I have to confess, discipline is not my strong suit. I’m a romantic type. I prefer to live my life at the whims of inspiration, rather than the drudgery of routine. But the Coronavirus quarantine feels a bit like a doldrums, and inspiration is hard to come by these days. When tomorrow promises to look exactly like yesterday did, it’s a little hard to stay motivated… about anything. Including my reading goals.
And boy, do I have some goals. I may not be good at discipline, but I’m great at dreaming. This year, one of my reading goals was to finally finish Leo Tolstoy’s 800+ page masterpiece, Anna Karenina. I’ve been enjoying the classic, but the sheer length can feel discouraging at times. Especially times like today, when everything else in life is discouraging.
However, I’ve actually found that commitment to my reading goals has helped me maintain sanity. Making a schedule and watching the bookmark move a few pages further into the book provides a small sense of agency and accomplishment. So, in the hopes of helping a few other readers cling to their Zen (or at least remember what day it is), allow me to share a few tips:
Set achievable goals
Looking at my goals overall—to finish Anna Karenina this year, to read books from more diverse authors, to prioritize my spiritual development—they’re all a little big and nebulous. I have to break them down into smaller, more achievable goals.
First, I compile the list of all the books I want to read. I know, just completing this first task could probably take a year, but hey—you’ve got to start somewhere.
Then I prioritize my list. How excited am I to read it? Have I just read something similar?
Then, I make a schedule. Because I hate structure, even my schedule is loose. My plan simply requires that I read at least three days a week, and at least 20 pages per sitting. That’s it. Simple. Achievable.
Leave room for variety
I know many people who can’t conceive of reading more than one book at a time, but I simply can’t handle the idea of being confined to one book. I typically read three books at a time, and intentionally choose books that are very different from one another. At any given time I’m probably reading a literary classic, a spiritual or personal development volume, and a YA or even children’s novel. My current list includes Anna Karenina (obvi), Uncommon Ground, a collection of essays from leading Christian thinkers, artist, and activists, and There, There, a multi-perspective novel about the Urban Native American experience in Oakland, CA.
The beauty of this tactic is that I don’t have the excuse of not being “in the mood” to read. I may not be able to handle Moby Dick right now, but I could definitely enjoy The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
To help myself stay motivated to pick up my goal books, I pair them with other activities that bring me joy. Reading while sunbathing or taking a bubble bath (shout out to my roommate who got me a bath tub book rest for my birthday) are some of my favorites, or even making a whole night out of it: putting on a string of my favorite records, cooking a nice meal, pouring a glass of wine, and hanging out with my girl Jane Austin turns a Tuesday night into a treat.
Readers, you can do this. COVID-19 will pass eventually, and we’re all going to make it through this. I promise. But in the meantime, let’s all add a little bit of structure and meaning back into our lives and fight for our reading goals.
What does your quarantine reading look like? Looking for your next #goalbook? Have you checked out the new line of Seasons Editions coming out this summer? Revisit a favorite or finally conquer a classic with one of these beautiful books.
Shea is a thrifting guru and a DIY dreamer. She spends her days promoting books with the Nelson Books team, and her nights and weekends blogging, drinking coffee, and attempting everything from a new, made up recipe to an amateur oil change.