Books are a great way to exercise our brains.
But just like it’s boring to exercise every day, books can also feel like a chore when you don’t want to read them.
Maybe you have to prepare for an exam.
Maybe you are doing research.
Maybe your friend recommended you a bestseller that is breaking all the sales records.
The situation can vary depending on the time and the person.
But the truth is:
No matter how much you like reading, it can sometimes become exhausting and sap away all of your mental energy.
Some books literally feel like a chore.
Put simply: They are hard to read and not worth reading.
But, ya know, sometimes you have no choice.
You have to force yourself to read if you have an exam tomorrow. Otherwise, you will fail.
Also, most people don’t like spending their money on books.
So if they buy a book, they tend to finish it. It gives a sense of achievement. And it also prevents the guilt of investing in the wrong thing.
Even if the book is boring, we excuse ourselves into believing that we made the right decision of buying it.
I have bought it, so at the very least I should finish it.
But it doesn’t end there…
Merely forcing ourselves isn’t the solution.
Willpower is limited. You can only push your mind so much at a given time.
So what should a person do in such a situation?
Are there any practical tips that can help a person to read a boring book — even when it’s super boring?
The good news is:
Yes, there are tips and techniques to help you learn how to read a boring book without falling asleep and make it interesting.
And in this article, I’ll share some of my favorite tips that I personally use to make reading fun and interesting.
Yes, I too feel like falling asleep while reading boring books.
But wait for a second…
There are already a lot of tips out there. (They don’t work!)
How is this article different?
Your search is finally over.
That’s because I’m only going to share tips that will help you in real-life scenarios.
Alright, so let’s get started!
Tip #1: Take a break. Read it later.
This is the simplest thing you can do.
If you feel like stressing yourself or are unable to handle the cognitive load, just put the book aside, and stop reading.
If you do this, your brain will thank you.
You know how this works?
When you read anything new, your brain starts forming neural connections.
That’s why it’s stressful at first.
Imagine what would happen if a beginner does a full-body workout like a pro.
His muscles would become tense and his body would pain like crazy, right?
This is exactly what happens when you read a boring book.
Your brain starts pushing itself.
Is it a bad thing?
Well, not really.
It’s good if done in moderation.
Trust me, you won’t want to force yourself.
It’s not healthy at all.
I’ve been there.
I’ve read a lot of boring stuff in my college days without sleeping at night right before the exam day.
I developed serious dark circles around my eyes. And felt tired.
It didn’t help much.
So if you are reading boring text and feeling drowsy, that only means that your brain is crying for help.
Your body and brain, both, want some rest.
Why not listen to your eyes and brain?
Why not take a short break or a quick nap?
This would lower your stress a little.
Look, it won’t make the boring book any less boring.
But it will freshen up your mood.
It’s still better, right?
Now you might say:
I know it will help a little. But what if it’s urgent and I can’t afford to sleep.
Sure, it’s possible.
But you can take a quick 5-minute break, if not a long break.
Depending on your circumstances, you can decide the duration of your break.
Even if it’s for 1 minute, consider taking a break.
Your brain will thank you for it.
Things will become a little easier.
Tip #2: Give up. Read another book.
If you can afford to give up on that boring book, feel free to do it.
But I want to know how to read a boring book. And you are telling me to stop reading and give up. Are you serious?
You don’t have to give up permanently on a book.
Look, you are not obliged to read any book word to word.
You don’t have to read every single page of the book from start to end.
I read lots of books.
But let me tell you a secret:
When I get stuck for a long time while reading a book, I just give up on it.
Does this mean I don’t read books properly?
Hell no. I don’t mean that.
The point is:
If it’s not compulsory to read a book in a given period, you can quit reading it.
I know, procrastination is not always good.
But here, it will help you.
Allow me to explain how this works.
Just think about it:
Why do we get bored while reading books?
Obviously, there are lots of reasons.
But one of them is:
We get bored because the content of the book doesn’t relate to us.
Especially most subjects deal with the objects of the world. And often those concepts have less to do with our daily life.
That’s why those books become boring in the first place.
What you can do is:
Stop reading that same book and pick another.
Make sure you pick a book on a different subject. The two subjects must not be similar. Otherwise, it would again feel like a chore.
Pick something easy to read.
If you are studying Physics. Then pick English. It’s easy, right?
Physics includes mathematical equations and mind-boggling concepts. But English is easier to read and often includes stories that are easy to digest.
This will give you some momentum. And prepare you for the boring book.
Tip #3: Use chunking to make things easier.
Reading a book takes a lot of time.
But who said that you have to finish the book in one shot.
There is a reason the books are often divided into chapters.
But as it seems, it doesn’t help much.
Or does it?
What you can do is:
You can further break down individual chapters into mini-chapters.
Or you can set a goal of reading only 1 or 2 pages at a time.
This technique is known as Chunking.
While chunking, you break a complex thing into various pieces.
This makes things easier.
It’s easier to read 1 page than it is to read 10 pages, right?
This tip has a limitation that I think you should know.
When you use this technique, you might miss the bigger picture.
Let me explain.
Let’s say you are learning a new concept.
Now if you don’t understand all the pieces of the same concept, you might miss a few key connections.
Which can limit your understanding.
This is nothing to be scared of though. If you built the right strategy and do things with deliberate planning, you won’t face such issues.
Tip #4: Ponder over key ideas or quotes.
This is similar to the previous tip.
But there is a small difference.
Here is the technique:
Find a few key sentences or quotes in the book.
You have to look for bold or italic sentences in the book.
Or you can also look at the bullet points.
Try to repeat those sentences.
Try to find the connection between those ideas.
When you do this, make sure that you are not focusing on all the sentences in the book.
How do I use this?
When I read non-fiction books, I try to find quotes.
Often quotes have a mysterious feel to them. They have abstract meaning hidden within them.
I try to decipher its deeper meaning.
When you do this, your right brain becomes active.
The right brain’s job is to help you imagine and let your creative juices flow.
Think about why the author used that quote. Why didn’t he use the other one?
Is there any subtle message that you are missing?
Often people read in a flow.
They start from the top and keep reading.
The key is to dig deeper and realize the essence of the ideas.
How does this work?
When you are doing this exercise, you are not really reading anything from the book.
And since you have attached imagination to those dull ideas, you are giving a signal to your brain that maybe it’s not that boring.
Put simply, you kind of fool your brain into thinking that you are having fun.
And yes, you might actually start enjoying the book, which was not possible earlier.
Can you see how this little trick of making connections and using a bit of your imagination can make things interesting?
I’m sure you will enjoy this exercise as it opens up your mind and allow it to expand.
Boring stuff contracts your mind. While the things you enjoy give you a sense of liberation.
Also, when you think about the key ideas in the book, you are kind of revising.
And it will help you remember those ideas.
If you have to take an exam, you will remember the key ideas while taking the exam and thus get better grades.
And if you are just reading for the sake of knowledge, those ideas will stick longer with you.
Tip #5: Read backward.
If the above tips don’t work for you, then try this:
Try reading backward.
By “backward,” I mean that you read the last chapter first.
Start by reading the conclusion.
I have noticed that most books that are filled with fluff often have a big conclusion in the end.
In those books, the first few chapters are of zero value.
But as you reach the end of the book, the author starts revealing the key message.
This trick works with non-fiction books.
But beware, don’t do this with fiction books. You might get spoilers.
Sometimes, you don’t need to read the full chapters.
You can always go back and read the chapters in detail.
This is a shortcut though.
Don’t do this when you have to understand something deeply.
Again, you might miss the bigger picture.
You might be having thoughts like:
Why did the author write such a boring book? It’d be better if he didn’t do it like this…
As you are already bored with the book, your mind is wandering off the book.
So my suggestion is:
Give your mind a funny task.
Look for all the bad things in the books.
Try to find as many faults as you can.
Think about what the author might be thinking while writing it. And how could you write that same book differently?
How does this exercise work?
When you do this exercise, you use the power of empathy.
I know, it may sound funny to you, but yes, when you see from the perspective of the author, you understand why the book was made that way.
You realize the effort put behind the creation of the book.
The same book that seemed boring to you becomes interesting.
I’m not saying, you will instantly start enjoying the book.
But you might start appreciating the creativity of the author.
Sure, if the book is not worth spending time with, you can always pick another book and come back to it later.
Keep one thing in mind:
Make sure you focus on the positive things more.
Try to give constructive criticism.
If you will focus too much on why the book is boring, you will struggle even more to finish it.
Remember that the goal is to light up the fire of empathy within you so that you appreciate the effort put into the creation.
Let me explain with an example.
Let’s say your mom prepared a dish for you.
But unfortunately, she messed up while cooking.
What would you do? If you have empathy, you would still appreciate the effort she put into preparing the food.
In that special case, the quality of food won’t matter much.
You will then focus more on the better side of her. You will appreciate how much she cares for you.
When you are reading a book, it’s like the author is personally guiding you in a certain direction. He wishes the best for you and wants you to succeed.
If you think like this, you will find it easier to finish the book.
Tip #7: Try listening to the music while reading.
What matters most while reading a book is your state of mind.
If your mood is positive, you may find it easier to go through that boring book of yours.
How do you keep your mood positive?
One of the best ways is to listen to some light music.
Make sure that you are not reading the lyrics while studying. Otherwise, you will get distracted.
Also, the music must not be too loud. It will also distract you.
According to this study, listening to music while reading can have both positive and negative effects.
Research says that it also helps in lowering cortisol levels. In short, it helps you relax and lowers your stress levels.
But you know, it depends from person to person.
Some people find it easier to read boring stuff while listening to their favorite music.
While other people get too much distracted that they aren’t able to concentrate at all.
My suggestion is:
That when you start getting bored while reading, listen to one of your favorite songs. But only for 1 time. Not on the loop.
Then give yourself a task of reading 2-3 pages.
And then reward yourself by listening to your favorite song.
This is our psychology.
When you reward your brain for doing something, it tends to do more of that thing.
After all, we are pleasure-seeking beings.
We do those things more that give us pleasure.
And yeah, we hate those things that give us pain. In this case, we don’t want to read boring books even if they might prove useful to us.
We just want to read and watch stuff that excites us.
Rewarding yourself by doing a tough task is one of the best ways to train your mind to do the right things.
And it’s not only useful while reading boring books, but it can also help you do other things that require focus and concentration.
Don’t feel guilty while rewarding yourself.
You deserve that reward.
But yeah, don’t cheat yourself.
Make sure you finish the task before you reward yourself. Otherwise, this technique may backfire, and try your mind the wrong way.
Also, the reward should not be too big.
Don’t reward yourself with a chocolate or cookie every time you finish a task.
Give subtle rewards that are easy.
For instance, listen to your favorite music. (As we just discussed)
Or watch a funny video on YouTube.
Often people find it harder to do the task and get addicted to receiving rewards. In most cases, people develop unhealthy eating habits.
Somehow, they form a deep attachment to eating cookies.
In short, they end up fooling their brain and form bad habits. And thus suffer the consequences later.
Make sure you don’t do that.
Don’t worry, listening to music is good. 🙂
I listen to music on Spotify while reading.
It helps a lot in reducing stress levels and lighten up the mood.
Tip #8: Use the powers of your highlighter pen.
Most people think that using highlighters is a waste of time.
And yes, sometimes, people waste a lot of highlighting unnecessary sentences, which they never even look at again.
But it can still help.
Don’t underestimate your highlighter. Ever.
Why it’s important?
Because it gives you a sense of progress.
That’s motivation to your brain, isn’t it?
Once we realize that we are making progress in something, we get motivated and take more action compared to when we don’t see any progress.
When there is no progress, everything seems dull.
There is no energy to work.
The mind says:
Why am I even doing this? It’s an utter waste of time and energy. It won’t work!
Another benefit of using a highlighter is pretty obvious:
You can mark important words or sentences and you won’t need the entire book again in case you wish to read it in the future.
You won’t need much energy to start reading. That’s 50% job done. Isn’t it?
Some people use multiple colors to highlight sentences.
For instance, they highlight important sentences with yellow color. And highlight not-so-important sentences with green or orange.
You can do that too if you want.
That helps when you are preparing for any competitive exam where you have to remember facts.
But if you are simply reading a non-fiction book, you can simply highlight key sentences with just one color. (I prefer yellow)
Another benefit is:
When you take action while reading, it gives a signal to your brain that it’s something important. And thus your brain tries to remember it better.
How does this work?
Well, when you highlight any sentence, you also read it again. Repetition helps when it comes to learning anything.
These things not only make reading fun but also help you remember better.
And yeah if you are doing something physically, you are unlikely to sleep.
When we read with just our eyes, we tend to sleep if what we are reading is boring.
Also, reading, in general, puts a toll on our heads.
Now the thing is:
Most people paint their books with highlighters. And still don’t learn a thing.
Remember that highlighter is there just to mark only important sentences that you want to remember or revisit in the future.
Put simply, if you are highlighting every 3rd or 4th sentence, then the activity itself would not make sense.
Make sure you highlight only a few key ideas.
Why waste your time, right?
Taking a break after reading a tedious book makes more sense than painting the entire book with a highlighter.
Tip #9: Watch or read the book summary.
If you didn’t know already, there are lots of book summaries here.
So if you are reading a non-fiction book and struggling to find its essence, consider reading my book summary guides.
There are lots of YouTubers who regularly publish animated book summaries.
Simply type the name of the book and add “summary” at the end.
I’m sure you will find a video talking about that book.
I’d suggest you read the book summary if you want better comprehension.
Videos are great. But they don’t give you the best comprehension.
The creators don’t cut a lot of key ideas to make their videos short.
Anyway, it depends on your preference.
If you don’t like reading much, then simply watch a video.
And if you have no problem and love reading articles on the web, which I think you do, then go for the book summary articles.
The advantage here is:
You get in-depth analysis. (A lot more value)
Tip #10: Prefer physical books over e-books.
This isn’t a trick.
But if try changing the format of the book you are trying to read.
For instance, if you are bored of reading a physical book, try listening to the audiobook.
You know, it’s good to consume information in different formats.
It also helps you to remember ideas better.
For instance, if you forget one key idea after reading the book, you might listen to it again while listening to the audiobook.
It’s like revising.
The more you revise, the better you remember.
You can also try e-books.
But based on my experience, e-books are harder to finish.
You can’t quickly jump between the pages.
It’s easy to get lost while reading an e-book.
Things get messy when you read on mobile or desktop.
On top of that, there are lots of distractions that make your reading experience shallow.
Tip #11: Write a book summary yourself.
I’ve been writing a lot of book summaries for almost 2 years now.
And you know what I learned:
Writing book summaries is one of the best ways to remember the key ideas from books.
When you write a book summary, you are forced to focus only on the essential ideas.
So if you are reading a boring book, focus only on a few key ideas.
Don’t read everything.
This will help you save time and avoid boredom caused while reading the same stuff over and over again presented in different words.
Tips #12: Teach the book to your friend.
This is similar to writing a book summary.
But here you use your communication skills.
It’s a nice way to check if you have understood the core concepts in the book properly or not.
You know what?
If you can teach the book to your friend, then you don’t have to read the book.
But since the book you are reading is boring, I’m assuming you haven’t read the book in its entirety.
Am I right?
Okay, so that means you can’t teach everything from the book to your friend.
The key is to teach a single concept.
Take baby steps.
Read only one chapter or concept. And then try to teach it to your friend.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. ~Albert Einstein
While teaching, make sure that you are open to answering doubts.
Don’t worry if you fail to answer all the weird questions that your friend may ask you.
Just try to answer as many questions as you can.
Take a note of those questions that puzzled you.
And when the session is over, open the book again and try to find the answers.
What we are trying to do here is:
We are creating a QnA session.
When you exchange and discuss ideas with your friends, you learn while having fun.
It’s fun to talk to your friends, right?
All the boredom just goes away.
There are interesting talks. Funny discussions.
There are no boundaries.
You are not alone.
There is always something to talk about.
Tips #13: Study in a group.
This is similar to teaching your friend.
But here the communication is both ways.
It’s a group discussion.
You can literally discuss a boring book with your friends while having a cup of tea.
Group study motivates you to study as it’s enjoyable.
One of the biggest problems with group study is that it might be unproductive.
That means you may end up spending more time talking rather than studying.
You know, when you are with your friends, it’s hard to talk about boring topics.
Only a very few people like to discuss complex topics.
Especially, most kids hate to study things they don’t like.
Now you have to make a judgment whether a group study will help you or not.
Think about your friends.
Do they encourage group study?
If they don’t, then it’d be better to study alone.
So again, the preference varies from person to person.
You should also look at yourself: Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Introverts usually prefer self-study over group study.
Most authors these days also run their podcast shows.
There they discuss their best learnings.
So if you are not enjoying the book, you might enjoy their podcast. And still learn the same concepts faster.
What’s the difference between audiobooks and podcasts?
Well, audiobooks have a professional fixed format. It’s the author or another person reading the same lines from the book.
While the podcasts are made for entertainment. The goal of a podcast is to entertain and educate the listener at the same time.
So most of the time, they are fun to listen to.
Authors like Tim Ferris write books as well as talk on their podcasts.
Often it happens that the author of the book is not a professional writer or blogger. It’s unfair to expect every author to write in a style that you enjoy reading.
So naturally, some books turn out to be boring.
If a book is boring to you, then it doesn’t mean that it boring to others too.
Instead of complaining, one should look at different ways and finish reading the book by any means.
Tip #15: Relate the book’s ideas with movies.
Let me explain this with an example.
One day, I was reading scripture, and it said that something like:
The entire world is nothing but delusion.
At first, it didn’t make much sense to me.
But you know why I still remember this idea?
Because it reminded me of the Inception movie. (Dream inside a dream)
If we are inside a dream, then reality is an illusion.
Don’t worry if that didn’t make much sense to you.
So the trick is to relate boring ideas with something that you think is interesting.
And since movies are visual, they stick around in our memories.
Plus, it’s a funny thing to do.
Look for a key idea in the book. Then try to think about a movie that has something to do with it.
If you don’t find a movie that relates to the ideas in the book, just make your own funny story.
Story or Movie…? It doesn’t matter.
What you are doing here is that you are trying to create links between ideas.
This exercise helps in killing boredom.
Tip #16: Sing it out loud.
I hate chemistry!
Because I had a terrible teacher who didn’t know how to teach.
So no matter how interesting the topic was, I never like reading chemistry during my school days.
But then came my board exams.
I had to remember the entire periodic table.
So how did I study that boring chemistry book and learned the periodic table of elements?
I tried to find metaphors on the web.
And then turned the key phrases into songs.
Songs are easier to remember, right?
You can also try singing the key sentences in your mind as if you are singing a real song.
It sounds weird, I know, but it might help you if you love music.
Tip #17: Have a cup of tea.
Drinking tea or coffee helps you while studying. It keeps you awake.
But first, I would like to tell you that I’m not a dietician. I’m just telling you this from my experience.
So my mom gives me a cup of tea every morning I wake up.
And it helps me avoid sleepiness and gives a kick.
Too much tea is not good for anyone.
But if you drink it while studying, you won’t fall asleep that quickly.
Or if you don’t like tea at all, try to drink a cold drink.
It will refresh you a little.
Tip #18: Know the why behind reading the book.
Do you know most people struggle to read books on complex topics?
That’s because they don’t know why they are reading that book.
If you are asked to read a book simply because it’s in your school or college syllabus, then no doubt you will get bored sooner or later.
The trick here is:
Find one strong reason to read that boring book.
Otherwise, you will keep struggling.
For instance, if you don’t like reading your physics book but you have to read it anyway as it’s in your syllabus, then remind yourself that if you study hard you will get better marks… And then your teachers will acknowledge you.
I know, it’s stupid to think like that. But it’d still push you.
Our minds always look for deeper meaning.
So if there isn’t any, make one.
Tip #19: Focus on the positive side.
This is similar to finding a deeper meaning behind reading a book.
You know why boredom kicks in?
It comes because when you start reading something that doesn’t relate to you, there is a silent voice in your head that says:
Oh god, why am even I doing this?
If you already have a meaning, then you have found a way to shut down that voice.
But if you don’t have one, then don’t worry.
This trick will come to your rescue:
- Find a piece of paper and grab a pen.
- Draw a vertical line and make two columns.
- Write the pros and cons of reading that book.
Now check if the pros are more than the cons or not.
If the pros are more, then read the book.
And the cons are more than pros, then why are you even bothering about that book.
We are using the power of rationalization here.
In this technique, you figure out by writing pros and cons on the paper and reminding yourself about the pros of reading that book — no matter how boring it is.
If the book is truly important and worth your time, the pros will eventually outweigh the cons.
Tip #20: Get a teacher or find someone who has already read the book!
If you already getting bored after reading a book, then chances are even a teacher won’t be able to bring your interest to that book.
But the best part is:
Some teachers are great.
They know exactly how to make a boring topic interesting.
Not all teachers are great at teaching.
You know, most teachers just teach because they have a job to do.
You would want to find teachers who actually know how to teach.
Only then this tip will help you.
The thing is:
There are many ways to approach any concept or book.
If the approach is wrong, you will lose interest fast.
And a great teacher knows that.
If you don’t have a teacher, you can also ask your friend to teach you the concepts of that boring book.
Your friend will teach you in a way that you will understand.
Tip #21: Scan and skim the pages.
Both skimming and scanning are great when you are reading a tedious book.
They can save you a lot of laborious reading.
In other words, you can easily quickly through the book by using rapid eye movements.
Note that skimming and scanning are not the same.
When you are skimming you go through the table of contents, flip the pages, and try to get a general idea of what is written in the book.
Remember that while skimming, you don’t have to read every single line.
Just read the first few lines quickly…
You are free to skip any details you don’t wish to read.
If you are preparing for an exam, you can use scanning to find a particular fact or idea.
The good news is:
You are already good at this!
When you read anything online, you are always either skimming or scanning to get the information.
Apply that same technique to the book you are reading.
And you will save lots of energy.
Tip #22: Jump directly to the questions at the end of the chapter.
This trick works when you reading your academic book.
Most books have questions at the end.
Try to solve them without reading.
Yes, that’s the trick.
Pick a question.
Try to figure out what concepts you will need to solve them.
Think as if you are solving Sherlock Holmes’ case.
Trust me, it won’t be boring.
In fact, this trick is so powerful that you will become interested in solving the question.
Theoretical learning is boring.
But if you are practicing questions, you will have a much better chance to complete that book.
Tip #23: Make a cheat sheet or a mindmap.
Creating a mindmap is like creating a visual cheat sheet.
It’s pleasurable to create beautiful mindmaps.
Put simply, when you create mindmaps, you breathe life into the boring words.
Even the most boring books look amazing when you put them into a visual format.
If you haven’t done it before, try it.
I got addicted to mindmaps when I first started using them.
Also, you will retain more information that way.
Your comprehension also improves when you use mindmaps and cheat sheets.
Tip #24: Think about the practical implementation in real life.
Simply by focusing on the practical or actionable ideas in the book, you can skip most of the unwanted reading.
Every time you read an actionable idea, just note it down on a piece of paper.
Or if you are reading on a digital device, open notion.so and write down those ideas. The best part about Notion is that it autosaves everything.
So you won’t get distracted and will be able to record key ideas.
This will improve your focus.
Now when you are finished with all the key ideas listed.
Open another page in Notion.
And only copy the most important ideas.
Eventually, you will be left with distilled ideas that you need to remember and comprehend.
Looking at the book and thinking how boring it makes things only harder.
The key is to focus on actionable ideas. And ignore the other unimportant parts.
Don’t test your willpower there.
You are already bored. That means your willpower is already on its limit.
Tip #25: Shut off distractions and noise in your environment.
Have you observed when you try to focus on something, everything around you tries its best to disturb you?
Try to remember…
A street dog barking loudly.
Your neighbor playing loud music.
Your mobile giving you alerts and notifications.
Or an annoying mosquito or fly buzzing near your ear.
And a lot of distracting events like these.
Well, these are the enemies of focus.
Make sure you try your best to get rid of them.
It’s harder to avoid distractions if you are reading an e-book on your mobile.
Apps these days send us a lot of notifications. Make sure you turn them off and put your mobile on silent.
Trust me, you won’t want those useless notifications popping on your screen while reading that boring book.
You should try to make your reading experience less tedious.
So there you have it.
I hope these tips and techniques will save you hours of tedious reading and thus allow you to read a boring book fast — without falling asleep while reading.
Keep in mind that these are tips.
And only work in the short term.
You should pay attention to the detail.
But yes, it’s also true that sometimes a book is too boring that one can’t put himself to read. So when you find yourself with such a dull book, use these techniques.
Your turn now!
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