Are you someone who wants to read more books? Whether it’s just one book a month or 200 books a year, I am going to share today how I work towards my reading goals.
Now, I don’t want you to think that by tomorrow, you’ll be able to read 100 books this year. Like anything, you have to train yourself to do this. It’s like weight loss. You can’t lose 100 pounds by next week. Over time, if you keep on chipping away at that goal, you’ll reach your goal.
How I Went from a Book a Month to Over 100 Books a Year
I always wanted to read more books, but I thought I was a slow reader. In high school, my friend would get through an entire Danielle Steele novel in a day. That feat would take me a month!
I read a lot growing up. I was never without a book. The shorter books could take a week or two. Longer books I just stayed away from. By college, I was lucky if I was able to even read 3 pages of my assignment before the next class. So trust me, reading more was a struggle, even though I was always reading.
I was in my 30s when I started to create goals. I decided I wanted to read one book a week. That equates to 52 books a year, a feat that would end up taking me two years to accomplish.
The year I finally reached my goal, my secret was reading more YA books. I found that I could breeze through a 400 page book, because I was completely engrossed in the story. But I did not want to read only kids books, so I made sure to add in one classic a month. I chose short ones and one long one that I could read a little bit at a time before bed. It might take 6 months to complete, but I was reading that big book.
When I finally hit the 52 books mark two years in a row, I decided to push my goal to 100 books. This one took three years to reach. Last year, I did not just hit the 100 books mark for the very first time, but I also surpassed it by reading 114 books.
So this year, I decided to push my goal to 150 books. In January, I completed 16 books. I am on track to completing over 150 books this year.
Diversify Your Reading Materials
January 2020 was a bit of a record for me. Sixteen books are six books more than what I usually read each month. The trick this month wasn’t in YA books. It was actually in the method I consumed the book.
I vowed this year to always be reading somehow, so I added audiobooks and pushed myself to read books on my phone and tablet. When I walk, I listen to a book. When I sit down on the train or the bus, I read a paper book. While I am waiting in line, I read a book on my phone. During the work day, I listen to an audiobook or have a book up on one of my screens and read a little here and there. Before bed, I spend an hour reading a paper book (no devices).
During the weekends, I try to binge read, but that doesn’t always work out, so while I’m doing chores, I have Alexa read a book to me. Yes, she can read books from your Amazon library.
Now, you’re probably thinking – I only read on my Kindle or I only read paper. If you want to read more, you should diversify. It is weird to try something new, but after you diversify more, it becomes easier to switch between the three ways to read.
Another way to diversify reading is to not discriminate other genres. I generally read almost everything. My friend’s daughter taught me a little something about reading. She only wants to read comics, because she’s not ready to give up the pictures in books. I thought about it and realized that we should never discriminate against the type of reading material. If it takes comics to get a child to read, then we should encourage them to read more comic books.
I started reading graphic novels because of that little girl. It’s not something that takes 10 minutes to read. Try a few hours. There are a few series I’ve fallen for, because it’s not just the story. The artwork is phenomenal.
Monstress is one of the most amazing series I’ve ever encountered. When you look closely at the intricate artwork, it looks like it took days to complete.
And guess what? Reading graphic novels counts towards your reading goal. So do children’s books.
Because I never want to fall too much into one category, I also make sure to include one classic novel and a book challenge each month. This year, my challenge is to read all of Toni Morrison’s novels. I have to say that reading her books has taught me so much.
The important thing when it comes to reading is to always make sure you are challenging yourself with better reads. Explore other genres and never discriminate against the different types of literature out there. Try them all.
A little something I learned from Marc Berger, Director of the Securities Exchange Commission, New York Regional Office: challenge yourself by setting goals.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice that every Wednesday, I release a new list of seven books I’m working through. Did I finish all of the books the previous week? NO. But each week, I push harder to finish the current week’s seven, PLUS go back to the previous weeks to finish up what I was reading.
This is last week’s seven. I made it through four out of the seven books. It took a few weeks to push myself to complete four out of seven scheduled books.
You have to create challenges for yourself that may seem absolutely insane, but you know it would be awesome if you could finally be able to complete that task. You keep pushing yourself and pushing yourself until you’ve surpassed that goal and the goal feels easy to accomplish every single time you repeat it.
The only way you can become better is by creating challenges for yourself and plug away at it until you’ve accomplished your goal. In a way, you are creating a system to perfect a certain outcome every single time.
The way Marc taught me was that you put the problem in the corner of a box. At the exact opposite corner from the box, you put your desired result. You put the tools into the box and you figure out ways to get from point A (the problem) to point B (the outcome you want).
For me, that means looking at the seven books I want to complete (Point A). The tools I use break down each book. I create visuals to monitor my progress. I list all of my books for the week followed by the author, publisher and page number. For ebooks and audiobooks, I create 10 boxes. For every 10% I complete, I fill in a box with a colored pen. For paper books, I create boxes for every 25 pages in the book. So a 300 page book will have 12 boxes. Every 25 pages I read in that book, I color in.
I do this so I can visually track my progress that week. I have a weekly chart, as well as a monthly chart.
I also share my progress on Goodreads, because sometimes it is good to inspire others and to be inspired by others doing far better than you.
How to decide how much to read per day? I try to create a mix of audio, ebook and paper books. This makes it easier to accomplish the goal. I find that if I want to complete all books in time, I have to read at least 15% from each ebook/audiobook every single day. For the paper books, I have to divide the book up by seven to know how much I need to read each day in order to meet my goal.
That’s a lot of pages, right? I started off reading 25 pages a day. That was my goal way back when I started my 52 books a year. Then I bumped it up to 50 pages per day. Now, I read between 200-300 pages a day and climbing. It took years to reach this. Just remember that it’s all about taking one step at a time and challenging yourself to read more. Once you’ve mastered your challenge, you create a bigger challenge, and then a bigger one.
If you can’t tell, my goal is to actually read a book a day. That’s 365 books a year. I don’t think I can surpass 365 book a year, but who knows? Maybe I’ll join the 400 book club some day.
Ways I Trick My Numbers
So you may have noticed a couple of tricks up my sleeves are children’s books and graphic novels. I usually aim to read no less than 3 books a week. Last year, I learned that the way to do this (which I actually don’t do now) was to have one short book a week.
Poetry books are a good way to get in an extra book. Books with 200 pages or less are another way to add to your numbers. YA books are definitely the way to go, too.
There are some classic novels that are less than 160 pages that you’ve heard of. H. G. Wells’s “The Time Machine” and “The Invisible Man” are short and sweet. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” the story of “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” are all super short reads.
I highly encourage all of you who are trying to read more to add short books to your weekly list, because we all need to feel a sense of accomplishment that comes when we finish reading a book. I know I feel like I’m the master of the friggin universe when I finish a classic novel (no matter how many pages it was). Don’t you want to feel good about accomplishing your goals? This is how you do it.
Also, I might have to explain why I don’t do this little trick anymore…the seven. That’s why. I have seven books to get through. That does not even include the other books I’m reading on top of those seven books.
I highly recommend learning how to speed read. There are apps that you can use to try to challenge yourself to read faster. There are even books that teach the different methods.
I’ve done both the apps and the books. Both have helped me learn how to read faster. I apply their tricks to push myself to read faster. After you put this into practice every time you read, it helps you to read even faster.
I also recommend reading Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley. It’s free on Kindle Unlimited. He teaches you how to retain a lot of what you are reading. It really helps when you are speed reading.
In order to reach my goal and to keep myself going, I started a reward system. For each book I read, I paid myself. For the books I really wanted to challenge myself to read (like classics), I paid myself more. I saved all of that money up to buy what I wanted at year end.
Usually, it was a shopping spree which entailed some major designer handbag. This year, my goal is to buy an Hermes Birkin bag.
I recommend rewarding yourself according to what you can afford to pay yourself. It could be $1 or $5 per book. If you want to read more classics, give yourself $25 or $50.
You can also add in rules if you are trying to save money or have other goals you want to meet, like getting through your own library or backlist without buying more books. For instance, I pay myself $50 per Toni Morrison book. In previous years, if I bought the book that year and I was trying not to buy books, I subtracted how much I paid from the reward money I’d already saved up. I treated it as if I was dipping into the fund to buy what I wanted…a book. It is really meant to be a deterrent from buying more books.
The goal though is to save up the money for the entire year based on how many books you challenged yourself to read that year.
My rewards this year are: $10 per book; $25 per ARC or backlist; $50 per Toni Morrison book; $100 per classic. As you can see, if I want to save more money, I’ll read more classics.
The higher amounts are more aligned with the goals I’ve set to encourage myself to read more of a certain type of book. I am not subtracting the cost of new books this year, because my goal this year is to buy more books. I receive so many ARCs, so it is only fair to go out and buy books to help the book industry.
I recommend revisiting this reward system every year to make sure it aligns with whatever your reading and financial goals are for the year. If you want to save for a vacation, a new purse or a new kitchen, this is a good way to align your goals together. It worked very well for me, because it encouraged me to read more and more so I could earn more than enough reward money for my desired purchases.
It is because of this system I was able to amass a closet full of couture handbags.
The number one thing in this process is to not punish yourself. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It took me a few years to reach each goal I created for myself. Never punish yourself if you don’t reach your goal at year end. Just look back at what you accomplished for that year. You may even find that you read more books than you did the previous year and that is definitely worth celebrating.
At the end of the year, you still get to use that money however you want, even if you didn’t reach your ultimate reading goal that year. This is your reward for trying really hard to accomplish something big.
At year end, re-evaluate what worked that year for you, what didn’t work, and what you should try in the next year to accomplish your goal.
The thing about that box Marc used to have me create is that I had to sit there and really go through the entire process to figure out how to make it work seamlessly every single time to reach the desired goal. I mean, he was really making me use my brain. I really had to strategize how I was going to reach the outcome I wanted. I didn’t just do this on my own. I asked others how I could perfect this process. They helped me fine tune things to where I am able to reach the desired outcome perfectly every single time.
I am still working on my current challenge of seven books a week. I apply different methods each week to see what is working and what is not working. I am constantly re-evaluating my approach to that box every single week. How do I get to that seven?
I’ve shared how I got to 52 and then 100. The ultimate goal for me right now is a book a day. The question for me is how am I going to get to point B in this challenge?
One last takeaway before I close, the reason why I share this method of creating challenges for yourself is because of this…Marc made me fall in love with my job after he taught me about challenging myself to be better than I was before. It was the challenge part that made me excited to come to work every single day. It made work fun for me.
By applying this process to reading, it makes it more fun for me and not so much of a job or a chore to get as many books reviewed as possible. I think a lot of people would think that this is just too much work for them just to read. But there are a lot of people out there that want to challenge themselves to read more. This is for them.
If at any time in this process reading books stops being fun, you’re doing it wrong. Take a step back and re-evaluate that box of yours. What made you stop having fun? That becomes a question you’ll have to answer to fix the process of getting from point A to point B.
I find that the only way we will ever better ourselves is if we are constantly challenged to be better than we were yesterday.