How to Read More by Setting Reading Goals

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It’s amazing to me the number of people who, when asked about their New Year’s Resolutions, say they want to read more. Apparently, the desire to read more and read more frequently is something ingrained in many of us goal-setters. For five years now, I’ve been setting specific reading goals each year. Last year I set — and reached! — my highest goal so far of reading 200 books within the year. (Here’s a full list of what I read.)

I’m convinced that the act of defining a number and putting it on paper has been the key contributor to ensuring that I read more and more with each passing year. After all, although I always read a lot, it was only when I started committing myself to a specific number that I saw that number steadily go up, year after year (like from 150 books in 2012 to 200 books read in 2013).

So, when folks tell me that one of their goals for 2014 is to read more, I always respond that defining the number of books you want to read – no matter how many that number is – is essential.

Here are a few other key tips to working towards increasing how much you read in 2014.

  • Set a Goal for Your Reading

As explained, don’t just say you’re going to read more, set a specific goal for how much you want to read. See my post explaining how to set smart goals, and then follow the steps in it to ensure that your reading goal (which should be a specific number) is relevant to your life’s demands and immediately actionable. For example, if you read 5 books last year, increasing to 8-10 would be a good goal. 30 would not be a good goal. See my reading goal and my ongoing list of books read in 2014 here. 

  • Think About Determining Ahead of Time Exactly What Books You Plan to Read

This is something that I don’t personally do, but I know it works for many people (including my friend Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom, who writes about what books she plans to read each month as she works towards her goal of reading 150 books a year). I think this is an excellent strategy particularly for folks who are just getting started on setting reading goals. It may not work for all, though, as you may be more like me and prefer to fly by the seat of your pants (aka randomly buy Kindle books in the middle of the night based on what the Amazon gods recommend to you).

Have you ever set a reading goal? If so, did it help you to read more?



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16 thoughts on “How to Read More by Setting Reading Goals

  1. My goal is to read 1 hour every day. I would rather focus on the time than the amount of books. This is my first year doing so and all the books I have read so far are short books (under 200 pages but over 50 pages) and I have managed to read 280 so far. The catch is they are kids books. I decided to embark on a project and read a selection of AR books by grade level. I’m a little OCD and a project like this really gets me going and I have to say nothing I have read yet is too young for me. Reading kids books as an adult really makes you look at things differently and in my opinon, keeps you young! I still read the occasional Nora Roberts or pop psychology book now and again but this kids book project is one of the funnest things I have ever done

  2. > this article was quite helpful
    — im trying to help a friend of mine read more (for leisure) to improve his intellectual health as part of a health and social project at school.

    > your article on setting SMART targets was also helpful!

  3. I am new to goal setting,I just don’t have it right when setting goals.Any advice?
    I want to set a goal of reading books.Any help on how to start.Or how many books can I read at once?.

  4. I have a goal of 3 books a month on average (1 fiction, 1 nonfiction, and 1 theology) and I’m using a notecard with my handwritten goals on it by my computer. I see this thing every day and I can have the fulfillment of checking off my accomplishments.

  5. I am an avid user of the site Goodreads. Every year the post a ‘reading challenge’ for users to say how many books they challenge themselves to read during the year. Not only does it keep track of what you read and how many books, it tells you how many books ahead or behind your goal you are. Last year I challenged myself to and read 50 books. This year I raised the number to 60. It’s a good organized way of keeping track of your reading goals. 🙂

    • I’ve always heard great things about Goodreads but have never gotten into it — I think I need someone to teach me what’s so awesome about it and how I should best be using it;)

      • I second the comment about Goodreads. I have been on the site since 2009. It gives me a good way to keep track of what books I’ve read as well as have conversations with people about books.

  6. I worked through Michael Hyatt’s course on setting SMART goals before the first of the year. One of my goals is to read more. I wrote a goal that says I want to post a two new book reviews on my blog every month. Frankly, that is a pretty audacious goal, but I set it as a way of motivating myself to read more than I ever have before and because I am deploying with my Marines soon. I need something to fill my time while I am gone. I plan for reading and writing to be my main free time activity while I am on Okinawa.
    I appreciate what you wrote above. I wrote a short piece on reading here: My post was a summary of Lit!: A Christian Guide To Reading by Tony Reinke (which I highly recommend).

  7. This is also one of my goals for 2014. Last year I did set a goal of reading 25 books and just missed that but when including the audiobooks Iistened to I did make it to 27.

    This year I am trying a little different goal. My goal is to read 2 hours a day, with no set number of books. I read 7 in January so I am on track to get many more read this year. I wrote about this recently on my blog at

    Great post and very worthwhile goal, in my opinion.

  8. What a brilliant tip. I love to read a variety of different things but every year I think I wish I could read more. Last year I read 10 books and this year I want to read at least one book a month. (although I should probably be aiming a bit higher with the sheer volume of digital and physical books I have left unread on my shelves, however I agree that I should be setting a more realistic goal). I’d never thought about setting an actual numerical goal before reading this but will definitely be trying to stick to it now. 🙂

    • I think it’s a great goal to shoot for 12 if you did 10 last year. A doable goal that – with a little pushing – you can reach. Do it!

  9. Great tips! I’m an avid reader, but there’s been a significant (unintentional) shift to reading blogs and articles instead of books over the last few years. Was actually thinking about how much I miss books the other day. All the while my digital and physical bookshelf is sagging w/ new titles to read. 😉

    I may take February off from reading blogs and focus only on books… Thank you!

  10. I’ve set reading goals for the past few years and its definitely helped.

    I set my reading goal in number of pages (including the page count equivalent of audiobooks) rather than books. I have a spreadsheet to keep track of the total count. The reason I went for pages rather than books was when I started setting reading goals I had quite a few little books and some very big books on my to-read pile and knew if I did it based on number of books, I’d probably never read the long books.

    For the last two years, my goal was 15,000 pages of non-fiction (that tends to work out to about 75-85 books). Since I exceeded it last year by a good margin, I’m aiming for 25,000 this year.