From keeping up with long-distance family members to keeping yourself entertained with viral cat videos, social media definitely has its uses. But spending every spare moment on your favorite platform can also get in the way of certain goals you might have for 2020—like reading more books.
As Inc. explains, most habits follow a similar psychological pattern, so replacing a bad habit with a good one is often easier than starting from scratch. In other words, instead of trying to establish reading as a completely new habit, you can train yourself to replace opening Facebook several times a day with opening a book.
To do this, first you need to convince yourself that reading a book doesn’t have to be a major production or time commitment, and you’re probably much more capable of reading a book in small chunks than you might think. Last year, the New York Public Library helped demonstrate this with a program called Insta Novels, in which they released full novels like Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in sections on their Instagram Stories—and more than 300,000 readers took advantage of the offerings.
Then, as creative entrepreneur and author David Kadavy explained in a Medium post, you have to be aware of what usually triggers you to hop on social media—maybe boredom or anxiety—and distract yourself by cracking open a nearby book. This might be as simple as rearranging your apps so that your e-reader app is featured prominently on your home screen, and your social media apps are hidden on the second or third screen. Or, it might entail buying lightweight paperback books that’ll fit in your backpack or even a large coat pocket, so you always have some easily accessible reading material.
For the first week or two, you’ll likely have to make a conscious effort to reach for your book instead of tapping the Instagram icon, but your unconscious mind will gradually start to anticipate reading as a natural response to your trigger.
Your mind won’t be doing all the work on its own, though—the book will help, too. As you read, you’ll probably get invested in the story or argument of whatever you’re reading, and it’ll be easier to return to it once you’ve built up that momentum.
Wondering what to read first? Choose something from our list of 20 best books of 2019 here.