The 100-Book March: A Reading Challenge

books on brown wooden shelf
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

I’ve always been a meticulous record-keeper when it comes to keeping track of what I read and when. I use Goodreads (and a spreadsheet) to do that. While I always set a yearly reading goal, I usually pick the number I know I’m going to read anyway.

This year I’m attempting to read 100 books. I set this goal not because I care that deeply about quantifying my reading but because I want to change some bad habits. Late last year, I realized I’d fallen into the rut of using my pockets of free time to skim news headlines or scroll through Instagram for the hundredth time. Having a yearly reading goal that’s big and bold is a reminder to use my found time to read instead. So far, it’s going well. (Admittedly, the last couple of weeks have been difficult since I went back to obsessively reading the news for COVID-19 updates.)

Because I don’t want to turn reading into a job, I set some rules for myself when I started this journey in January:

No selecting books based on how long they are. I don’t want to try to “trick” the system by purposely seeking out short books or avoiding long books. I read what I want without regard for how it will impact my goal.

Quit books that aren’t working for me. I’ve always been a joyous and enthusiastic un-finisher of books I don’t like. I never count unfinished books in my yearly lists, and I won’t force myself to keep reading a book I’m not enjoying just to put it on this year’s list. When I force myself to keep going on a book that isn’t speaking to me, I end up reading less because I avoid reading altogether!

Don’t stress about monthly goals. In order to reach 100 books in a year, I need to read about 8.5 books a month. But tracking that closely stresses me out. I’m avoiding looking at numbers and instead focusing on using any extra free time I have in a day to read. Some months are going to be busier than others. I’m okay with that. (March has been a splendid reading month so far because of Spring Break and because I can’t go anywhere.)

Celebrate the positives. If I don’t make it to 100 by the end of the year, I’m fine with that. What I care about is renewing my commitment to books (and breaking some of my bad technology habits). Part of the fun of setting a goal is the time spent working toward it. So far, it’s been a fun little project.

Do you set reading goals? How many books do you read a year? How do you find ways to read more?

Do You Read Fiction? Turns Out It’s Good for You!

stack of books in shelf
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I wrote about the benefits of reading literary fiction for  Harvard Business Review last week. I interviewed some really interesting people who are bringing guided literature discussions to a place you’d least expect: corporate America.

You can read my article, “The Case for Reading Fiction,” here. Come back and tell me you always knew reading fiction was good for the soul!

Do you think you could talk your organizational leadership into doing reading groups?

 

 

Achievement Addiction Is a Real Thing

achievement confident free freedom
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

I’m an achievement addict, and I’m working on breaking that addiction.

Before I go on, I want to be clear that this isn’t a humble brag. This is not the equivalent of the person who walks around fake-lamenting about how they wish they weren’t so talented at absolutely everything! This isn’t about talent; it’s about a deep emotional attachment to defining myself by what I produce.

I’m talking about a mindset where the search for achievement overrides everything else. It’s a kind of obsession that drives every decision you make. It’s exhausting and it’s dangerous. It sustains ideologies about work that are bad for everyone. It’s a monolithic goal that stands in the way of happiness because it clouds judgment and overvalues production.

I wrote about it here: “Don’t Fall in Love with Achievement.”

Let me know if you can relate.

 

 

Have You Accidentally Joined a Cult? Me Too!

neon signage
Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

I’m pretty convinced these days that productivity often functions as a cult. Do you ever feel like you are committing a cardinal sin if you aren’t constantly trying to maximize your output and produce as much as possible? Do you feel guilty about not doing something productive? Do you fetishize being busy as a way of feeling important?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might be in the productivity cult. And once in, it’s so hard to get out. So hard!

Here’s an article I wrote about how to know if you are in the cult or not. It’s very subtly titled Productivity Is a Cult: It’s Time to Deprogram Yourself and Exit.

When your productivity practice becomes the goal — and you are no longer thinking about what you produce, how you produce it, and whether or not you should produce anything at all — you might have become a productivity cult member.

Don’t feel bad if you are card-carrying member because you are not alone. Let’s practice un-brainwashing together.

Tell me how you will resist the productivity cult.

 

My Favorite Books of 2019

Choosing my favorites is hard because I read a lot of good stuff. I’ll cheat by using categories.

Best Historical Fiction
The Island of Sea Women

 

Best Set in a Boarding School Book (my favorite sub-genre)
The Swallows

 

Best Book about an Old Lady Serial Killer (also a nominee for Best Use of Cross-stitch)An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good

 

Best Psychological Thriller
The Turn of the Key

 

Best Romantic Comedy
The Unhoneymooners

 

Best Nonfiction That Scared Me Half to Death
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

 

Best Sequel
Olive, Again

 

Best Weird Book
The Need

 

Best Nonfiction That Confirms the World Is Terrible
The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters

 

Best “Change Your Life” Book
The Myths of Happiness

Best Overall (Tie)
Home Fire  Girls Burn Brighter

 

The Main Reason You Aren’t Writing? Probably Distraction

notebook
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

It’s impossible to write well if you are distracted (says I, who is currently writing this while watching the subpar episode of The Office where Jim buys Pam a house).

Resisting distractions is hard and it saps our willpower. (That obviously explains why I ate three salted nut bars while writing this: no willpower left.)

So how do you get rid of the distractions, sit down to write (or read or whatever), and do it well?

(That last part about doing it well is key,  by the way. I’ve produced all kinds of garbage while watching TV. I’m not bragging; I’m confessing.)

I suggest we try creating environments where multitasking isn’t the default. We have to build space and time where distraction simply doesn’t enter the equation.

Easier said than done, of course, but I do have some strategies for doing that. You can read about what I’m trying to do in my article “Distraction Is Keeping You From Writing: Three Ways to Foster Deep Thinking and Improve Your Writing.”

Should you trust me? Probably not. I just paused to watch this video of babies talking to each other.

How do you build distraction-proof areas in your life?

 

After Dinner Conversation: A Fascinating Publication

Survival Kit: After Dinner Conversation Short Story Series by [Seifert, Christine]

After Dinner Conversation publishes short stories about ethical or philosophical questions. It’s been fun to dive into fictional worlds that explore questions about what it means to be human. If you like short fiction, you should definitely check them out. They include discussion questions along with each story.

My story, “Survival Kit,” just hit #1 on Amazon downloads. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it or any of the other stories. Better yet, write your own and share it!