Warren Buffett, the man commonly referred to as the greatest investor of the 20th century, stood in front of 165 wide-eyed students from Columbia University.
One of the students raised his hand and asked Buffett for his thoughts on the best way to prepare for an investing career.
After thinking for a moment, Buffett pulled out a stack of papers and trade reports he brought with him and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
Buffett estimates that 80 percent of his working hours are spent reading or thinking. It’s enough to make you ask, “Am I reading enough books?”
When I asked myself that question, I realized there were some simple reasons I wasn’t reading as much as I would like, so I developed a reasonable system that helped me read more than 30 books per year.
Let me explain.
How To Read More Books
If you know how to read, reading books is relatively easy. You simply have to make time to read, which is easier said than done, of course.
When I analyzed my own reading habits, I realized they were mostly reactive, not proactive. If an interesting link flashed across my screen on Facebook or Twitter, I would read it as a reaction.
I wasn’t proactively making time to read books each day; I was simply reading interesting ideas that were pushed in front of me. As a result, most of my reading was done online.
Now, there are plenty of excellent articles on the web, but generally speaking, good books are better. Typically, books offer better writing (more tightly edited) and higher quality information (better fact-checking and more extensive research).
From a learning perspective, it’s probably a better use of my time to read books than to read online content.
So, I had to figure out a strategy that would allow me to read more books without letting typical distractions get in the way. How do you do that?
20 Pages Per Day
Here’s the only pattern I’ve been able to stick with consistently: read 20 pages to start the day.
I usually wake up, drink a glass of water, write down three things I’m grateful for and then read 20 pages of a book. For the last 10 weeks, I have followed this new habit. As of today, I’m 100 pages into my seventh book.
At this pace (seven books per 10 weeks), I’ll read about 36 books in the next year. Not bad.
Here’s why I think this pattern works: 20 pages is small enough that it’s not intimidating. Most people can finish reading 20 pages within 30 minutes. If you do it first thing in the morning, then the urgencies of the day don’t get in the way.
Finally, 20 pages seems small, but it adds up fast. It’s a great average speed. If time allows, I’ll read at other times, too.
After the research I did for my article on how to get better sleep, I added reading to my “prepare for bed” routine, too. But, regardless of what happens during the rest of the day, I still get my 20 pages in each morning.
The First Hour
How do you spend the first hour of your day?
Most people spend it getting dressed, getting ready and rushing out the door. What if that time was spent making yourself a better person?
What if you woke up an hour before you needed to each day and worked on yourself? How much better would you be at work, in your relationships and as a person? That’s essentially what this reading strategy asks you to do.
Before you move on to the normal hustle and bustle of the day, invest in yourself. Read a book that will make you better before your life turns into a whirlwind of activity. As with most habits that can greatly impact your life, this will never feel urgent, but it is important.
Twenty pages per day. That’s all you need.
PS: Looking for good books to read? Click here to see my book recommendations, which includes a full reading list of more than 100 great books, organized by category.
James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.
This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.