My last goal setting post started to get unexpectedly long, so I decided to split it up. We left after setting your Main Goal, and our example was:
Read 150 books within a calendar year (Jan 1-Dec 31) by Dec 31, 2026.
That’s an awesome goal, and checks all the important boxes:
- S pecific
- M easurable
- A ttainable
- R ealistic
- T ime-bound
Now how do you get there? First you have to know where you are right now. In our example, you read 6 books in 2015. Now you need a road map from 6 to 150, over the next 10 years. You’re reading about 0.5 books per month, and you want to be reading 12.5 books per month by Jan 1, 2026. That’s not going to happen overnight, which is why we are making this a long term goal, over the next 10 years. You don’t want to just go “okay I’ve got 10 years to do that” without any way to really see if you’re getting there. That’s why we set sub-goals.
The easiest way to create sub-goals is to split the main goal up into increments. To read 150 books in a year, you’ll have to read 100 books in a year at some point. So that part is easy enough. There are lots of mathematical ways to decide; you do what makes sense to you. I’m going to pick 25 as a good increment, so here are the sub-goals you get:
- Read 125 books in a calendar year
- Read 100 books in a calendar year
- Read 75 books in a calendar year
- Read 50 books in a calendar year
- Read 25 books in a calendar year
Next you want to figure out when you’ll need to do each of those, to get to your Main Goal of 150 in 2026. You could just split them up evenly over time, or weight them by percent increase. First, though, you should determine what you have to change to read more.
To figure out how to get through more books, you have to figure out why you’re reading at your current rate. There’s two main possibilities: you’re not spending much time reading, and/or you read very slowly. To read more, you can read faster, and/or spend more time reading. You can probably see here how you’ll go back and forth a bit between Action Plans, and Sub-Goals. Let’s assume you need to do some of each, i.e. spend more time reading, and read faster. Let’s say you spend about 3 hours/week reading, which works out to 156 hours per year, and 26 hours/book. Reading at that rate, you’d have to work up to spending 3900 hours/year, or 75 hours per week, reading. That’s probably not very realistic. There will be a cap, at some point, on how much time you can actually spend reading. If you don’t spend any additional time reading, you’ll have to read each book in under an hour. Also not going to happen. Obviously you’re going to have to increase both. Let’s try to imagine what you’ll want to be doing in 2026. If you averaged 90 minutes per day, which seems pretty easy, that would be just under 550 hours that year. That’s still only about 3.5 hours per book, and not very likely. It takes you 26 hours to read a book now. I’ll save you the walk-through, but doubling that reading speed you’d have to read just under 40 hours/week. Tripling it, 25 hours/week. Doubling it (13 hours/book) is probably pretty realistic. If you really wanted to get into this you’d work out pages per minute and stuff to really figure out what you think you could get to. You also might come to realize your Main Goal is too high. That’s fine, too. Just adjust it, so it’s realistic.
Let’s figure out how you would get up to an average of 40 hours/week. Let’s just go ahead and assume you don’t have any kids under 15 – actually that you won’t in 2026. Let’s also assume you work a 40 hour week. You read 3 hours/week now. When? Half an hour, to an hour in bed more nights than not, probably. Simple enough to make a point of going to bed in time to read for an hour every night. That’s 7 hours/week, and 33 left to find. What do you do on your lunch break? Well, read! Let’s say you can average around 30 minutes/day at lunch, and on breaks. Another 2.5 hours; 9.5, 30.5 to go. How do you get to work? If you drive, can you switch to transit of some kind? If you live in a larger city, that’s probably an hour each way, so another 10 hours per week. 19.5 – we’re half way there, and saving you money on gas! You probably watch some amount of TV or movies every night, so take all or part of that, and read a couple of hours in the evening, giving you 10 more. You’re at 29.5, and we haven’t really touched the weekends yet. Add 3-4 hours/day on the weekends, and you’re up to 36 hours/week. You’re short four hours per week still, but this is actually about how much reading you can do in a year, not in a week. You need to fit in 208 more hours over the year. You’re going to take two or three sick days during the year, and if this is the thing you’re working toward, you’ll spend those in bed, reading all day. Call that 20. Eight or nine long weekends, and you’ll use that for catching up, too, no doubt. Call that 30. Sprinkle in a couple of binge-reading nights each month, and some binge-days on weekends, for another 130 hours or so, maybe more. Now you’ve got 20-30 hours left to find. Well, that shouldn’t be a problem during your vacation on the beach! We’ve found all the hours we need to in the year, and most of what you’ve done is just make reading your primary leisure activity.
So that walks through the process of figuring out the mechanic of reaching your goal. You now know, in this case, what you need to be doing in 2026. From there, you start to lay out a map for you get from where you are now, to where you will be then. That will be Part 3! (Can’t believe this is getting so long and complex, but I’m having fun writing it! Hopefully it helps some people out.)