5 Hacks for Conquering Your Reading Goals

Posted by Alex Oster on

We all did it in January – made lofty reading goals and bragged about how much we were going to read in the New Year. Even if you’re just saying it to yourself, it’s still bragging.

My internal dialogue:

Me: I’m going to read SO much this year! Can’t wait!
Logic: How many books are you going to read?
Me: I’m going to read 50 books!
Logic: Okay…how many did you read last year?
Me: 14!
Logic: …so what are you going to do differently to accomplish your new goal?
Me: Nothing at all!

An artistic representation of the futile attempts of logic to sway me

Tell me this doesn’t sound familiar. But here’s the thing – whether you’ve made a goal to read 50 books or 15 books this year, breaking a routine of, well, NOT reading takes discipline. And even if you generally read often, getting through books takes time that you may or may not have.

That’s why I’ve consulted the experts – the reading challenge champions among us – and studied what has and hasn’t worked for me in the first month of the New Year as I’ve worked on my own reading goals.

Here are 5 Hacks For Conquering Your Reading Goals

1. Start with books you already want to read

Okay, this might be a duh reading hack, but you’d be surprised by the difference between the books you think you should read and the books you actually want to read. For me, it’s the current bestsellers and hyped up picks in my preferred genres that trip me up. There are so many books that come out every year that it seems like EVERYONE is reading, and it can be tempting to get in on the conversation and read a book that might not actually interest you. If you know what genre really gets you excited about reading (because you don’t see too many post-apocalyptic sci-fi books in the New York Times adult bestsellers list), or if there’s an older book you’ve always been intrigued by but never took the plunge, do it! You’ll be multitasking by whittling down your existing TBR list while working towards your reading goals, and there are bound to be plenty on your list that fit into some of the POPSUGAR or Read Harder reading challenge prompts.

Start by tackling these

2. Start with Shorter Books

*ahem* I am in no way a proponent of the “read the shortest books you can find so you finish the challenge before everyone else” philosophy. However, I am a proponent of momentum. When I started this year of reading, I intentionally started by looking at the books on my shelf that I haven’t gotten to yet, and of those, I chose a fast-paced novel that was relatively short (we’re talking less than 400 pages). The reason for this is that it captured my attention early, kept me glued to it, and was finished in a number of days instead of weeks. This way, I was able to start and finish a novel within a week and hop to the next book before the book hangover could hit. It’s really satisfying to get through a book quickly (because that means it was good!), and it gives you a sense of having a head start on the year. That momentum is a driving force to keep you choosing the next book on your list to knock out as soon as you finish one. It’s essentially taking the “low-hanging fruit” or in this case “lightest-weight book” to check off.

3. Audiobooks. Are. Everything.

I thought about writing this section in all caps because I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH buttttt thought better of it because I didn’t want to seem that aggressive. Truthfully, adopting audiobooks into your reading life is an absolute game changer. This month alone, I’ve finished three books on audio, in addition to the other books I’ve read in print/ebook format. Now, if you’re thinking “but I focus better on books when I read them” – let me give you some advice. I struggle with that too. But I’ve discovered that I LOVE audiobooks in particular for nonfiction picks on my list. Often times they are narrated by the author, which is fun, and they tend to be easier to digest in smaller chunks of time. So give it a shot – rent a digital audiobook from your library and I promise you will read more books than ever.

reading hacks choose audiobooks

4. Multitask with Everyday Activities

And speaking of…audiobooks are so special because they allow you to get through a book while also doing other things you already have to do in your regular life. Everyone has a commute – whether you take a train or drive yourself in a car to work every day, you have a commute. Even if you’re a student and you walk or take the bus across campus to class, that’s still prime time that could be spent taking in a book. I’ve found that listening to a nonfiction audiobook in the car on the way home is a great way to replace a podcast while maintaining the benefit of entertainment and something to keep me sane in the city traffic. Other prime times to listen to a book? While cooking dinner, folding laundry, getting ready for work in the morning, going for a run, exercising at the gym, and depending on what you do, even while working at a computer (only if you’re taking care of monotonous tasks that don’t require much thought – plz don’t get in trouble at work because of me, k thx.) Seriously, it’s amazing how much reading you will get done when you have an audiobook on hand to press play while you take care of other things.

reading hacks multitasking while reading
Just a few mindless activities that can be brightened up by listening to an audiobook

5. Develop a "Want to" Mindset

That’s right – I’m getting psychological on you. What I mean by having a “want to” mindset is to see your reading goal as something you want to accomplish not for the sake of being competitive against others or having personal bragging rights, but because you genuinely enjoy reading and want to spend time in the books on your list. Not every book is going to be a slam dunk, but generally, books are good. If you don’t love it, you learned something, and if you didn’t learn something, then at the very least you have a good thing to rant about to your friends/strangers on Goodreads. Think of reading as a hobby that you enjoy and look forward to, and if you need to, don’t be afraid to spend less time on other things you enjoy so you have time for that and reading. For me, I love playing video games, and with the games I got in the end-of-year Playstation sale, it’s tempting to spend all the free time I have with my hands on a controller. So for me, getting into that first book on January 1 set me on a good track for balancing both of my hobbies. Some evenings I play a little God of War, some evenings I spend hours reading because I can’t stand to stop, and some evenings I do some of both. The key is to know that there’s plenty of time in life for both, and the rewards of enjoying a good book are more than worth delaying the gratification of making progress in a game. And when you’ve got a game with as good a story as God of War, it’s practically the same as reading two novels at once, right??

How are you doing so far on your reading goals for this year? Were any of these reading hacks helpful? Comment below and let us know your reading hacks for conquering your own bookish goals!

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