In the past I’ve set reading goals, but I’ve never really succeeded in them. Whether it was a goal of a number of books or a specific list, I’ve never been able to set a single plan and follow it for a full year. But, as with most practices that matter, the value is in the process not the results. So for 2019 I have yet another reading plan.

Priorities

The goal of my plan for this year is not to list out specific books I must read, but instead to put in writing my priorities for reading in the next year. For this coming year my priorities are to read more regularly, balance my reading time between work/research reading, pleasure reading, and seminary reading assignments. In the past—specifically in 2018—pleasure reading has been non-existent and my actual reading time has been dominated by assigned reading. This year I aim to balance all three of these categories.

Finding the time

As I have gotten older it’s been increasingly hard to find time to read. From childhood through college reading for fun was always high on the list of what filled my free time. But as I got out of school and into a career that time started to drain away. Then, as the internet, smartphones, and social media began to loom larger I gave up even more reading time. Finally adding the weighty roles of husband and father filled up the last bit of margin. So this year I must work to find the time.

My relationship with Jesus, my family, my ministry, and my writing are the things that really matter. These are the responsibilities and commitments that actually move the needle in terms of making my time count. From that understanding, what needs to be eliminated or reduced becomes obvious: social media, time wasted on devices, and any excess screen time. I will write about how I am going to approach this in detail later, but this is where I must find time to accomplish my plan.

Finally, a key requirement of finding the time to read is that it cannot take time away from the discipline of reading my Bible daily. If my morning routine is disrupted, the first thing I will read each day will be the Bible.

Reading categories

As mentioned above, all the reading in my life falls into three buckets:

  • Pleasure
  • Research
  • School assignments

Given my particular interests, there is actually a great deal of overlap between these three categories. Seldom does a single book land in all three, but most books will fit into two of these categories. Nevertheless, sorting my reading into categories is the only way I can get close to balancing these priorities. My categories for 2019 look like this:

Pleasure

  • Fiction
  • History
  • Biography

Research

  • Writing
  • Art & Creativity
  • Productivity
  • Theology
  • Reading for Story Team, Writer Dev, or other projects

School Assignments

  • Anything assigned as part of a seminary course

The plan

In the end, my 2019 plan is simple:

  • Read for 1 hour in the evenings, five days a week
  • Read the Bible first, every day
  • Prioritize books I already own over new purchases
  • Prioritize active seminary assignments for each reading session
  • Split remaining reading time evenly between the Pleasure and Research categories
  • Always have one active book in both the Pleasure and Research categories
  • Publish a short reaction/review for each book I complete

I am not setting a “goal” of a certain number of books for each month or the year, and I don’t have a set list. Just this set of priorities and a list of books I will build out by category. If I can follow this process somewhat regularly I will be a much more active reader than I have been the last couple of years.

And honestly that’s a big deal, because I miss it.