Updated: Oct 1, 2018
I like to read. A lot.
The sad truth is, however, I never seem to have enough time to get to all of the awesome books I’ve acquired.
This summer, I decided to try to rectify that issue: I committed to reading 4,000 pages in 10 weeks. I called it my Summer 4k,.
I set a pace--a little over 50 pages a day--set a path--a list of 14 books--and I started toward my goal. Along the way I did a few things to help increase my chance of getting through my entire list.
At the end of the 10 weeks I had read a little over 4300 pages, 15 books total, and cleared a large selection of my ever-increasing backlog of books off my shelves. It was definitely one of the more rewarding accomplishments I’ve completed in a while, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to grow personally and/or professionally.
If you choose to take on your own 4K, here are a few things you can do to help get through what can be a very challenging task.
1) Make a list of books before you start.
Map out your path to 4,000 pages. Write down the title and length of each book.
I also recommend that you categorize the books into what areas of your life you’re hoping they will improve.
For example, I categorized my books into the various roles I serve in on a daily basis: dad/husband, educator, writer, and researcher. I also included two additional categories: “Sharpen” (from Covey’s "Sharpen the Saw") and entertainment.
My list started like this:
Strong-Willed Child: 213 (Dad / Husband)
A Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter: 250 (Writer)
First Things First: 200 (Sharpen the Saw)
Knowing What Students Know: 382 (Researcher)
Built to Last: 248 (Professional)
Divergent: 487 (Entertainment / Writer)
Decision Points: 477 (Sharpen / Professional)
Measuring Up: 368 (Researcher)
Left to Tell: 210 (Professional)
Miss Peregrine’s: 343 (Entertainment / Writer)
The Odyssey: 462 (Sharpen / Writer)
Trading for a Living: 270 (Trading / Entertainment)
Innovator’s Mindset: 232 (Professional)
Making sure I had a list of books that addressed several different aspects of my life helped me avoid burning myself out on any one particular topic.
Also, I said that I started with the above list because….
2) Don’t be afraid to change your list.
The world is full of great books, and often, those books will lead you to investigate other books.
You’ll see other books listed in footnotes, in reference sections, or quoted throughout the books you’re reading. You’ll have conversations about the books you’re reading, and those conversations will lead you to even more books.
What you don’t want to do is let your original list limit you. The original list is just one path toward your 4,000 pages. There are an infinite number of equally viable and awesome paths.
For example, I started The Odyssey as my third book in my challenge.
Huge mistake. Seriously, I’m all for the classics, but….
I stopped after a dozen pages or so.
Again, there are so many books out there. Move on. Read something else.
I added nine books to my original list over the ten weeks: When (Daniel Pink), Checklist Manifesto (Atul Gawande), Linchpin (Seth Godin), Platform (Michael Hyatt), The End of Average (Todd Rose), Where Good Ideas Come From (Steven Johnson), Daily Rituals (Mason Currey), Traction (Gino Wickman), and Start With Why (Simon Sinek).
And some of these additions were some of the best books I’ve ever read (i.e. The End of Average...so good). Had I stuck to my original list, I may have missed out on some truly great books.
3) Stack your books somewhere visible that you’ll see every day.
This goes for your “to be read” pile and your “already read” pile. Having the books you intend on reading somewhere visible allows the stack to serve as a daily reminder that you have a goal that you’re trying to accomplish, and if that stack remains the same size for too long, the little gremlins inside your brain start to go crazy.
Just as important is to put your completed books somewhere visible to remind you of what you’ve accomplished.
I placed my “to be read” books on the corner of my desk near where I put my wallet and keys, and I stacked my completed books on a shelf under my lamp near my reading chair in my office.
4) Download the Kindle app on your phone.
Even if you prefer to read physical paper books, I highly recommend having at least one or two books that you can read digitally via the Kindle app. You’d be surprised how much reading you can get done while sitting in line at the grocery store, waiting for a meeting to get started, or after you’ve snoozed your alarm five times but still lazily awaiting the day in bed.
Taking advantage of every brief 2-3 minute reading opportunity can really add up.
Also, if you don’t have one, an actual Kindle is a great investment for anyone who likes to read. I find having a device that is dedicated to only reading--instead of a phone or tablet with all of the potentially distracting apps and internet capabilities--has been critical to accomplishing my reading goals.
5) Make your Kindle app more accessible than your social media apps.
Quick launch bars on phones are awesome for getting into your most used apps quickly and increasing your productivity.
However, for that same reason, those same quick launch bars can be a huge stumbling block to your reading goals. If Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Medium, Twitter, YouTube, etc. are all just as easy to access as your Kindle app, that could possibly be a problem.
When I started my 4k, I banished my social media apps to my general apps folder. This put Kindle front and center and increased my chances of opening it instead of watching yet another un-boxing video.
6) Listen to audiobooks every chance you get.
Now some people may consider this cheating, but four of my fifteen books were audiobooks.
Commuting, mowing, washing dishes, doing laundry, working out: all great opportunities to add to your reading time.
If you struggle with retaining information when listening to (rather than reading) books, one thing you can do to increase your retention is to start a reading journal specifically for your audiobooks. When you complete whatever task you’re doing while listening (i.e. finished mowing, arrived at work), pull out a journal (or a piece/pad of paper works just as well) and write down 3-5 things that you found important, meaningful, or memorable from the audiobook. Do this a few times, and you’ll find that you will begin to listen with purpose.
If you've yet to try audiobooks, Audible is a good place to start (use the link below and get two free audiobooks).
7) Share your goal, your progress, and significant quotes on social media.
While social media can be a huge time sink, it can also be a great place for asking friends to hold you accountable for your goals.
Let people know what you’re doing. Keep them updated on your progress. Let them know about what you read and what interesting bits of knowledge you picked up along the way. As people “like”, comment on, and share your posts, the addictive power of social media interactions will only motivate you to read more.
You never know: you might just inspire someone to pick up one of the books you recommended.
8) Schedule time to read. Make it a habit.
Treat your reading time with the same respect you would any other appointment. Schedule a time where you can read comfortably and without distraction. Set alarms, tell your significant other your plan, and stick to it.
I scheduled one night a week as a reading night, and I read for about three hours on those nights.
I also made it a point to get up an extra fifteen minutes earlier every day for the sole purpose of reading more. Even that small amount of time added up to an extra two hours of reading time each week.
9) Read more than one book at a time.
This one is probably not for everyone, but this was my routine:
I had one paper book that remained by my office chair for my morning reading time.
I had one digital book on my Kindle app for quick reading opportunities.
I had one audiobook for my commute and during chores.
I had one paper book in my work bag for reading during lunch.
As long as I can remember, I’ve always read multiple books at one time. My brain doesn’t have a problem with keeping things compartmentalized, but I know this doesn’t work for all readers.
Find out what works for you.
10) Cut down on other entertainment options and replace them with reading.
Binge on a book instead of a TV show. Buy a new book instead of going out to the movies. Close Facebook and open a book.
What may feel like a sacrifice at first will turn into a very rewarding experience.
If you choose to embark on your own 4k, understand that this challenge is just that: a challenge.
Be diligent. Be consistent. Take advantage of every opportunity you can to read (or listen) to a few pages.
The effort is worth it.