Choose reading as your New Year’s resolution

I’m keen on losing the 5 kgs that have somewhat magically appeared on me. No more burgers, for the love of God. Enough of the countless hours spent in the office. From now on the family is everything. I must quit smoking. Let’s do sports. Enjoy life.

Yes, you’re not late. It’s high time for your New Year’s resolution. I can see the common pattern however in these promises. They won’t have been achieved. It’s not a surprise that there is no such tradition as New Year’s accountability.

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.
Joey Adams

As a dreamer, I kept coming up with promises and goals. Silly ideas like creating a nice mobile application for basketball players, owning a blog, don’t get me started on this. All in all, I’ve never been a New Year’s resolution guy, it’s not my cup of tea. Dreaming is better. Nevertheless, I ended up creating a list of 14 Goals I’d love to pursue.

Stupid me. Foolish me. Brilliant me. I’ve managed to accomplish 8 though, and I’m particularly happy about one of them. A goal that is not as meaningful at first sight as it should be. Might not be as ostentatious as a proper New Year’s Resolution should be, on the other hand, it’s surprised me after every milestone. I’ve traded my time to entertainment, enlightenment and relaxation.

It was reading 10 arbitrary books in 2015.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I came across closely GoodReads and suddenly the project codenamed WannaBeBookWorm™ kicked off without me realizing it. I bootstrapped my reading list at the end of December with books worth reading. After coming up with the goal of reading 10 books, it instantly hit that books were waiting to be discovered all along.

The IMDB for books has certainly changed the way I read. No need to leave the sofa. Pick a title, buy it and enjoy it on your Kindle. Just like scrolling through reviews on Amazon, you can only pick great books with 4.5+ ratings from different genres. Time saved, money kept.

I somehow look at GoodReads as my mentor, my coach, my opponent and my cheerleader. Not only passionate, but detailed recommendations and reviews are there to guide you. You can collect the well-deserved likes for the books read and why wouldn’t you say no to finishing your reading challenge earlier than your friends.

It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.
J.R.R. Tolkien

My adventure started with a beast. 736 pages of in-depth NBA history including thorough player reviews and delicacies. I learned the reason behind the shot clock. It was about time to know why every basketball player treats the ball as a hot potato. After finishing the book my inner dream of becoming Michael Jordan, Larry Bird or Magic Johnson in one ultimate basketball hero surfaced again. All because of a book. It was also a special time for me as I’d been visiting San Francisco at the time and I was thrilled to go to my first NBA game to see Chef Curry hitting deep threes.

I immediately started thinking what should be come up next. Choosing the next book has never been such a fun activity. It totally sucks me in even now as it’s become a ritual. Browsing the titles from the reading list. Checking the reviews. Virtually engaging in Reddit conversations. All this is fun and on top of that, I’d got a sense for books which would fit my taste and my current emotional state. It’s good to know beforehand whether a book is slow paced or not. You might need something that pumps you up, wouldn’t you? If you don’t want to make a ritual out of choosing your next book just pick one title from GoodReads Choice Awards or check out Reddit book club selection. How about just simply popping into the next bookstore in the neighbourhood?

Wait a minute. Let’s take a step back here. Why 10 books, when we have twelve months in a year? I could have read one book every month. Even more. There should be a but or an if in this story. Actually, there isn’t. I just wanted to be realistic. So let’s stick with 10. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

You might also be wondering why I should even come up with a particular number at all? Isn’t it all about having fun and learning stuff? Developing your personality and whatnot? Sure, that’s the most important thing, the road ahead and not the formalities. Bazinga.

Having declared the number of titles pushes you towards the holy goal of succeeding. As the goal becomes more specific, the stakes are raised higher, so as the chances of succeeding. By 999999999%. Not kidding. Prepare for the moment of friends asking you in a bar what’s up with your book thingy. By giving a confident 10/7 answer, I bet you would certainly experience a sense of achievement. The goals suddenly develop into a real and measurable activity.

Unleash you inner data Jedi, define metrics and measure your progress. Say it out loud. By the time it’s March I should be reading the 4th book. I usually take a look at which page I’m at in the book. Thanks to my Kindle and the Kindle app, I know for a fact the amount of time it takes to finish a chapter. I’m aware that I’m 70% through the book and in 2 minutes I’ll put my suffering to an end with the geeky WPF programming book. Personally I like to allocate longer time slots for reading. If I don’t have enough time to finish a chapter, I might not start it at that very moment. It’s also thrilling when it’s only 5% and I’m feeling like a little boy getting his hands on his new toy and embracing a high level of excitement. Crunching the numbers is good for your health. I promise.

Throughout the year, I’ve tried to be reasonable and I know when it was time to kick off the new book to be on schedule. It’s very easy to check how realistic it is to hit the deadline given how many books and pages you have to get through. It’s not like software projects when delivering the last 20% of features would eat up enormous resources. With books it’s different, as you’re the one who chooses the book, it’s already given how long the book is, that’s why it’s not a pig in a poke. It’s highly unlikely that you come across a horrible book which will deter you from reading books forever. My point is that you don’t have to try hard to get through compelling books. In a supportive environment, you’re deemed to succeed. To me, it was a low hanging fruit to include reading books in my goals. I just didn’t know back then.

Achievement unlocked

Reading is a super power. You take a bunch of papers stitched together and create whole words out of the ink. Not only does it allow your imagination to fly, but it’s there for you whatever you name it for.

It allowed me to broaden my horizon professionally and personally. I’ve read two programming related books, which I open up every now and then. To be able to understand the gap between developers, designers and users I’ve picked up The Design of Everyday Things.

Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

Other times I only wanted to unwind, but couldn’t because I was unable to stop thinking about work. Science fiction is my way to escape. When you read about a planet, which is basically a desert and its inhabitants have to recycle their body fluids to pull through, then your imagination starts kicking in. All the crap’s left behind.

Elaborating on how good a decision it was to kick off this project made me realise that I have to share my story. Reading books are prooven to be fun, relevant, achievable and realistic. Despite the fact, that it was just a goal to achive it evolved over time, it became totally fun and relevant to me.

I highly recommend to consider reading as your New Year’s resolution. Challenge yourself just like Mark Zuckerberg did or Bill Gates does. 1,725,239 people did the same and finished 29,173,675 books on GoodReads. The random dude from the internet will do the same. Let’s read 15 books in 2016.