Don’t Just Say You Want to Read More: Plan!

The #t4g12 book pile

“That seems like a lot of reading… how do you do it?”

This question was brought to the front of my mind once again thanks to a discussion on Twitter where I revealed I’ve read 67 books so far in 2012.[1. It should be noted that one of those books is actually three books, and another book I’m reading with my daughter is a collection of seven individual ones. So that number might actually be higher.]

Apparently this is a lot.

As readers here know, I read a lot, and although I have my moments when I wonder whether or not books can become a burden, the more I have to read the better. But reading 10, 20, 50 or 100+ books a year doesn’t just happen.

It takes planning.

Because I have a lot going on in life (family, work, writing, study, etc.), it can be a bit daunting to add new things to my plate—in order to do something, I usually have to stop doing something else. And it all requires a plan.

So what’s mine? It’s actually pretty simple:

I try to set aside at least 30-45 minutes a day to read.

The average person reads between 250 words per minute, which works out to roughly 3/4-1 page each minute. In general, I find that I’m pretty average in this regard. Some books I whip through much faster, others I really carefully take my time with. Increasingly I’m trying to vary content so I don’t start skimming unnecessarily. I’ll jump from a book on business to one on theology to a classic work of fiction and so on.

But just like my personal study time, my reading time is one of the few chunks of time I try to guard. For me, this time is immensely helpful for my mental, emotional and spiritual health (not surprising since I’m an introvert).

It’s part of the culture of our home as well, a habit we’re trying to encourage in our children as well. Currently my oldest daughter and I are working through The Chronicles of Narnia series and every night, she keeps asking what’s going to happen next. That’s something I want to encourage and keep her going with.

So we plan to do it.

And if you want to read more, you need to plan to do it, too.

So, here’s my challenge for you (and it’s one I’ve issued in the past):

Set aside 30 minutes every day for the next week and read… well, read whatever will be beneficial for you. 30 minutes a day isn’t a lot of time and you’ll wind up reading a roughly 200 page book in about a week.

How do you do it? Here are three ways you can carve out 30 minutes:

  1. Cut out 30 minutes of TV a day
  2. Look for “dead space” in your schedule; you’ve probably got at least one hour a day that could be used
  3. Read with a friend or with a group (something Tim Challies does a great job of facilitating on his blog)

The point is this: However, you set up your day, plan to read, otherwise you won’t do it. Guard your time, otherwise you won’t do it.

Take up the challenge. Make a plan and get reading.

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.

Reader interactions

7 Replies to “Don’t Just Say You Want to Read More: Plan!”

  1. Each year I set a reading goal for myself and make a list of books I plan to read; it’s just a list to work off, but I allow myself to deviate from it. Like Jennifer, I have been able to increase my reading with audiobooks. I usually have several books I’m reading at any given time, and I always have one loaded on my Ipod so I can listen when I walk the dogs, cook dinner, etc. It may not work for everyone, but I’ve found it useful. My goal for this year is 50 books and I’ve finished 29 so far (currently in the
    middle of 3 and abandoned one because I decided it wasn’t profitable
    reading). I don’t quit books very often, but I believe life is too short and there are so many good books waiting to be read to waste time reading junk.

  2. […] love reading lots and lots and lots, and being intentional about reading is essential. But there’s something unhealthy about the mindset of having to “win” at it that […]

  3. I’ve been following Tim Challies with the Horner Bible reading system, so that’s taken up a chunk of my previous reading time (usually at bedtime), although I’m still getting through a fair few books. Nowhere near 67 though! I also am reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my eldest daughter – are you following me 😮 (Read LW&W, Prince Caspian, Horse & His Boy, and currently reading The Magicians Nephew)

    1. Awesome! Glad we’re both reading our girls the Narnia books. 🙂 We’re through *The Magician’s Nephew*, *The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe*, and are nearly done *The Horse and His Boy*. Looking forward to getting into *Prince
      Caspian* either the end of this week, beginning of next.

  4. […] of years ago I realized that I needed to build time to read theology into my schedule. Here is a blog post about that idea. Armstrong says some good things about planning. Let me add a few things after two […]

  5. Jennifer Ekstrand July 31, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    A reading regimen has not been my experience. I’ve always enjoyed reading, and reading has always taken a significant amount of my time, but it has generally not been significantly planned. Occasionally I use reading to help me plan other things- like spending an afternoon at the library as a reward for accomplishing a taxing to-do list in the morning or alternating 20 minutes of spring cleaning with 20 minutes of reading a good book, or getting a good audio book to listen to while washing dishes (there is a high correlation between my having a good audio book and having a clean kitchen). I guess I feel like I read because of passion, not planning. Times in which I’ve noticed myself not reading as much as usual it is generally because either I’m trying to read a book I’m not enjoying or there is something wrong in my life (like illness or personal tragedy).

    I can see some benefit for a plan (proficiency is likely to make reading more enjoyable, and generally reading more increases reading proficiency), but it makes it sound a bit like flossing.

    So, if I were trying to help someone read more, my advice would be a little different. I would suggest freedom to put down bad books. I would suggest searching for something they love reading–whether it is P.G. Wodehouse or a historical look at wood houses (although the latter isn’t particularly high on my list)–something that makes it hard to stop reading.

  6. I am in the over 45 crowd, and as our female brains get around to that age, sometimes our concentration can begin to wax and wane. I have found that reading in the morning is the easiest way to carve out the most productive time for reading. If I attempt to read in the afternoon, it has to be something pretty light. I do all my heavier reading early. I also got into the habit of getting up early because as you know, once the kids are up, it can be difficult to find that time.

    Thanks Aaron, for this great encouragement for reading.

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