is that many best-selling business books are boring.

It’s a good idea to read business books regularly, but there’s nothing wrong with reading books for pleasure. If you enjoy a good crime story or romance novel, go right ahead. Sometimes the practice of reading is more important than anything (especially if you’re cultivating a new habit). You also never know when a novel will give you a good illustration or metaphor.

  • Start With 101-Level Content

People read slower when they aren’t familiar with the content. In other words, an accountant will have a much harder time reading a psychology book than a psychologist would (and vice versa).

While it’s recommended that you read books that stretch you out, don’t jump into an advanced topic without first laying the groundwork. Start with 101 content, then 202 content, and so on and so forth. This natural progression enables you to grasp terminology and concepts, which enhances both your reading speed and reading comprehension.

  • Stop Subvocalization

Subvocalization is that tiny voice in your head that you occasionally use when reading. It’s the way in which you softly speak or mouth words as you read them. It probably doesn’t seem like a very big deal, but it holds you back.

The average person can speak just 100-160 words per minute. If you consider that you should be reading at least 200-250 words per minute, it’s easy to see how subvocalization creates unnecessary friction.

Want to stop subvocalizing? Try pressing the very tip of your tong to the roof of your mouth. This keeps you from mouthing/saying the words.

  • Overcome Regression

How many times do you get to the end of a paragraph or page and realize that you don’t remember anything you’ve just read? Or how often do you encounter a character’s name and suddenly realize that you don’t know who they are? In either instance, you’re forced to go back and reread a portion of the book to gain clarity. This is known as regression.

Regression kills reading speed. If you want to avoid it, you have to do a better job of focusing. The best piece of advice is to block out as many external distractions as possible. If you’re at home, choose an environment that you can control. If you’re out in public, a simple pair of noise-canceling headphones can help.

  • Jot Down Notes

If you get to the end of a book and can’t remember at least three to five key takeaways, your time spent reading was essentially wasted. (Either that or the book was terrible.)

To prevent situations where you can’t pull out meaty insights, make a habit out of jotting down notes. Ideally, this is done at the end of each chapter. Then when you get to the end of the book, you can flip through and pull out the sticking points and write them down on the inside cover of the book.

Applying What You Learn

It’s been said that “leaders are readers.” Successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives all read on a regular basis. But even more so, they apply the insights that they consume.

Don’t read 50 or 60 books a year just to boast of your reading prowess. Understanding without application is futile. Read with the intention of soaking up knowledge so that you can leverage it to improve your life, career, health, etc. That’s what successful people do – and it’s also what you should do.

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