Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The benefits of doing a reading challenge

With the end of another year, one of the things I feel very grateful for is the successful completion of my annual reading challenge. This is my first reading challenge I have finished in the history of my two years and around four months old love for reading. I exceeded my challenge of reading 12 books by the end of 2018 by reading 14 throughout the year.

This number may not seem substantial but as a science student, reading books is not a big element of my course. We are recommended book chapters and papers or articles to read but I have never been expected to read a whole book as part of my course in a single year – at least I don’t think so. As a result, it is often difficult to find the time to read for pleasure.

Apart from the fact that 12 is one of my favourite numbers, I picked it because it means I should, on average, read a book per month which sounds like a reasonable goal. Of course, you could aim to read throughout the year as much as you like and many people can without setting themselves a challenge. However, remember that everything in this universe is relative. Having a set number of books to read as a challenge sets a benchmark if you like a minimum standard you want yourself to meet as an avid reader. For me, the best time to read most books for the challenge is summer where I use my Goodreads account to keep track of my progress as well as rate and review books.

The last thing you want to see before going to bed is your phone’s screen

I’ve discussed some benefits of having a reading challenge but how do you practically work towards it? Well, science has already reported – and many of us know – that the last thing you want to see before going to bed is your phone’s screen. Yet, for many of us, our phone may just be the last thing we check before going to bed.

Reading before going to bed is the best approach I have identified. I get my backpack ready for the next day, pack my phone away on silent, ‘Do Not Disturb’ and low power mode, and then I slide into my bed with my book ready to read a few chapters. It is a very relaxing and meditative way to mark an end to a day.

You may argue that there are already far too many competitions and challenges we face in life to add another one. The attempts to secure a good job, a good degree, or even establish and maintain a good work-life balance only to show to the world that we have our life together are tasks difficult enough to warrant the addition of another one.

However, I have found reading to be the one challenge I take part in for my pleasure and to better rather than to prove myself. It is not fighting or stealing, but rightfully and assertively taking time out to spend some moments away from the good and the bad of my life. Where at university we are always trying to get done more and more work, it feels very brave to stop and put the notes away and read for the sake of reading, for your own pleasure.

As someone very keen on personal development, working towards my reading challenge felt rewarding

I read somewhere: “Life is like a mirror. If you smile at it, it smiles back and if you frown at it, it frowns back.” Initially, I could only see the everyday use of simile and personification in this quote but sometimes it is simply a matter of time before you understand such statements. Because now I do. Sitting here writing this article, I can think of lots of things in my life that I wish hadn’t turned out the way they did. There are more things I have wanted to achieve and many people I never wanted to say goodbye to. But sitting here, I have a choice between thinking of my perceived big failures or what I perceive as my small victories.

One such victory that I have achieved at the end of this year is the completion of my annual reading challenge. As someone very keen on personal development, working towards my reading challenge felt rewarding and with every book I finished, I felt a sense of progress. This has been a challenge where nobody else could judge me, my passion, my intellect, IQ or my commitment. I chose how much I wanted to put in and then worked towards meeting the goal.

In this way, a reading challenge is a personal, quantitative and yet simple action plan to work on knowledge and personal development, look after your wellbeing and receive a reasonable dose of me-time and work towards an achievement to celebrate at the end of the year.

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