How Easy is it to Successfully Complete a Reading Challenge?
At the beginning of the year, many people participate in one of the numerous reading challenges around. And there are some very impressive ones. The percentage of those people who complete the reading challenge that they started is another story. Life gets in the way and all of a sudden, you are no longer excited about your reading adventures. I am going to explain to you how to successfully complete a reading challenge, but I want to address some things first.
Are you participating in a reading challenge for the correct reasons? Or are you doing it because others are doing it?
I am the first to support people reading more. In fact, one of my goals is in two years to get 1,000 professionals reading one book every week. Reading consistently allows you to build up a pool of ideas that you can draw on down the road when you need to creatively solve problems. One of the things that I have noticed, is that when a professional has a compelling reason for reading, she will likely achieve her reading goals. I conducted research to find out what it takes to achieve your goals, and here is what I found.
Goal Setting and Achievement: How to Successfully Complete a Reading Challenge
When you set specific goals, the action motivates you, and it increases achievement.
“Morisano, Hirsh, Peterson, Pihl, and Shore (2010) investigated whether an intensive, online, written, goalsetting program for struggling students would have positive effects on students’ academic achievement. They led college students through a series of setting specific goals and defining detailed strategies for achieving those goals. After a 4-month period, students who successfully completed the goal-setting intervention displayed significant improvements in academic performance (30% increase in average) compared to the control group.” Source: Setting Goals: Who, Why, How?
How to Successfully Complete a Reading Challenge – Things to Do
You are more likely to successfully complete a reading challenge if you have a solid reason for participating in it. And to increase your chances further for success, set goals for completing the reading challenge, which allows you to take ownership and responsibility for your learning goals. You can learn from the books you read while participating in the reading challenge. Self-regulation is key since a reading challenge is an informal way of learning.
Individuals with clear, written goals are significantly more likely to succeed than those without clearly defined goals. This makes a lot of sense. In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, he says that WHY is the purpose, cause, or belief – the reason you get out of bed each morning. That is a powerful statement.
“Most organizations and leaders start with WHAT, HOW, and then WHY. But the most influential and inspired leaders and organizations do the opposite – they lead with the WHY (the purpose), follow with the HOW, then WHAT, which is the tangible. Leading with WHAT is not very compelling. People do not buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Source: Start with Why by Simon Sinek, Book Review
By now, some of you know that I have created and hosted several reading challenges, and a writer on Bustle once described my reading challenge as not for the faint of heart. Like any goal that is important to you, you have to schedule the time to work on it. In the context of reading, you have to schedule the time to read, and if possible, do so at the same time every day. You can either read for a specific amount of time, or commit to reading a certain number of pages.
For any of the popular reading challenges around, there are specific reading requirements for you to complete. This allows you to choose the books that you would want to read that satisfy those requirements. For instance, if you decided that you wanted to participate in my reading challenge, the Strategic Reading Challenge to learn the key skills you need to thrive in future jobs, I break down the type of book you need to read each week. As you progress through the Strategic Reading Challenge, you will notice that you are reading diverse books. This is another activity that will help you to successfully complete a reading challenge because you are unlikely to become bored.
Sample Weekly Requirements for the Strategic Reading Challenge
“Month One – Africa & More
- Read a book written by an author born in an African country.
- Read a book that teaches you how to problem solve.
- Read a book that teaches you how to think critically.
- Read a book that teaches you how to become more creative.
- Read a book that teaches you how to make better decisions.
- Each week, read a technology article from a well-respected journal/magazine.
Month Two Antarctica & More
- Read a book set in Antarctica.
- Read a book that teaches you strategies to manage people.
- Read a book that helps you to become better at collaborating with others.
- Read a book on emotional intelligence.
- Read a book that teaches you strategies to excel at serving others.
- Each week, read a technology article from a well-respected journal/magazine.”
Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with FailureA Technique for Producing Ideas: The simple, five-step formula anyone can use to be more creative in business and in life!The MacGyver Secret: Connect to Your Inner MacGyver and Solve AnythingHow to Get IdeasThings Fall ApartWhere’d You Go, Bernadette: A NovelEmotional Intelligence 2.0Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big ResultsPeople Management: Everything you need to know about managing and leading people at work
As you can see from Month One and Month Two above, although there are prompts for books to read each month, you have a lot of say in your book choices. I do offer book recommendations, but you do not have to take them. The other good thing about my reading challenge is the Facebook group, a community where there are others doing what you are doing, so you feel supported.
Other ways to help you successfully complete a reading challenge, that you may not think of, is to make sure that you keep track of the names of the books that you have read. When you see the books that you have read so far, it will motivate you to read even more books. And when you read each book, take notes so that you remember more of what you are learning. But the process does not end there. After you finish reading each book, review your notes, pulling out the big ideas. Also write a one paragraph summary of each book that you read. This forces you to clearly articulate what the book is about. These actions are part of the reading and learning journey.
You want to benefit from the time you invest reading books, and this helps you. You are learning skills that you can use at work, and doesn’t this make your reading time investment worth the effort? The other thing I ask reading challenge participants to do, which I have never heard of other reading challenges doing, is that I ask you to regularly combine the big ideas from the books you read each month. I know that it takes just one of the right ideas, if implemented, to transform your life. I am big on a concept I have coined called profit reading.
Tie New Learning to What You Already Know
It is also important to tie what you are reading to what you already know. How does the information in the book relate to the real world? Does the book remind you of other books that you read? Can you tie the new information to a human need? What does the information in the book mean? Have you found information in the book that is an answer or partial answer to an important problem that needs solving? As you can see, I am pushing you to think and reflect while reading, and making sense of the information.
Have you read?
When you develop the habit of reading this way, you are practicing active reading. You see the benefits of reading the right books, and this pushes you to complete the reading challenge. You can use a reading challenge like I do to learn new skills. You have a hidden agenda that suits your needs. It is about you and not the creator and host of the challenge. Let us say that you and I are sitting here a year from today, you have worked on the Strategic Reading Challenge, and you read the books the way that I recommended. How might your life change? Would it be transformed? What have you created based on what you learned on your reading adventure? Do you have a new product or service?
Now that you have seen what you might become a year from now, how can you start with the end in mind? How can you work backwards to make sure that you have the life that you imagine? These are lots of important questions that only you can answer because it is about you and what you are capable of achieving.
Consider joining the Strategic Reading Challenge to learn the key skills needed for future jobs. Join the Facebook Group, Strategic Reading Challenge to Learn Key Skills, support others and allow them to support you.