I read an article the other day (in a real magazine, so I can only find an excerpt of it online here) about a woman who runs reading retreats. Yes, you read that right: retreats designed only to help give you the space, peace and quiet to read lots of books. (Small sidebar to say: how can I either host or attend one of these?!)
In the article, the literature coach who runs these retreats gave some advice about how to get more reading done in your real life, not to mention at the retreats themselves. Speaking about the major allure of our screens and social media profiles and the constant distractions that threaten to take us out of our books, she says:
“Just make sure that you keep at it for the first six to ten minutes, at which point you’ll be absorbed by the story.”
I liked the elegant simplicity of this advice, but also the extreme pragmatism it suggests. Making time for the things we love is simple, she suggests! Just force yourself to sit down, start the process, and stay with it until the activity takes on a life of its own. Stick with it until the motivation loop becomes self-rewarding – until you’re getting rewards from the activity itself.
As I talked about in my episode on intrinsic motivation, most things that are worthwhile in life don’t come with much validation from the outside world, especially not initially. If you want to stick with something that brings value to your life, you’re going to need to find reasons to do so that have nothing to do with praise, attention, or any other external marker of success. You’re going to need to experience all the quieter, simpler rewards that the activity itself gives you, which will in turn motivate you to keep coming back for more.
I love this idea that it might only take 6-10 minutes to start experiencing intrinsic rewards, whether that’s through reading, writing, dancing, music-making, podcasting, whatever. 6-10 minutes is nothing. I can do almost anything for 6-10 minutes. Call it the price of admission to contented absorption, to happiness, to intrinsic motivation.
And guess what? Last night I gave myself 6-10 minutes of focused reading to get into a book….and then promptly didn’t move from the couch for hours and the book was so good. Turns out the price of admission is absolutely worth the cost.