Why (and How) I Read 100 Books in a Year…And Why You Should Too.

I’m a big fan of speaker/author Jon Acuff. If you haven’t read his stuff, check him out. He’s a fantastic combination of hilarious and inspiring wisdom. A while back, he let social media know of his plan to read 100 books in a year. He followed up on this goal by periodically posting pictures of the books he was reading. It was cool to see him slowly achieving his goal, post after post, as he shared snippets of what he had learned.

At the beginning of each year, I like to set one big (specific) goal for myself to conquer throughout the year. I think of it as the year’s theme, motto, or focus. After getting inspired by Jon’s reading journey, for me, it was my year to read 100 books.

When I set this goal, I knew it would take a bit of work to make it a reality. Since graduating, I’ve found it hard to finish any books. I think my brain was rebelling against the idea of more work. I also didn’t want to fail the way I had done so many times before when I set a year-long goal for myself. I knew I needed to go into it with a strategy.

I’m talking about my goal of reading 100 books in a year. But your goal might be something different. Maybe you’re trying to learn a new language or lose weight, perhaps you want to hit the gym 3 times a week, or pay off that last credit card to reach financial freedom.

No matter what goal you’re currently trying to reach, I hope these five things I learned in 2018 will help you accomplish your goals.

#1. Be specific.

We’ve all made those vague New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, read more, get healthier, or stress less. But as most of us have personally experienced, we usually don’t follow through until the end of December. We’re not alone in the lack of ability to complete a resolution. In fact, research shows only 8% of New Year’s Resolutions are accomplished, and 80% fail by February. What’s the reason we have trouble sticking to our goals? They are not specific.

Yes, I knew I wanted to read more, but the idea of reading more just wouldn’t cut it for me. It wasn’t a plan. It was an abstract idea. What did “reading more” really mean to me? Technically, for me, “more” would have been 5 or 6 books in a year. But I wanted to go out BIG. I’ve never been a person happy to accomplish a common goal. If I was going to do something worthwhile, even if I failed, I wanted to go all out. So I set a very specific, very measurable goal: 100 books. 1-year.

#2. Set your own rules

I have a pretty busy schedule and just the thought of dedicating 5+ hours a week to read a book made me rethink my big ambitions for the year. So, I gave myself permission to set the rules of how I wanted to achieve my goal. I decided to let Audiobooks count. I decided to let children’s literature count. Those weren’t the majority of what I “read” but they were allowed in my self-prescribed rulebook. And to be honest, it really increased my motivation. Setting (realistic) boundaries for myself during this challenge helped me stay interested and kept me going when I wasn’t sure I would make my goal.

When I told some friends what I was doing, a few of them surprised me by shaking their heads and saying things like, “Audiobooks don’t count!” and “Kid stories aren’t long enough to be a real book.”

For a split second, it almost made me change my rules. But then I remembered that in life we will always have dream crushers. Most of the time, these are people who genuinely love us and want what’s best for us. So they try to help by voicing their concerns or warnings. Even though they mean well, we can’t allow these comments to put a dent in our armor.

I’m glad I kept my rules. If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on the 5 Leadership Lessons Learned from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or, the profound wisdom of The Little Prince, or felt the sadness and longing to be real and to be known from The Velveteen Rabbit.

#3. Follow your passions

To be perfectly honest, after graduating, I had absolutely zero desire to crack open a book (unless it was 95% pictures). I had done my time reading boring textbooks and pouring over dry, academic journal articles. If I was going to do this, I was only going to read books that interested me.

At first, I stuck to genres that I knew I loved: Mystery, Business, Adventure, Classics, Self-Development. But as I told more people what I was working on (for accountability) and they suggested books they loved, I started reading things I’d never been interested in before, like science fiction!

Side note: Foundations by Isaac Asimov shook me to my core. That man was way ahead of his time. You like Star Wars or Marvel’s X-Men? READ THAT SERIES.

The more I read, the more I figured out what I liked (and didn’t like). You know what? If I read something and didn’t like it, I would just stop. I wasn’t going to waste my time on something that wasn’t worthwhile to me.

I read things that would encourage, entertain, or teach me something new. If it didn’t fall into one of those three categories, I ditched it (even if I already invested a bit of time reading). Life is too short to spend time on things we aren’t passionate about. When I first started my goal, I mostly read things that fell into my favorite genres. As I got farther along, my genres mattered less, and I focused more on my three categories of encourage, entertain, or teach. As long as I was fitting things into one or all of those three, it suddenly didn’t matter what the genre was.

That’s the cool thing about our passions. Sometimes we try to fit things into little boxes that make sense to us because the world told us that was how it was supposed to be. But once we break open the boxes and start to filter things by our passions, we jump into a new level of creativity and innovation that can change the world.

#4. Start small

You can’t sit and read 50 books in one weekend and knock out a massive portion of your goal. I knew I was in this for the long haul. If I looked too far ahead, I got depressed at how much there was still to read. So I didn’t allow myself to plan out which books I was going to read or how many I needed to read by each week. I did the basic math (8 books per month) and made a short list of the books I wanted to read right away. Then I got started. The first month I read 4 books. I was in book reading training camp. It was like getting your feet wet with the PSAT before diving into the big exam. I was a little bit disappointed by I shrugged it off, made a list of a few more books I had been wanting to read and jumped back in. In February I read 11 books. I started hitting my stride. Some months I read a ton of books. Some months I hardly made it through one. I never looked too far ahead. I just kept my big goal (100 books in a year) and my bite-sized goal (8 books a month) in the back of my mind and went month by month.

#5. Reward yourself for small victories

I’m a checklist person. I get a lot of satisfaction out of physically crossing something off my to-do list. When working through a big goal, it’s important to reward ourselves along the way. Each victory counts. No matter how small. Every time I finished a book, I would add it to my list of “books read” on my phone’s notes. It felt like I was checking off something on my to-do list and I loved the feeling.

If I made it through an unusually long or difficult read, I would reward myself by reading something light and easy next. Some weekends, I would give myself time off and not read anything at all. I got into the habit of celebrating my wins (even with silly little things like crossing off a list), and it started trickling into other areas of my life.

I found my attitude improved a lot over the year. When I accomplished something (even something trivial), I took a moment to celebrate. It made a difference. I started focusing more on the things I was doing right instead of zooming in on all the things I was missing or doing wrong.

Celebrating the little victories reminds us that journeys (even difficult ones) can be fun. If we are negative, complain and groan our way to the finish line, we’ll be just as miserable when we cross it. The end of the journey is hardly the moment of complete satisfaction. It’s the moments during the journey where we build character. Where we learn to handle the different things life throws at us. Where our attitude is determined. The end is rewarding, but we are missing out on a lot more if crossing the finish line is the only reward we get out of the experience.

What are some goals you’ve accomplished this year? What about your plans for next year?

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