How to Set and Keep Your Reading Goal This Year

How to Set and Keep Your Reading Goal This Year
Photo: Luis_Monasterio, Shutterstock

Every year I make a vague-but-ambitious resolution to “read more,” and every year I start strong but lose momentum after about three months. It’s not for lack of interest or trying — I just haven’t set a realistic goal that involves reading books I actually like.

Here are a few strategies for setting a reading goal and actually sticking to it.

Make time to read

This is easier said than done, obviously, especially if you’re working and parenting and simply trying to survive every day. But if you don’t already have time to read, you won’t be reading more this year without making some small adjustments.

We’ve got a few suggestions for fitting reading into your busy schedule:

  • Try audiobooks. This frees up time for “reading” while you’re also cooking or cleaning or driving.
  • Read while you eat or drink. If you’re using mealtime to scroll through social media, swap out your phone for a book.
  • Schedule reading time. Put reading on your work calendar just like any other meeting so no one can claim that time — and then actually take a break.
  • Carry a book. If you have a book handy both in your home and while you’re out, you can fit a few pages in while in the bathroom or waiting for an appointment.

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Make your goal realistic

If you don’t currently read at all, or if it takes you months to finish one book, you probably aren’t going to read a book every week or a chapter a day. Maybe you aim instead for one book per month, or five minutes every morning, or a certain number of pages per week.

You may find yourself naturally reading more, especially if you prefer to finish a chapter before setting your book down.

Use smaller measurements

Aiming to finish a specific number (or a long list) of books can seem overwhelming at first. Plus, basing your goal off of an absolute number of books per month or year doesn’t account for the total number of words and pages you’ll have to read.

Instead, break your goal into smaller chunks, like pages per week, minutes per day, or the length of time it takes to finish your coffee in the morning. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, recommends 20 pages a day — ideally first thing — to build a lasting routine.

Theme your reading list

One alternative to measuring how much you read is to set a goal to read more of something. For example, choose a genre you’re interested in but don’t pick up very often. Or set your sights on a multi-book series. Or aim to read works by women authors or BIPOC authors or only books that are indie published.

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Still, read what you like

Of course, if you don’t enjoy fantasy or sci-fi, you probably aren’t going to get very far with a reading list filled with fantasy and sci-fi. So even as you’re diversifying your bookshelf and trying something new, keep in mind what will keep you engaged. And don’t be afraid to call it quits on a book you’re not interested in.

Build in accountability

Joining a virtual book club or exchange can be motivation enough to at least start — and possibly finish — the books on your shelf. Or announce your commitment and track your progress with a public Goodreads list or series of Instagram posts.

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