If you could see my YouTube recommendations, you would notice a lot of videos featuring “normal” people training for ultramarathons. On it’s surface, this is a little bit strange because I have absolutely no desire to ever run more than 26.2 miles. Honestly, I have no desire to run more than 10 miles. I’m perfectly happy with going out and jogging a 5k a couple of times per week. So why watch these videos? Every time, without fail, I get to hear the story of someone who made a small change in their life that led to an accomplishment that they never thought was possible. I like to apply that same process to goals that are relevant to my life, like reading 52 books in a year.
I hope this article is like one of those ultramarathon videos. It doesn’t matter if you want to read 52 books in 2021 or if you don’t want to pick up a book at all. I have no doubt that there is something productive that you want to do with your time at the start of the new year. The approach I took to increase the number of books I read is the same approach I encourage you to take with your goals for the year, whatever they may be. All that it took for me was a small change and a good system.
A Small Change
I set a New Year’s Resolution in 2019 to read one book per month. I bought books that sounded interesting, I put them on my bed-side table, and I’m guessing you know the end of this story already because I put it right in the title. I read 2 books during the entire year.
That was not for lack of desire to achieve my goal or a lack of interest in the books. My goal was simply too nebulous. A year is a long time to keep a goal on the top of your mind. After a few weeks, I found myself in the mindset that if I didn’t read tonight that was okay because I could always read tomorrow. I just had to read one book per month after all, how hard could that be? We all know the answer. Much more difficult than I imagined.
In 2020 I took a fresh approach. I still wanted to read more books, but I decided to only make reading my priority for the month of February. I didn’t set a goal for how many books I would read (that would come later) and I didn’t set a goal for how long I would read per day (that would come later too). Instead, I told myself that if I did anything productive with my free time that month, that productive THING would be reading.
In February alone, I read 4 books. That was double the number of books I read the entire previous year. I was surprised, certainly, but I was equally encouraged. If I managed to read a book a week without a real strategy in place, what was holding me back from reading a book a week for the rest of the year?
A Good System
Using my February reading success as momentum, I created a system for my reading habit. I used James Clear’s formula for creating a routine.
After [trigger], I will [behavior] for [time] in [location].