I always perform better with a goal, so for the past couple years I’ve set a reading goal. In 2013, I read 28 books. 2014: 43. 2015: 48. 2016: 70. Every year, I tried to set the bar higher to challenge myself even more. At the beginning of 2017, I’d already decided I wanted to read less because, well, life… In 2016 we purchased a house with my parents to flip (using this term loosely) and a new fixer upper for ourselves. I knew I couldn’t healthily stretch my reading any further, so I set my goal at 60 books for the year. Despite the foresight of adjusting the goal, I’m not even going to come close that. Normally this would mean stressing out about this arbitrary number and frantically trying to reach it. But not this year… I’ve realized reading less was a good thing.
My reading has gone up and up over the years, and I regularly consume more articles than almost anyone I know. It became a joke between me and Samantha that every time she brought up something she’d found online, I’d already seen it. For 3-4 years in a row, I was also a top consumer (meaning top 1-2% on the whole site) on Pocket which is a place to save articles for later reading. I’ve been in a ferocious consumption phase where I’m always striving to learn, and I’ve really enjoyed pushing myself to consume. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but at some point I realized I’d gotten off track.
Lessons I learned along the way
I need to slow down.
Sometimes in the drive to get better, we lose sight of our actual goals. In my striving to read more, I gave myself less time to reflect on what I was reading. While I did make some intentional decisions to slow down in 2017, I still found myself trying to speed to the end of a book and onto the next. When I’d sit down to reflect, I’d find myself getting antsy to get onto the next thing, so sometimes I’d even rush through my reflection (that’s gotta be a contradiction, right?). For 2018, I’ve decided I want to take an even more intentional path by taking my time, being more reflective, and not pushing so hard.
I can consume in other ways.
The major reason for my jump in consumption in 2016 was the introduction of audio books (I love you Audible – Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks). I’d listened to them before, but by the end of 2016 Samantha and I had purchased 60 audio books. Audio books became one of my favorite ways to consume books. It still is, but in 2017 I started listening to more podcasts. When I started having guilt because that time wasn’t being used for “reading books,” I knew my priorities were off. If the priority was learning, I was still learning by listening to these podcasts. Also, the lower barrier to entry on podcasts allowed me to take in content on different topics before I dove into reading about them. It gave me an “intro course” into subjects I’d put off learning about and gave me confidence to dive in and learn these topics.
Focusing solely on a reading goal meant I neglected other ways to consume just to meet my goal. How ridiculous.
I want to produce more.
In so many ways, to produce good content, you need to consume. But in other ways, they’re a dichotomy. Any time consuming is time you can’t produce. I thought reading more would give me good content to blog/write about. It did, but that consumption desire actually lead to less writing instead of more. In my case, consumption won over production. In 2016, I was able to overcome that tide because of excitement, but before this post I’d only wrote one blog post in 2017. I became overwhelmed. The rush to consume finally overwhelmed me and pushed other things away. The goal is these other steps will lead to more output and production!
This process has been a valuable lesson for me. Out of good desires came a few undesired results. And really, if you look around, this is more common than we might admit. By getting too focused on a singular goal, it led to habits that were detrimental and caused stress that was unnecessary. In 2018, here are some new habits I want to form.
The changes we’re making
First, let me back up and walk you through some realizations I came to this year:
- We (Samantha and I) don’t like a dirty house. It eats away at us.
- I’m not good with waking up at different times each day.
- Neither of us wakes up in a good mood if our alarms are set at different times.
- I need to get better at processing my thoughts.
For us, this translated to the following:
Get up at the same time every day.
This one is tough, but I feel it is necessary. It’s tough because that means getting up early. Working out 3 days a week means some days I’d be up at 5:30 AM and other days I’d sleep to 7 AM. On those 7 AM days I was still waking up early and then going back to bed. When I’d wake up at 7 AM, I’d feel like death. Literal death. Consistent wake time appears to be essential for my mood in the mornings. So, the only way to fix this is to wake up at the time I’d wake up to work out. Initially I’m going to try and workout daily… we’ll see how that goes. If that’s not the groove I need, I’ll use the extra time to work on projects that always seem to escape during the evening. I’m not sure of the details at this moment, but the goal is set: wake up at 5:30 AM daily.
I told myself I’d journal this year and did it sporadically. Unfortunately the rush to consume bit me on this one. When I do journal, I always get value, but I’ve struggled to make it a habit. I’ve given myself some structure (thanks Michael Hyatt) and plan to make this part of the morning routine. Also, I’ve challenged Samantha to a competition. She’ll write, I’ll journal. Whoever does it more days in 2018 gets bragging rights. What’s the prize for the winner you ask? We don’t need prizes. The shame of losing is motivation enough.
Set an evening routine.
We’re still working this out, but this is a combined result of the consistent morning wake up time and the desire for a clean house. So many times we’d sit on the couch and realize it was past our necessary bedtime. Lack of planning lead to unintentional self-sabotage. I say unintentional, but I believe a lack of planning is a form of intentional sabotage. Have we not learned enough over the years to realize the result of these actions? I think we have… Anyways, after dinner each night, we’ll spend a short time cleaning and preparing for our bed time. Hopefully less than 30 minutes later we’ll plan how to spend the rest of our evening with the goal of getting to sleep at 10 PM. The idea behind this is so many times we’ll sit down for dinner on the couch and spend the rest of the evening on Netflix. By breaking that time up, we’ll have to make a decision of what to do after we clean. I want my decisions to be intentional and purposeful. If my goal is to get something done, I want to make that choice at 6:30-7 PM instead of remember it right before bedtime and sabotage my 5:30 AM alarm.
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned in 2017 and planned for in 2018. What are some things you’ve learned and plan to change in 2018?