How to make a doable reading list for the new year?

How to make a doable reading list for the new year?

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Bear Liu
Β·Jan 7, 2020Β·

5 min read

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It's a brand new year, and you made a new year's resolution of reading more books this year, the same as last year. You told yourself, 'this time, I'll definitely complete my reading goal!' Just as you did the same time the previous year. But then you realised, 'I don't know which books I'm going to read, and I don't even know how many books I want to read this year.' That's not good, but no worries, you are not alone. I've been there too. Here're a few tips that I'm using for setting up my annual reading goal in recent years. It works fine for me and maybe works for you too.

1. Define your themes

Before you decide which books you want to read, define your themes of the year first. Do you have any goals to complete this year? For example, getting promoted, learning a foreign language, or become a Judo master? These are your themes.

For example, if you want a promotion, the related theme could be 'career development.' By defining your themes of the year, you will know your general direction of reading books. Then you can easily research the books align with your themes. You can search the recommendation on Goodreads, Amazon, or just by the advice of friends.

My themes of the year are 'senior designer,' 'family investment,' 'fitter me,' and 'bilingual content creator,' so I know that I need to add lots of design-themed books and financial books to my reading list this year.

2. How many books do you want to read this year?

All the good long-distance runners know a rule when they are training for a marathon: Be realistic. If your longest-running is 5k, don't start a full marathon now. Reading books is the same. Start with how many books you read in the last year. Add approximately 10%-15%.

In the past few years, I kept reading 50 books every year, but 90% of them are Chinese. Last year I managed to read 35 books and 33 of them are in English. This year, I want to read 40 books in total. I think it is a reasonable goal, which can push me to improve, but also not beating myself over the head with books.

3. Check your themes and make choices

Now you have two metrics - themes and the number of books you want to read. You can set the numbers of books for each theme of the year. I have four themes and a goal of reading 40 books in 2020, which means I can equally read 10 books for each theme. But I want to read more books about design and financial because I think these two dimensions are easier to learn by reading books. For the theme 'fitter me,' I want to improve it by do more workouts and pay more attention to my diet. So as the theme 'bilingual content creator,' practice is better than reading.

So I choose at least one book a month for each of my two themes 'design' and 'financial.' After finishing these two books, I'll read a general topic book. Reading like this helps me achieve my big goal for the year, and also enjoy the reading.

4. Add books to your list

Now that you've got your plan start filling out your lists. For me, as a designer works in an Agile team, I've created a reading 'backlog' with heaps of books I'd like to read. I can add a tag '2020' for the books I want to read in 2020 to filter them out. As a nerd, I manage my reading list in Notion, but you can manage it with whatever tools you like, even a piece of paper. I found one of the simple and easy ways to do that is by creating a list of Goodreads.com. I suggest you don't need to strictly add exactly the number of books you want to read to your list. Why? Because...

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5. Your list is flexible!

Yes, your list is flexible, because there will be another 365 days ahead, and you don't know what books you might read later. Leave yourself room to be surprised by books you don't even know right now that you want to read in 2020. You know your themes. You might be lead to books that will teach you something right now, you don't even know you need to learn. But make sure you have a book to start reading immediately. Maybe having 3-4 books ready for reading because it's always good to have options. Maintain your reading list 2-3 times a year, add or remove a few books.

6. Save some money

Books are not cheap, but you don't have to spend thousands of dollars for reading books. Use your library. Check out second-hand stores and your own bookshelves. You can swap books with your friends to read more books too.

7. Don't stick to it

A final suggestion: don't stick to your reading list. Reading list is like a travel guide, it's always good to have one in your pocket, but if you 100% stick to it, your journey will be 100% predictable, which means 'BORING'...Just read the books, and check your reading list occasionally if you need to. Enjoy reading itself, don't create a beautiful reading list and then never read a single book on it.


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