I don’t know about you but I try and spend a little time at the start of each year reviewing my goals from the prior year and thinking about major events that happened. I do this so that I can be sure I am not only setting goals but working to achieve them. As I did some reflection on 2014 I realized that I had read less books than I did in 2013. I also realized that I had not read many more in 2013 than in 2012. So I had spent some time trying to determine what had happened and since reading 12 books is a goal for 2015 (the same goal I didn’t reach in 2014) what I needed to change to allow me to achieve it this time. Here is what I found and what I am going to do. Maybe this process will help you with some of your goal review and planning.
My first observation is that I had a 2 year old and 4 year old at home over the last year. And as they each get older they each have needs and demands of my time that took over my attention in the evenings. So overall I just didn’t allocate as much time to reading as I have in the past. And let’s be honest once you have been wrangling kids for a few hours after a work day reading isn’t the first thing I think about doing. Then when the weekend comes you get 48 full hours with them. Hey I am the one that decided to have kids and love spending time with them and it is a conscious choice but one that has had an effect on my amount of time to read.
My second observation is that I have been bringing a lot more work home. It may only be email or open thoughts but for someone like me they are shiny objects that distract me from focus. For someone like me it is easy to feel productive as a review my email for hours with very little real production because it is the evening and others aren’t there to help me move something forward. With open thoughts I haven’t really worked out a process to put them down in writing and leave them there until I schedule time for them.
My third observation is that I am reading a lot more but it is more short articles and publications. Inc. Magazine is one of the worst for getting my attention because they email me, are on LinkedIn and now even Facebook. So I see articles on all of those channels and many times the same ones so I can reread some two or three times over a week. I am not saying that reading these kinds of material are bad, in most cases they are very thought provoking and worth consideration. But when I am doing it as a mindless exercise I may not capture the nugget from the material. I also am very bad about using an application to save articles to read later but later never comes or when it does I have way too many to read and I let myself get overwhelmed and just go on to doing something else.
My last observation is that like my second one, the platform I am choosing to read on allows me to easily distract myself with other things. Since I have moved over to reading via a Kindle App on my tablet and phone I find it very easy to switch from focused reading to email or other apps that present pop-ups and noises to get my attention. I know I could turn all of that off and just stay in the reading app but until I can easily find a way to lock myself into reading apps for an extended period of time I am going to have to find another way around this.
So what does all of this self-reflection tell me to do this year to be better than last in my reading? First I am going analog for my reading. By doing this I give myself the most freedom from the biggest distractions when I sit down to actually read. That does mean I have to carry the book with me so I have it ready but I don’t find many free moments at random so this shouldn’t be an issue. Since I am not as free to read on a whim as I was a number of years ago I need to schedule my reading time. I know it can’t be when I am exhausted and ready for bed so this will require me to work it out with my wife to set aside a little time each week. I am betting that means I should change my goal of 12 books down a little to factor for less reading time. It is also more fair to my family if they know when I plan to be distracted instead of getting upset when I try to read but they want to build a castle instead. Putting down the noise of the day a time or two a week will not kill me but will take some effort to get in the habit of doing. Over the past 7 months I have become a bit of a gym rat but it took a fair bit of work to get it into my schedule, get everyone around me to know about it and support me in the effort and working through a few slips to get there. Since I have done this I know I can get my reading back on track.
With so many great works to read and reread both for work and pleasure this reflection will likely pay one of the biggest benefits for 2015 and beyond for me. What did you learn about yourself in looking back on 2014 and what will you do to better yourself in 2015. By the way if you won’t take the time to do it why should anyone else? Shoot me a note with your thoughts and reflections.