I’m usually not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, mainly because most don’t last longer than two weeks or one night of partying. However, I made an insane one this year: read 100 books in a year.
I managed to read around 50 books last year, but 100 books in a year meant a whole new strategy would be needed. What worked for 50 would definitely not work for 100. I would somehow have to double my reading time, or pace, without losing all form of social life and time for sports. Yet, I figured with just a few tweaks it would be possible get far more reading in and enjoy it even more.
Whether you aim to read a whopping 100 books in a year or one book a month, reading more is definitely a fun goal to stick with and go for. If I get you to read just one more book after this, then my second resolution would be complete.
Why not read 100 books
Let’s just be clear though what is reading 100 books not about?
Firstly, just rushing like a speed train through book after book is not the goal. If you can’t chat at least ten minutes about the last book you read, chances are you raced through it. A good trick is just keeping an Evernote document about each book you read to track key learnings and things you want to implement.
Reading a 100 books is about broadening your knowledge by reading about a whole load of different subjects. That being said there is also a lot of power in re-reading books several times. The 100 books don’t have to be unique. Never be scared or think it is boring to reread books: rereading books is an awesome way to increase your depth of knowledge and understanding of certain concepts. I promise you, each time you re-read a book you will notice new things again. It’s like the movie Fight Club: you have to rewatch it a few times to truly appreciate it.
My top five books I have listened to or read at least twice are:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson
- High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard
- Superhuman by Habit by Tynan
- The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
It is also not a work driven goal, it should be enjoyable to read and books should be so good people have to pull you out of them (just ask my boyfriend). If you stop enjoying it at any point, perhaps set a lower goal or check if you are reading the wrong book.
Sometimes I chose books I did not end up enjoying. Being the stubborn woman that I am I still wanted to finish them. Unless they had nothing new to teach me (which is rarely the case). I would take more time about them and read other books on the side.
There is also no size fits all strategy. So test different ones, come up with your own and see what works for you. These examples are just meant as inspiration about how to reach a reading goal.
1. Set the right goal for you
Whether you go for 100 books or 10 books a year, just aiming for more reading is a beautiful goal in itself. Blog posts (such as this one) often only skim the surface of a topic, whilst a book allows for much more of a deep dive.
I started by setting the goal of 3 chapters a week and built up to an amount where I had an excuse to read every second I got. It’s like running: don’t start with a 20km run, you’ll just end up with muscle pain or in the middle of nowhere not wanting to run back.
2. Track it
I’m a growth hacker, so I like to measure everything I possibly can in life. I used to calculate how many pages there were in my university books for a semester, set up an excel sheet with colourful progress bars per chapter and total progress. Phew, that took a long time to admit. It may have been nerdy but knew exactly how many pages I had to get through each week.
Ok, maybe you don’t have to go that extreme, but keeping track of how much you’re reading helps motivate you as you go along. 100 Books sounds like a lot, but less than 2 books a week is not too bad. I mean it’s only 1.9178082192 books per week?
Setting your goal to X pages or chapters a day makes it even more manageable. I even have an excel sheet where I track each weeks progress:
Some weeks will be less and others will be more, but keeping track of it keeps pushing you to see what works and what doesn’t work. As mentioned before, start with a reasonable goal for where you’re at. Don’t go from 0 to a 100 in less than 4 seconds like a Tesla, set a shorter term (e.g. 3 months) goal and increase it every 3 months or week by week.
3. Build The Habit
In the book “Superhuman by Habit” Tynan writes about how the hardest thing about building a habit is not the first time you skip it. It is actually the second time. If you have tried to build up a gym habit you may recognise this one.
That is when you start losing the habit. Try to read every day, even if it is just five minutes. With an app such as Way of Life you can track it each day and build a chain (consecutive days of reading).
It’s weird, but for some reason once you develop a chain, you just don’t want to break. It’s stupid how happy you can get about little green blocks, but if it works, it works. You can even install reminders with Way of Life at the time you are most likely to read and the application will give you a little nudge.. Way of Life is free for the first three habits you want to track, so there are really no excuses
4. The Book-in-your-Face Strategy
If you always have a book in arms reach you never have an excuse to not read. I have the Kindle app on my phone, tablet and laptop (yes, how do I not yet have a Kindle). I also always take a book with me when I need to grab a train or stay overnight somewhere.
I talked about habit formation with Way of Life before. You can make it even easier to keep the habit by this Book-in-your-Face strategy. Just move your Kindle or reading app to the forefront of your phone to keep reading top of mind. That way, when you are waiting for that late train again you can go to your phone. Wait wait, don’t get distracted by Instagram or Facebook, go to the Kindle app, it’s right there, you can read a little bit instead. You’ll even get to tick off Way of Life for the day!
My favourites for such moments include a few of Ryan Holiday’s books. It’s as if they are made for someone with a slightly hyperactive mind like me. They have super short chapters that you can easily finish in 5–10 minutes:
- The Obstacle is the Way
- Ego is the Enemy
- The Daily Stoic: Meditations on Self-Mastery, Perseverance and Wisdom
Especially The Daily Stoic is good for short reads here and there. One or two pages a day is more than enough to get you thinking.
5. The Wake up Call
Try setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier. Ok hear me out first! You can still stay in bed, I swear. You can even press snooze a few times. Just grab a book and read for 10 minutes. It gives you a legitimate excuse not to get straight out of bed and it is a really relaxing way to wake up.
More of an evening person? You can also just go to bed 10 minutes earlier to read too. It’s a great way to knock yourself out for the day. Pro tip: don’t read on an iPad before going to sleep. Hitting yourself in the face with one hurts far more than a book. Oh and the black eye is awkward to explain.
6. Let your Imagination Run Wild
I read both fiction and non-fiction. I read fiction in Dutch to improve my Dutch (yes I am Dutch and not fully fluent in Dutch, long story). Well, that and it gives me an excuse to re-read Harry Potter every now and then.
I don’t see anything wrong with reading fiction as well as part of the ‘100 goal’. It’s a great way to get lost in a book and devour it in a weekend.
If you need an even better excuse to walk around with a stack of seven Harry Potter books: it is scientifically proven to stimulate your brain and help you see things from another perspective. Here is even why reading fiction makes you a better person.
I will not even try give any fiction recommendations seeing as mine consists of well Harry Potter and the book versions of Rom-Com movies. Instead, all I will say is enjoy any book that captures your attention.
7. Listening vs. Reading
People seem to have this built in dislike for audiobooks. When I talk about them people often respond something like this:
“I don’t do audiobooks”.
“Ok, how many have you listened to?”
“None I just can’t listen to a book.”
Fair enough, listening is more passive than reading, but sometimes that is nice change. You can listen to them anywhere and also enjoy them when you can’t or don’t feel like read. Like when you have a killer hangover from the night before.
About half of the books I read, if not more, were audiobooks. I listened to audiobooks for four hours a week travelling back and forth to Belgium for a client. As well as another 2–3 hours on a Sunday, whilst cleaning and doing meal prep for the week.
So before you swear off audiobooks, just run a test. Get a free one-month Audible trial and try one of these books with great narrators to get you started:
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and it is All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
- The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
- The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary CEO by Patrick Lecioni
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lecioni
All have a story-like setup, making them very easy to listen to. Especially the last two, which are business fables.
My setup is that I have an Audible account with a subscription for a book per month. You also get a 30% discount with this subscription on Audible which buys me a few more books each month for about €5 — €10 a book.
8. Double Speed it
So you’ve made a plan, you’ve started reading more. You’ve even found out you actually like audiobooks after getting lost in the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Now it’s time to go pro: listen on double speed.
When my boss suggested listening on double speed, I thought how do you follow that?! It just sounds like a blur of words?! However, gradual exposure is key here.
First just try increasing it to 1.25x. After 10 minutes I promise you will no longer notice the difference. Then try 1.5x and keep building it up until you reach a speed where faster is no longer followable. For me this varies per book and is either 1.5x or 2x. Just don’t try to listen to Gary Vaynerchuk on double speed, that guy is naturally on double speed.
Time for Action
You got this far so I am going to assume that you are at least somewhat interested in reading more. Better yet, you are ready for the first step to reading more.
So I have a challenge for you: Grab a book today (preferably right now) and just read at least one page. The hardest part is starting so get that out the way right now. Then tomorrow you can choose your reading goal, don’t wait for it to be a New Year’s Resolution.
Learn more on how to create a habit of reading.
What is on your reading list? I love recommendations.