While I love adventure, I also love a plan. I really find value in being intentional with my time and energy. And this applies to reading as well.
I didn’t start reading to learn until about a year and a half after college. I know this because I checked my Amazon orders, and in November of 2014 and January of 2015 were my first few non fiction books that some would call “personal development” or “self improvement” focused. What’s wild to me is that was only 7 years ago. I loved reading as a kid but when I was forced to read “Award winning” fiction in high school and then college, I just was not into it. In high school, I read Spark Notes and in college, I read enough to get by.
If you know me well, you may be surprised by this. I love to learn, but I do not like when someone else tells me what to learn. I like to choose and have control over what that is. So in 2015 I started to direct my own learning. Since 2015, I’ve read somewhere between 400-500 books. If I read about 400 over 8 years, that’s about 50 a year which is just shy of a book a week. I don’t share that to boast, but instead to share that when you start to see the fruit of the effort and energy you put into something, it creates momentum.
For me, those first few years of reading was the momentum. Now, it’s a part of my daily routine and I genuinely love it. I try to read about 1 chapter of a book each morning at minimum. More than that is great, but 1 chapter is all I aim for. This is what has helped me create a rhythm of reading.
So for 2023, I thought about how I want to structure my goal to learn. In previous years, I usually had a book goal and would either borrow a book from the library, read what’s on my shelf, read something a friend lent to me, or grab a book at the bookstore. I didn’t really have a plan on what to read or when to read it. I just picked something up.
Over the last few years I’ve tried to be more intentional about my goals and make sure they connect to my “why”. For me, learning and sharing is a huge part of why I read. While yes, I read for myself, I also read in a large part so I can share what I’ve learned with others. Not everyone loves to read or wants to dedicate hours a week to reading. So I find that I can serve others by reading the books and then giving my own version of Spark Notes (Steph Notes) if you will to them. I try to make sure to highlight important passages and either write them down or type them so I can share them in the future. It’s also why I try (and plan to be even more intentional this year) with sharing summaries or takeaways from the books I read.
So what does that mean for 2023? What will I be reading?
Well, I went through my entire bookshelf and picked out all the books I’ve been looking at and wanting to read. Then, I cross referenced some of those with some of the “best of 2022” book lists that have come from Podcasters, authors, or friend’s lists. There was one that appeared on 3 people I respect lists’s so that one automatically got added to my “must read” pile. Then I thought about my word for this year, and the goals I have for the year. I broke down those into 4 quarterly focuses for myself. You might be thinking, you already have a word of the year why do you need more focuses? I know. This may be odd, but I’ve actually done some version of this since 2020. I find a lot of value in being incredibly intentional with certain topics or focuses. It serves me well, but may not serve you well. Anyway – back to the books.
I went through and have 4 quarterly focuses. They are Consistency Compounds, Contentment, Love and Abide. In the beginning of a new year, I know that consistency in the habits and routines is what creates momentum for the rest of the year so – Consistency Compounds is my focus for Q1. In Q2, I chose Contentment because I will be coming out of the Contentment Challenge where I do 90 days of no buying clothing, decor, books, and other non needed items as well as following some stricter guidelines for food spending. Rather than doing a focus on contentment in Q1, where I already have this Contentment Challenge in place, I thought it would be better to do it in Q2, when I have finished up the challenge, but want to remain focused on keeping contentment in my heart. Q3 is focused on love because Teddy and I get married in June and Q3 will be our first three months of marriage, so let’s be intentional! And then in Q4 I chose abide because it’s easy to get distracted from what matters most around the holidays and end of the year. I want to be intentional abiding in Jesus during this time and planning for what that looks like prior to the holidays getting here. So with those focuses in mind, these are the books I chose for each month.
Q1 – Consistency Compounds
- January – Tranquility by Tuesday
- February – Psychology of Money
- March – Redeeming Your Time
Q2 – Contentment
- April – Intentional living
- May – Own your Past
- June – The Common Rule
Q3 – Love
- July – Fair Play
- August – Boundaries in Marriage
- September – Power of One More
Q4 – Abide
- October – Three Mile Walk
- November – Gentle and Lowly
- December – Moment Maker
Will I read more books than this? Yes, very likely. Do I know what all those are? No, not exactly. The 12 books above are all sitting together on a shelf in my study. I also then have about 12 other books on another shelf sitting to be read. Those are kind of my Plan B books. Other than that, I’ll read most books through the Libby app with the local Library and download them to the Kindle app to read. My intention is that by planning out 12 books I really want to read, they get read. Especially if I have a month or so to read them. Then the rest of the month I can be flexible. I know that “discipline = freedom” as Jocko Willink says, so by being disciplined about these 12, I have freedom in the rest of the books I read.
So there you have it, my plans for 2023 reads. At the end of the year, I’ll share what I did read, what didn’t happen, as well as what I liked and stopped reading which I track in the Good Reads app.
If you’re looking for one way to be more purposeful with your reading goals for 2023, even if you set a book # goal, choose 2-5 books you know would be beneficial for you to read. Chose a timeframe to read them. Then, everything else is a bonus. This way you focused on effortful reads, before those that may be more effortless. (I’ll talk more about this tip in an upcoming post so stay tuned!)