Reading more intentionally

Last year, I read a total of 26 books, more than any other year of my life. I’m a relatively slow reader, but I felt I could easily double that number this year if I read more consistently.

As I was considering my goals for 2016, I set 50 books as the target. It felt like an attainable target and would double my previous best.

I’m currently reading mostly business and self-improvement books. When I read a book, I’m looking for new perspectives to see the world and/or for actionable tactics/strategies that I can apply to my life.

It then occurred to me that, because I’m not reading just for fun, the number of books I read per year isn’t an important metric.

How many things I have put into place or changed because of the books I read last year? I have no idea. I have a few scribbled notes and a bunch of Kindle highlights but that’s about it. There’s nothing I refer to regularly.

I realised that in my haste to read a book and move on to the next, I was denying myself the opportunity to think deeply about each book. Reading slowly, making meticulous notes, and thinking deeply is absolutely needed to allow myself to internalise ideas and figure out if or how I should apply those ideas to my life.

So I scribbled out the goal of reading 50 books this year and replaced it with 10, with the caveat that I make notes and publish them here on my blog. This idea was inspired by Derek Sivers who has done the same for hundreds of books.

I couldn’t have picked a better book to start the project than Cal Newport’s latest book Deep Work. It really resonated with me partly because of the great stories and anecdotes, partly because it had plenty of actionable advice, and partly because I agree with the core concept so completely (that deep work is both increasingly rare and valuable in today’s economy). My notes are here.

Over the past 18 months (since starting my own business), the theme that ties together my thinking and writing has been living a more intentional life. And this project is a natural extension to that idea: reading more intentionally.