Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to read more? Here are some ideas to make sure you reach your goal!
I love to read. That can be expected from a book editor. But reading for pleasure is much harder now than it was in high school, when I read a book a week. First, college came with more reading assignments than I could keep up with, and then babies came with needs that left little time or energy to do anything but sleep.
Still, like any book enthusiast, when the New Year comes around, I make a goal for how many books I’ll read—despite not having hit the mark I set the year before. Can you relate?
This year, I’ve got a few tricks to try in order to keep my reading goals on schedule. If you are anything like me, maybe these approaches will help you too.
New Year’s goals are made with our highest hopes in mind. And yet, come the second Friday of January, labeled “Quitter’s Day,” approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutioners give up.
Why might people give up so quickly? A couple reasons come to mind in my own life. Number one is that I set goals that I don’t believe in. And I’m not the only person that does this. In a 2020 survey, 25% of goal setters admitted they didn’t believe they would follow through with their goals, and a poll in 2023 showed only 34% of goal setters thought they would keep their goals.
Sure, I can mark on Goodreads a goal to read 12 books in 2024. I know it’s doable. But in the back of my mind, I don’t really believe I have the time, and thus, I don’t plan for it. Which is problem number two. When setting reading goals, many people set the yearly goal of reading x number of books but don’t set the little, actionable goals that lead to accomplishing the large one. However, if we focus on daily and weekly goals, then our belief in the yearly goal will increase—along with the likelihood of following through. Which is why I’ve come up with the following six tricks to break down our big reading goals into small, doable tasks and thus “trick” our minds into believing in our success.
1. Read By Paragraph
When I read, being interrupted before I’m done with a chapter feels not only annoying but also like a mini failure. And mini failures don’t lead to big successes. So why not break reading sessions down more than by chapter? Why not go for a page, or even a paragraph at a time? If I can say, “I’m just going to read one paragraph and be done,” then I can whip out my book at any time and get a mini success. Just woke up? Read one paragraph. At the doctor’s office? Read one paragraph. Waiting for the bus? Read one paragraph. Do that all day long, and those paragraphs will add up! Plus, chances are you’ll end up reading a page or more at a time.
2. Read By Series
Maybe your dilemma is that you don’t know what to read. There are so many books out there, so many genres, so many options. Maybe just choosing a book takes more brainpower than you’re ready for. If you have the goal to read 20 books by next year, that’s 20 decisions that you have to make about what to read.
For those with decision-making anxiety, there’s a way to make 20 decisions become only three or four. Choose a series! Reading by series takes a lot of the decision-making out of filling the titles in your yearly book quota. And if you end up loving a series, those books will fly by. Then you can just keep reading all the books by that author. Decision-making is now a piece of cake.
3. Read By Minutes
A big reason people don’t read more is—can you hear yourself saying it?—not enough time. But if we really examine our day, we know there’s time. It just gets filled with other minute time-wasters. So, choose to read by minutes. Twenty minutes, ten minutes, five minutes, even. Did you know that just five minutes a day amounts to thirty hours a year? And I can promise you there are five minutes in your day to pull out a book. Figure out when that is and set a timer. Then, when the alarm rings, you can pat yourself on the back for staying on track with your yearly resolution.
4. Read By Interest
I’m the type that has to finish a book, even if it’s ultra boring—another reason I don’t get through as many books as I’d like. Oh, and I’m also the type that likes to try new genres and authors. Those two attributes don’t always go together, as I can find myself stuck on a book for months because I can’t bring myself to keep reading it. And yet I can’t start another one. Are you like this too? If so, I get it. With the amount of genres out there and the immensity of traditional and self-published authors, there are a lot of great books—and a lot that don’t quite hit the spot.
So what if you get stuck trudging through an unenjoyable or unedited read? Your reading goal is toast. Right? Wrong! If a book becomes uninteresting to you, remember, you can put the book down. After all, your yearly resolution wasn’t to finish that book, it was to read a certain amount of books. So focus on the goal: read more of what you like! And give yourself permission to never pick that boring book up again. Putting a book down for good doesn’t mean you failed, it means you are choosing success for your goals.
5. Read By Task
When creating a new habit, the advice is to attach the new habit to one you already have. This helps your brain work less because it doesn’t have to carve out a new routine. So if you want to start reading every day, try choosing a task that you already do every day. Then simply attach reading to it. For example, as a non-morning person, I know that every morning before I’m ready to get out of bed, I get on my phone. So I can pair this habit (I didn’t say it had to be a “good” habit, just a consistent one!) with reading a page or two. Easy! You can also choose a task that you do every week, like taking a child to practice or vacuuming the house.
6. Read By Location
This is a fun trick that works well with audiobooks. Where is a location that most of us find ourselves in for at least ten minutes at a time? The car. If every time we got into our cars, we also turned on an audiobook, the books would pile up. The train or bus works too. And yes, audiobooks count as reading, despite my brain’s insistence on reading only physical books. But the location trick works with physical books too. I could choose my reading location as the chair in my room. So every time I find myself sitting in that chair, I have to pull out my book. Or every time I’m on a bench at the park, it’s book time. Choose a location you find yourself in regularly and dedicate that space to reading.
If you have read this far, you probably have the goal to read more books this year, like I do. And this time, it’s going to happen. I’ve laid out six different tricks for how you and I can approach our reading goals in actionable ways. Now don’t forget another important step in achieving your goal—tell someone else about it! Comment here with what your reading goal is and your plan to achieve it, then share it with your friends and followers! Together, we will gain knowledge and accomplish our resolutions.