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There’s no inherent structure to work. Work has no inherent unit. We make units; we make tasks, and projects, and milestones, and goals. But nothing about those is inherent in the nature of work. Tiago Forte
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« Building Good Routines | Main | Input vs. Output »
Wednesday
Apr202016

My Book Challenge - Update

It’s been a long time since I last reported on my book challenge - and that’s because it’s been a disaster. I haven’t made any progress on any book since.

I’ve just changed tack again, starting yesterday. My new method is this:

  1. Read for a timed half hour twice a day.
  2. I may only read from one book during the half-hour.
  3. The exception is if I finish the book, in which case I can read another for the balance of the time.
  4. The half hours do not have to be the same book each time.
  5. There is no limit on the number of books I can be reading using this method.
  6. They must however be books, i.e. not blog posts, magazine articles, newspapers, etc.

To borrow a metaphor from the world of running, I am now seeing how far I can run in half an hour rather than seeing how long it takes to cover a certain distance. I’ve adopted that for my running practice as well - with one session of an hour. (4.63 miles today since you ask!)

Reader Comments (16)

Speaking as someone who hasn't so much as dipped my nose in a book for weeks, let me express the support of the crowd.

Should reading really be a spectator sport?

Does your new method grow out of a diagnosis of the problem, or is it simply a case of asking "what might work better?"
April 21, 2016 at 9:59 | Registered CommenterWill
Your last book challenge (I think) inspired me to get some book darts and to read only one book at a time. I find it a bit frustrating not being able to just pick 3 books at once, but I am enjoying just sinking into one book to the exclusion of others. Can't eat everything on the menu, after all.

For me, "book" includes Kindle ebooks. So since I've been reading a book from the library for the last week, I've not picked up my Kindle. That feels odd, too.

I used the book dart approach on a graphic novel memoir and it was really good; it helped me tease out stuff I had missed first time through. But I'm reading a book now that is just burning along and I'd rather not use the darts for that, as the sweeping pace is part of the experience.
April 21, 2016 at 15:36 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
One thing that worked for me when I was completely stuck on getting through a book. It was A Storm of Sword, which is 1200 pages, so if I didn't keep at it, it could take me a year, and I would forget many of the characters and situations between reading sessions. So, I decided to leave the book laying out where I could see it, and then when I saw it through the day or week, I would "just read one page" with no requirement to read more. Often I would start building up some momentum and read a lot more, and other times it was little-and-often and that worked as well. I think I would be less inclined to pick it up for a dedicated 30 minutes because I would worry if it was the best use of my time. In the long run, of course, I would read a lot more than 30 minutes in a session anyway.
April 21, 2016 at 16:22 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
Will:

<< Does your new method grow out of a diagnosis of the problem, or is it simply a case of asking "what might work better?" >>

Sorta kinda both, I guess.
April 21, 2016 at 23:06 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Don R:

<< I think I would be less inclined to pick it up for a dedicated 30 minutes because I would worry if it was the best use of my time. In the long run, of course, I would read a lot more than 30 minutes in a session anyway >>

30 minutes is of course a completely arbitrary figure. It could just as easily be 10 minutes or 1 hour or whatever. That's up to the individual reader to decide.

<< I think I would be less inclined to pick it up for a dedicated 30 minutes because I would worry if it was the best use of my time. In the long run, of course, I would read a lot more than 30 minutes in a session anyway. >>

I'm not sure I follow why you worry about the best use of your time when you read for a session of 30 minutes, but don't worry about it when you read for sessions of a lot more than 30 minutes.
April 21, 2016 at 23:09 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mike Brown:

<< For me, "book" includes Kindle ebooks >>

Yes, I was including ebooks in the definition of book. One of the books I'm reading at the moment is an ebook and the other is a printed book.
April 21, 2016 at 23:11 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
"I'm not sure I follow why you worry about the best use of your time when you read for a session of 30 minutes, but don't worry about it when you read for sessions of a lot more than 30 minutes."

Resistance.

Case 1: Decide to read for 30 minutes. Resist starting because it's 30 minutes; think of something else to do instead. Total read = 0.

Case 2: Decide to read one page (multiple times in the day). Almost no resistance. Total read for the = from 1 to 720(?) minutes.

Like you said: http://markforster.squarespace.com/get-the-file-out/
April 22, 2016 at 0:12 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
Do not forget audiobooks!
April 22, 2016 at 23:35 | Unregistered CommenterNico
Nico:

<< Do not forget audiobooks! >>

I'm not fond of them personally. They take too long to listen to compared with reading a book. However, yes, if you like them or have to use them they certainly count as a book!
April 22, 2016 at 23:41 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
At the moment I'm reading Henry David Thoreau's 'Walden' in hardback, and Stephen Fry's reading of Harry Potter on CD in the car. Feels like a nice balance of a) genre/material type, and b) physical formats.
April 23, 2016 at 0:42 | Unregistered CommenterNeil C
Neil C:

Good luck with the Thoreau!
April 23, 2016 at 9:19 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
On a completely different note, I like the way you're setting your running sessions. Running for a given length of time makes so much more sense than running for a given distance, because it automatically adjusts for how you're feeling on the day. Those days you're feeling tired, you run a bit slower and so end up doing less, which rests your body a bit, while on those days you're feeling good you'll run a bit faster and so automatically train a bit harder.

Running for a set distance each session does the opposite -- on the days you're feeling more tired, it takes you longer to reach your distance and so you end up wearing yourself out even more, while the days you're feeling good you end up taking it easier than you need to. That's exactly the opposite of what you want to improve your fitness over time...

- Erik.
April 23, 2016 at 10:27 | Unregistered CommenterErik Westra
Erik Westra:

Yes, it's a good principle. And another one (which I mention in "Secrets") is to aim to beat your average rather than your best performance.
April 23, 2016 at 11:09 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
We had a bit of a discussion on the Forum a few weeks ago about copying out books - typing out "The Great Gatsby" was one example mentioned - in order to learn good style in writing.

I wonder if anyone has tried it with Thoreau? We could learn to write in sentences like this:

"When I meet the engine with its train of cars moving off with planetary motion - or, rather, like a comet, for the beholder knows not if with that velocity and with that direction it will ever revisit this system, since its orbit does not look like a returning curve - with its steam cloud like a banner streaming behind in golden and silver wreaths, like many a downy cloud which I have seen, high in the heavens, unfolding its masses to the light - as if this traveling demigod, this cloud-compeller, would ere long take the sunset sky for the livery of his train; when I hear the iron horse make the hills echo with his snort like thunder, shaking the earth with his feet, and breathing fire and smoke from his nostrils (what kind of winged horse or fiery dragon they will put into the new Mythology I don't know), it seems as if the earth had got a race now worthy to inhabit it."
April 23, 2016 at 14:13 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Don,

Doesn't feel right to read for 30 minutes by intent.

I have a similar problem with meditation. I'll do something more important instead. Yet I think it's important enough to take a class with formal sits as homework. That's why I'm taking the class. I wanted a group to keep me going, and a leader to choose which format to use each day.

The timing is also a problem for me. I'd like to do it mid-afternoon, when I need to refocus. I'm already very much in the moment for my morning stretches.

For now, it's part of my mid-morning routine, and I do it before tasks that are firmly entrenched. I might discover that works well enough. Or I might try adding a second sit at the preferred time, and, once that's established, stop the first one.

As a side-effect, though, on the days I kept choosing to do something else, the choice would remind me to do that something else mindfully, and to be in the moment. That's a good thing!

Audiobooks:

I used to like audio books and podcasts. I almost enjoyed the housework! Unfortunately, they came in faster than I could listen. Unlike blogs, I couldn't skim the titles and key paragraphs. Also, it's multi-tasking. I'm much happier now that I focus on one thing at a time. (Well, sometimes I drift, especially if doing something physical, but it's better than it was.) I started again when running on the treadmill, but stopped once it was warm enough to run outside. It's better for me to pay attention to the flowers and neighbours and hills and world.

The Tiffany Achings series and The Watch series by Terry Pratchett are wonderful. Lemony Snicket got repetitive. And I never want to hear all 5 Hitch-hiker's Guide series again! (It was an annual tradition for the long drives.)

Running, Time vs Distance:

4.36 miles in one session. Wow!

I just finished the time-based version of Couch to 5k. (Every new runner I know has used it. Most succeeded their first or second time through.) I'd go half the time, then turn around. Once I met the time goal, I switched to distance-based, with the goal of increasing distance to 5k, and then speed. Due to a slight conversion error, I went from 4.6 km all the way to 5km in one step. And succeeded! The second time, I tried to to go faster just for the last few minutes, but had nothing left. I'm going to stick to slow and easy for another week, then try speeding up for the last bit again.

Mark, are you sure you aren't an engineer? Everyone else thinks it's best to weigh themselves weekly. It's better to take many readings and look at the average and patterns. If you're higher on Saturdays, why?
April 24, 2016 at 4:17 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket:

<< 4.36 miles in one session. Wow! >>

About 7 km. Speed - a bit faster than walking!

Doing it the way I'm doing it increases both distance and speed.

<< Everyone else thinks it's best to weigh themselves weekly. It's better to take many readings and look at the average and patterns. If you're higher on Saturdays, why? >>

Yes, it's better to weigh yourself every day than weekly. And there are plenty of "everyone elses" who agree with me.

http://blog.loseit.com/daily-weighing/

The reason usually given for weekly weighing is that it stops one from being misled by daily fluctuations. But what happens if you weigh yourself one week on an upwards fluctuation and the next week on a downwards fluctuation? You could easily be fooling yourself that you are losing weight when you aren't. And you won't find out until another week has passed.

The most useful way is to weigh yourself daily and then take the average for the week.
April 24, 2016 at 8:15 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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