7 Day Reading Challenge

I have always loved reading and go through ups and downs of reading constantly then not at all for months on end.  After one of my teachers gave me a reading list I purchased the 5 most interesting plus one that my sister recommended and got to work reading.  I read half a book in 3 days then didn’t touch it for 2 weeks.  So I decided that it was time for a more structured approach to making time for reading since it was such a calming part of my day that I could tell improved my mood.  I saw on Zen Habits their outlined reading challenge to create a habit and thought I would give it a try for just one week and see what a little commitment could do.

The Rules

  • Read for a minimum of 30 minutes uninterrupted (no phone, no music)
  • Any time of day
  • Read at least one full book

The Books

Brain on Fire – Susannah Cahalan

Blink – Malcom Gladwell

Initial Impressions

Initially I was excited, I just finished Quiet by Susan Cain and loved it so much that I couldn’t wait to get going on another book my teacher recommended.  I chose Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan because it would be much more of a story than the more technical books I’ve been reading lately.  My only concern is keeping focused on the book for the full 30 minutes since I often find my mind drifting off if I’m not 110% interested in what I’m reading.

Day 1

Day 1 I set a timer for 30 minutes on my phone and put it out of arm’s reach upside down and get cracking on my book.  By the time the timer ends I’m pages from the end of a chapter and I turn off the alarm and keep reading.  The time flew by and I barely realized that I had been reading a page a minute and stayed completely focused the whole time.  I’m proud of myself for not even wanting to flip over my phone once or getting distracted at all.

Later, before bed, I pull out the book again and read another 40 pages.

Day 2

I see no need for a timer today but simply glance at the clock before I go outside to read to check how long I was out there when I finished.  I came back inside 80 pages and 90 minutes later.  This book is making this challenge easy for me since I get so absorbed in it.  With only 100 pages left, I hope to finish this one up tomorrow.  By putting a little pressure on sitting down to read for just 30 minutes a day I’ve fallen back in love with reading and am far exceeding my own rules.

Day 3

Day 3 was a bit of a bust.  I was exhausted so downtime was spent taking catnaps to get through the day (and night).  I managed to read for around 25-30 minutes but sadly it was not uninterrupted.  It was used more as a filler waiting for plans to be made but I did get a decent chunk of reading in over the course of the day.

Day 4

I think I read for about 40 minutes today, most of it before bed where I finish this book off.  I’m glad I have completed my one main goal of this challenge by finishing Brain on Fire so quickly.  I checked my phone a few times during reading before I went out to dinner with my friends (they’re habitually late so I took up reading as a pastime while waiting) but before bed I was phone free and loving it.  It’s easy to get lost in a book I love when there are no clocks around and my phone is out of sight.

Day 5

Day 5 was a great reading day.  There was some work being done on my roof so I headed out of the house and invited a friend to come read with me in our hammocks.  We read for about 45 min (maybe closer to an hour) and I got a really good start into my new book, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.  It was so relaxing to just hang out and dedicate some time to reading.  Later I ended up spending about another 45 minutes reading and ended up getting 1/3 of the way through already!  This book is roughly the same length as Brain on Fire so I’m not sure if I can pull of reading this whole book before the challenge ends but I’d like to get close.

Day 6

Today I am exhausted and having a hard time focusing but I press on.  I read almost exactly 30 minutes and put my book down in favor of a YouTube video and a cat nap in the sun.  Tomorrow is the last day of this challenge but I can already feel this becoming more of a habit as I reach for my book more often, my focus is held longer, and I get excited about reading instead of browsing social media.  Although I didn’t make too much progress on my book today, I’m proud of myself for still reading for that 30 minutes (without checking the time at all).

Day 7

I read for exactly 30 minutes in the afternoon, checking my phone once to check the time.  Later when I get home for the night, I read another 25 minutes or so before I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. I keep my focus pretty well both times and before bed I didn’t check my phone at all.

Final Thoughts

Overall this went so well for me.  I finished a whole book plus over half of another in one week.  With my habit of reading like crazy then not at all, I usually get through a book of that size in a month or so.  I think this definitely forced a habit of putting my phone down and reading when I have any time.  It gave me a little more motivation to keep reading by sitting and getting really into a book without having my phone near me.  It also forced me to get through some of the 5 books I purchased recently (3 down, 2 more I have yet to start).  I maintained my focus pretty well, definitely better than I expected to do with keeping my phone away.  Through this my main goal was to fall back in love with reading and revisit the calm and recharging time it provides me and I did exactly that.