Read Like a Turtle: How to Meet Your Reading Goals
Updated: Feb 4
You are one chapter into that book that everyone has been talking about. You got that far a month ago but haven't been able to get any further--and there are five more books on your shelf you wish you could get to! I have been there. Its frustrating when we see so much good reading material out there without any idea how to get through it all. Even if your goal is simply to make it through one good book, here are some things I do that I think will help you to read meet your reading goals.
Be the tortoise, not the hare. This is a classic tortoise and hair situation. Many times, we try to sprint with one book occasionally rather than take short, consistent walks with the book each day. We have the motivation and a few hours, so we make our way through large chunks (honestly, I love to do this when the time is there for the taking). The reality is, we don’t have that kind of time regularly, or the motivation. Instead, I try to aim for small steps each day, rather than large chunks at random times. Remember this as you pick up a new book. The tortoise wins the race with small, steady steps, but the hare sometimes doesn’t even finish.
Know this: you can read 20 books a year if you read just 15 minutes per day. I think about what John Piper said here often:
“Suppose you read about 250 words a minute and that you resolve to devote just 15 minutes a day to serious theological reading to deepen your grasp of biblical truth. In one year (365 days) you would read for 5,475 minutes. Multiply that times 250 words per minute and you get 1,368,750 words per year. Now most books have between 300 and 400 words per page. So if we take 350 words per page and divide that into 1,368,750 words per year, we get 3,910 pages per year. This means that at 250 words a minute, 15 minutes a day, you could read about 20 average sized books a year!”
Now, imagine you had a list of the 20 best books you would like to read (make that list if you don’t have it!). In a year’s time, you could be through reading them. And if you read rightly with life change in mind, this next year could be one of special growth in your life. Be a tortoise and get to reading for at least 15 minutes a day! This one thought has easily been the most significant in my aspirations to be a reader.
Dedicate a specific place and time to reading. I devote a specific place and time in the morning to reading. When everyone else is asleep, I have some quiet time with my coffee there next to me and a comfortable space to read. This may not work for you, but it does for me. Some enjoy outside, others a coffee shop or the comfort of their own living-room couch. Some enjoy the mornings and others the evening—or anything in between. Find a motivating time and place for yourself and make a conscious effort to mark it off for reading.
This pairs well with the 15 minutes-a-day theory from above. Wake up 15 minutes early or read for the last 15 minutes of your lunch break. Choose to read at night and watch one less episode (oof, I feel that one). There are 1,440 minutes in every day. Surely you can set aside 15 of those, which comes out to be a whopping 1.04 % of your day. Small, scheduled steps are a helpful companion to the tortoise.
Remove distractions. I don’t try to read with the TV on or my phone right there next to me—it’s too distracting and I soon give up reading for whatever the lazier consumption is. Reading is hard work sometimes and that makes it easier to choose the passive task over the more difficult, beneficial one. Even when the reading is easy work, it will still be difficult to retain or be changed by what you have read with other things vying for your attention. The hare got distracted and that is why he lost the race. Find a place to focus and spend less time with distractions.
Pick the best books. If you read books that don’t hold your attention, then of course you won’t be excited to read. Pick books whose content excites you, or challenges you, or leaves you thinking more about the content. Still challenge yourself to read good books that are difficult but work to find reading that you enjoy. This is the kind of reading that will motivate you to continue on. When you read good books, you will be motivated to read more good books. So make a list of the best books and start reading! (Here are quite a few of my recent favorites).