Hacking Reading Motivation to Read More Books

Learn what motivates you to read (and, more importantly, what doesn’t) so you can read more books this year.

I am a goal setter. I love setting goals in every area of my life and striving year round to achieve them.

Last year in December I was inspired to make it a goal in 2020 to read all of the books I had been gifted from other people that had been sitting around my house collecting dust. Here was my Instagram post proclaiming my goal:

Shortly after that post I was invited to a reading challenge on Facebook. The challenge included:

  • JANUARY: a self-help book written by a woman
  • FEBRUARY: a book with a face on the cover
  • MARCH: a “cli-fi” (climate fiction) novel or book about a natural disaster
  • APRIL: a book that will make you LOL
  • MAY: a book published in the year you were born
  • JUNE: an epistolary novel
  • JULY: a classic you haven’t read and you are slightly embarrassed that you haven’t yet read it
  • AUGUST: a book set in a place you want to visit, but haven’t yet
  • SEPTEMBER: a book that has been translated into English
  • OCTOBER: a non-fiction book in a discipline outside your wheelhouse
  • NOVEMBER: a memoir by a person of color
  • DECEMBER: a book with a strong female lead

At the time I thought why not!? The challenge would help me expand my horizons and read books in categories I wouldn’t normally choose. Plus I would have a chance to meet other readers and get recommendations from them. So I joined the group.

I set my Reading Challenge goal on Goodreads to 24 books for the year (2 books per month). I started out strong in January completing 3 books. The next month I finished 2 books. Then coronavirus hit.

Even though I was “locked down” in the house with nowhere to go and seemingly plenty of time to read, there was something about the total disruption to normal life that stopped me from reading. I was out of my daily routine. I kept thinking it was temporary and that I would start reading again once things went back to normal. After 12 weeks of living in pajamas and binge watching shows on Netflix, I finally decided I needed to proactively create some new routines for myself.

On June 1st I set a new goal to read just 10 pages per day. It was a small baby step to get myself back into the habit of reading, but I was amazed to see how quickly I could get through books by just reading 10 pages a day. I stuck to that goal diligently for three months, and in that time I completed 6 more books.

Then I experienced more ups and downs as we faced new challenges in our routines when the kids went back to school and then were home again and then back in school again. Similarly, sports and activities were on again, off again. The constant changes wreaked havoc on my mental state and ability to maintain healthy habits.

In the end I finished my Reading Challenge with 22 out of the 24 books I’d planned to read in 2020. I’m disappointed that I didn’t quite reach my goal, but I learned a lot in 2020 about myself and what motivates me to read. As I thought through that a bit, I realized I needed to make some changes to my reading plan in 2021.

What I learned about reading motivation

First of all, I realized that I need to stick to books that I know (or believe) that I will enjoy. Sure, reading books other people gave me helped me discover a couple of new favorites that I probably never would have selected on my own, i.e. Educated [affiliate link] by Tara Westover and Keep Quiet [affiliate link] by Lisa Scottoline. However, mixing in a gifted book here and there would probably be better for me than trying to read them all back-to-back in a year. If I feel like I have to read a book, it’s less motivating than if I choose the book for myself.

Second, I discovered that reading books as an assignment (i.e. a book published in the year you were born) doesn’t work for me. I researched books for each category and came up with selections I thought I would enjoy, but reading those books still felt like a chore.

A new approach

Going into 2021, I decided to be less strict with my reading plan. I still want to read 24 books in the year (averaging 2 per month), but this year I decided to take the following approach:

  • I made myself a list of books by authors I’ve already read and enjoyed. This gives me something easy to select when I’ve finished one book and am ready to start the next.
  • I joined LeaderBooks (Michael Hyatt’s book club for leaders) and am planning to read each of his monthly selections. I tend to love non-fiction, so I think this will be more successful for me.
  • I keep a running list of book recommendations from a book group I run for the Remotive Slack community. I’ll work some of those in when I can.
  • I carried over the list of gifted books that I didn’t complete in 2020. If I want to mix some of those in throughout the year, I will.

So, that’s my reading plan for 2021. Given what I learned in 2020, I expect that I’ll do much better this year!

What’s your reading plan for 2021? Looking for something good to read? Click here for a list of my recent favorites.

Published by Kelly Schuknecht

Kelly Schuknecht is a marketer with a background in the publishing industry. She is passionate about all things related to books and loves helping authors navigate the world of social media for book promotion. She recently launched the course Marketing Your Book on TikTok.

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