Normally, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions.
But this year, I committed myself to reading more books. It’s what I did all childhood long, youth movements didn’t interest me nor did climbing in trees or riding my bike.
“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” — Mark Twain
Along the way of life happening, I forgot about it. And since some years, I realized I missed it. So I went to the annual Book Fair in Antwerp for the past three years, feeling like a kid in a candy store and bought the most awesome books. To confront myself afterwards by concluding the books were sadly devaluated to mere shelf decoration. Recognizable?
Now that I put this in a bigger perspective…My last blog post mentioned this information fomo. Collecting all these inspirational books, but not knowing when or how to start reading them, confirm that same effect.
So I decided to take action. Two important steps backed my promise to resuscitate the bookworm in me:
1. Getting my own Kindle.
My awesome man surprised me with this Kindle Paperwhite. It doesn’t make you read these books on those dusty shelves. You still have to do this yourself.
Buying a Kindle doesn’t make you win in life, I‘m well aware.
But do you know what it does though?
It creates availability. And availability helps when creating new habits.
The device is barely heavier than an iPhone and with the shopper I carry around, I can easily grab for it when in waiting rooms, when you have these otherwise lost 15 minutes between appointments or when you meet with someone who’s unfortunately not as punctual as you would like it to be. But it’s not the ‘time gap filling’ aspect I’m endorsing.
It’s the fact that every time you read a page, even if it’s just one, you create progress.
So by creating the habit to take the Kindle with you wherever you go, you increase the probability you’ll make progress.
It creates comfort. And comfort lowers barriers.
For instance: its background light automatically adapts to the context you’re in. You don’t need a bedroom light, the sun doesn’t blind you anymore or reflects on your pages. And it remembers where you left off or let’s be honest: fell asleep.
The fact that e-readers add intelligence to the process of reading, lowers the barrier to integrate reading in your life.
Confession on the side: that’s also how Amazon entered my life, getting those e-books on my reader. A whole new world. (and yes, I’m hearing that awesome theme song from Aladdin. It was big in the nineties, you know.).
Side effect of starting with specifically a Kindle while living in Flanders, Belgium.
Since some months, I’ve gotten mighty frustrated on the fact that bol.com concluded they wanted a part of that world domination Amazon is going for. By consequence there are very little Dutch written e-books available on Kindle, unless you buy the e-reader they exclusively integrate with and take a subscription. I mean, seriously. Having to buy new hardware for the same purpose, that’s so 2000's. It’s annoying me so much I was actually considering buying that bloody Kobo-thing to get to my Dutch e-books. But it just goes so hard against my nature: spending money on an apparel I‘m bottomline already using, to end up with an inefficient system of two e-readers.
As a Dutch native, reading works of Dutch authors translated to English on a Kindle is like a rod on a pig. It’s just not right.
So for the time being, I’ll burn a candle and hope there is a God of Books, listening to my prayers. As for you: take this in consideration when you’d like to invest in an e-reader.
2. Subscribing to Goodreads.
It’s a very nice platform: you can follow your friends on it (I like to see what my friends like to read), create “want to read” shelves and most importantly: read honest reviews.
By filling in the ‘Reading Challenge’, I’d installed a kind of soft monitor without any push notifications or follow-up. I didn’t know how to make an estimate so I put the bar interestingly high: twelve books in as many months.
how my landing page of Goodreads looks like
And the beauty of Goodreads is: contributing. After finishing a book, I really feel it’s important to have my review done for two reasons:
- I learned so much from other reviews and every opinion counts.
- Since there’s this reading challenge, I like consolidating this achievement in a review. Measuring progress brings me joy.
It takes literally 5 minutes and you get to share your opinion on a platform which is valued by every reader.
How did I manage so far?
I’m honestly satisfied with the result (like Gaga, I live for the applause): I’ve already finished 9 books this year and yes, we are September. Right on track. I admit there was a huge maneuver during summer but who’s judging.
I’m happy with how I approached my wish to bring reading in my life again. If you have questions or you want to share something on that topic, feel free to reach out.
Should we all start reading now?
I notice many people don’t seem to get to that point to find or make time for reading. Work consumes us at least 5 days a week, after that you’re supposed to do laundry, going to the groceries store and seeing your friends. The rat race is real.
Throw some extra kids on top and it seems you’re screwed for your me-time. And should there be a tiny bit of me-time, which option to choose? Hesitating between reading books, getting a coffee in that hipster bar you’ve always wanted to visit, de-cluttering your clothes, having a manicure done, going to the hairdresser — all these ideas and you know you’ll probably end up sleeping on the couch or going back to household chores. I’m not trying to be funny here, I honestly believe the parenting struggle is real.
But I don’t think it’s about cramming your already insane agenda and throwing another recurrent task on the pile. It’s about reflecting on what brings you joy and what doesn’t.
Instead of pumping extra pressure in your daily life, get a grip on what gives you energy.
So, what are your energy providers?
I regularly ask myself: what activities or people give me energy? In this exercise, I tend to break down the word ‘energy’ in 4 sub-levels to get more concrete answers:
- physical energy (healthy)
- mental energy (focus & resilience)
- emotional energy (happy)
- spiritual energy (purpose)
Some examples. For me, reading helps me develop my purpose and contributes to my focus and resilience. Meeting up with certain friends, makes me happy and creates resilience. Using a planner, gives me focus.
- Find out what makes you tick. Who or what gives you a boost, who or what brings a smile on your face, when do you feel lighter and happier? Note it somewhere and use that shortlist as a handle to prioritize the right things.
- Start small. Start with consciously choosing for your you-time 5 minutes per day or per week, start at your own pace. Nobody’s expecting anything, so don’t start expecting things from yourself.
Remember, every page, every minute, every step you take is progress.
And trust me, once you know what you’d like to prioritize, you will create an addiction: the compelling thought of wanting more of that good stuff that gives you energy.
Step by step, even if it takes months or longer, you’ll organize your life around what makes you happy.
Remember the certain friends that I loved meeting with? They’ve become my best friends. I didn’t exclude or cut off people, my circle just got reorganized organically.
You could do the opposite exercise and analyze what or who is consuming your energy, to eventually cut them out of your life (and agenda). But I believe the quickest and maybe biggest win is in focussing on the positive, on the good.
Where focus goes, energy flows. — Tony Robbins.
Let me know if this approach works for you, I love to get inspired by other people’s paths to happiness.