Challenges are a pretty common way for people to outline a target and stick to it. Maybe you’re on a mission to write 1500 words per day, or maybe you want to spend an hour at the gym – whatever it is, challenges are a widely accepted method for drumming up the motivation you need to get things done. In the bookish community, goals and challenges are especially prevalent, from Readathons to the yearly Goodreads challenge, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the ever growing number of targets you’re trying to hit.
I have a love-hate relationship with reading challenges. I love to track my progress. Steady, visible progression is one of the many reasons I love video games so much, so in that respect, reading challenges are great. It shows me how many pages I’ve read, how many total books, if I’m on track to hit my target, and what percentage I am away from my goal. This is great, but it’s also, well, extremely overwhelming. The moment I fall behind in a challenge I begin to stress about how much I’d have to work to get caught back up. The little “you are 3 books behind target” line on Goodreads torments me. Chalk it up to generalized anxiety, I guess, but boy, it can be hard to get myself back on track once I fall behind.
Over the years, I’ve come to terms with the fact that there are just some challenges I’m not mentally wired to handle. Readathons are out of the question – I just can’t stomach the guilt when I don’t dedicate enough time to reading during the designated timeframe. Big, complicated lists asking you to check off certain genres of specific book criteria, like the yearly Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, are great in theory, but in practice, I get stressed about the limitations. I’ll become hyper-focused on what’s the “right” thing to read rather than reading what I want, which means I end up reading nothing instead.
I want to stress that these types of challenges aren’t /bad/; they just don’t work for me. At best, they serve as an interesting tool to generate some ideas for what I might want to read next, but I’ve found that over the years I just can’t commit.
But the desire for some kind of challenge, some way to hold myself accountable to what I’d like to be reading, both in volume read and content read, is still there. After a while of taking a crack at some challenges and utterly failing, I’ve finally started to get into a groove that works for me. I want to share some of my thoughts on reading goals, then, in the hopes that maybe it’ll work for you, too.
– Before everything else, read what you want. If you’re trying to force yourself to get into a sci-fi book when you’d much rather be reading fantasy, put that sci-fi book on hold. I spent my entire academic career powering through books I had no interest in, and while there can be value in that, it’s not worth stressing yourself out over it.
– Set a realistic target. After years of doing the Goodreads reading challenge, I’ve found that on average I read 15 books each year. Based on this, I like to set my goal to 20. This means I’m aiming to read more while still keeping it realistic.
– Make your own goals. For example, I like to make sure I’m reading a variety of genres, and generally try not to read too many of the same all in a row. I also put a priority on books written by female authors and those written by non-English speakers, but it’s important to still follow tip #1. If being less strict about your targets works better for you, then that’s how you should approach it.
– Finally, remember that at the end of the day, reading is a hobby and sometimes, it’s okay if you just aren’t feeling it. Take a break. Change your goals. Don’t beat yourself up about perceived failures when it comes to this stuff, because I promise you are the only person who notices.
If you’re in a similar boat and find you just can’t mentally fit into the ever-popular book challenges, know you’re not alone. Hopefully some of these suggestions help give you a few ideas for what sorts of goals you can set for yourself without becoming overwhelmed.
Do you have your own approach to reading challenges? Any other tips to help those who might feel overwhelmed by lofty goals? Comment on this post and share your words of wisdom, and until next time – read on~