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A few friends of mine have informed me of this reading challenge they've been doing. It goes like this: take your age, add one to it, and read that many books before your next birthday. For example, a friend of mine who's 29 is doing "30 by 30", in which he wants to read 30 books before he turns 30. The valid time period, then, is one year if you start the challenge on your birthday or less if you start later. The older you are, the more intense the reading challenge, but only marginally compared to your prior year.

Personally, I find it to be an excellent way to get into the habit of reading more. If you start at 19, you'll have read 20 by 20. Pretty simple, but you get the ball going. Over the years, you're going to be remarkably well-read compared to the average random fellow who reads only a few books in a year, especially if you're reading heavier material. If you keep the ball rolling, year after year, 40 by 40 will be a breeze. You might even surpass your reading goal and keep reading.

If you want the tl;dr of this post, I will list it in the following outline:

  1. Take your age, and add one to it. For those of you who like more ambitious reading goals, this challenge might not be for you.
  2. Take the number you arrived at, and read that many books by your next birthday. Plain and simple.

Not much to it, right? Well, even if you're on the younger end (say, 20), 21 books in a year is both fully accomplishable and probably substantially more than you are already reading. There is no downside.


Subjective Experience

Sadly, I personally only started this reading challenge this year. I learned about it last year I believe, but it didn't occur to me to actually attempt it until around a couple of weeks ago. My birthday is in summer, so I lost 5-ish months on the challenge. Which makes it even more of a challenge for me. I like that.

Since I started the challenge a couple of weeks ago, I have been reading around 20-50 pages a day. I have finished two books and am about to finish a third. My massive mountain of a reading list is getting checked off, ever so slowly. 

As I got started on the challenge, I felt mildly overwhelmed. I did the following things to help with that, maybe you could do them as well:

  1. I calculated how much I would need to read. It looked something like this: "x books in a year, divide that by 12 to get books a month, divide that by 4 to get books a week." I basically did that, but it was 7 months. 
  2. I made a reading list. I don't mean in my head; I made a spreadsheet with three columns; one for the title, one for the author, and one as a tick box as to whether I read it. I made it super aesthetically pleasing and I set it up so that the ticks turn the cell green. I use numbers as my "ticks" so that I can see the order in which I read them in. Using the spreadsheet, I can alphabetize them by title, author name, or whatever. It's great for planning out what to read next. Currently, I have over 50 books on my reading list, not including the 20+ Stephen King books my aunt gave me.
  3. I made a daily goal to pace myself. This is similar to the first one, and in truth is a subset of that, but I decided to make it a separate point. My reading goal tells me that I need to read x number of books in a month, while my daily goal is more about simply getting into the habit of reading consistently. I give myself a bare minimum of 20 pages per day, with a goal of 50 per day. At first I was ambitious and shot for 50 at minimum, but I don't do any light reading whatsoever. Generally, if you shoot too high you won't get very far, but if you shoot low you might end up surpassing the goal on many days and getting much more reading done than if you shot high. I don't know the psychology behind that, but that's just how it works for me.
  4. I set up my surroundings to the right conditions. That phraseology is a bit clunky, so let me explain. Generally, if you sit down with a book, you might have distractions. Your environment might be distracting, or your phone, or your computer. Maybe your chair is too uncomfortable. Maybe the room is too cold, or too hot. Maybe you're thirsty and keep getting up for water, or a snack, and so forth. I have a space in which I have perfect lighting, a comfortable chair, a glass of water and a cup of tea handy, my heater is running, I'll use the bathroom beforehand, I'll get the right music playing (usually rain sounds). I completely condition my surroundings to be as distraction-free and reading-friendly as possible, in order to get a lot more read. 
  5. I keep my phone handy. I know that it seems counter-intuitive, as the phone is rather distracting; however, it is the most accessible dictionary around. I don't do much light reading, and I regularly come across words that I'll need defined. A paper dictionary is too clunky; it takes a full minute or two to get to a word. Your phone takes five to ten seconds. I just put it on do-not-disturb and I don't get distracted too much. A little here and there, but not too much.

Anyway, this challenge has really been a positive event for me. I am reading a lot more, I am having fun reading, and I am building a lot of momentum which I will likely carry into next year. Instead of feeling a great deal of friction and resistance around reading, I find that the more I read the easier it is for me to read. It's miraculous.

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