I may not be a homeschooling mom, but as a father of three little ones (with another on the way), I know what busy looks like. Between work, family, home projects, and all the other random things that come up, finding time to do much of anything else sometimes feels like a huge challenge. I know you can relate.
For the past few years, I’ve been dissatisfied with how little reading I’ve done. I believe reading is important for anyone. It exposes us to new ideas and can help us glean much-needed wisdom in critical areas of our lives such as marriage, parenting, finances, and our walk with God. In short, I believe it’s an important part of our personal growth and part of our mental and spiritual self-care.
But I wasn’t doing it.
(A little bit later in this article, I’ll share a faulty mindset that was holding me back, and we’ll see how it can apply to other areas of life besides reading.)
People I respect would claim to read two books every week. “Leaders are readers,” others said. I felt guilty. Ashamed. I wanted to be growing and learning, but every day was filled with the routine tasks of life that squeezed out time with books.
As busy parents, how can we make time to read?
Late last year, as I was beginning to think and pray about goals for 2018, God brought a thought to mind that finally gave me the breakthrough I needed.
What if I set a ridiculously small goal of simply reading five pages each day from a book on personal growth? And what if I approached that small goal with a fanatical determination to not let a single day go by without fulfilling it?
At first, that goal seems so small and pointless. What difference can five pages a day make? But thinking further, I realized that five pages a day adds up to 1,825 each year. Depending on the books I choose, that will most likely be six to eight titles. Not bad. And if I could manage to average seven pages instead of just five, that would be worth another few books.
Think about that. I’ll be able to read a couple of books about parenting. About marriage. About prayer or Bible study. By the end of the year, I’ll be nearly two thousand pages wiser about important areas of my life.
Will I read as many books as the folks who read two every week? No. But will I read more than most people? Absolutely. And I guarantee it will change my life.
I decided to give it a try. Five pages a day. Every day. No exceptions.
As I write this article, we’re nearly a quarter of the way through the year. And so far, I haven’t missed a single day. Some days I’ve read more than five pages. But never less.
The beauty of this approach is that reading five pages a day would, I’m guessing, take most people only 3-10 minutes, depending on the book and how fast they read. Let’s roughly split the difference and say it would take an average person seven minutes to read five pages in an average book. Can you spare seven minutes each day? I’m guessing you probably could. Even if you find yourself nearing bedtime without having read your five pages, staying up an extra seven minutes isn’t going to kill you (just as it hasn’t killed me!).
One of the keys for me to make this work has been a rigorous commitment to read my five pages with absolutely no exceptions. If I read ten pages one day, that doesn’t let me off the hook the next day. If I start making exceptions—even for a “legitimate” reason like exceeding my goal the day before—it will be too easy to start making exceptions for other reasons, too. One exception will lead to another and then everything is off.
The beauty of this approach is that reading five pages a day would, I’m guessing, take most people only 3-10 minutes, depending on the book and how fast they read. Let’s roughly split the difference and say it would take an average person seven minutes to read five pages in an average book. Can you spare seven minutes each day?
In other words, my goal isn’t to read an average of five pages a day. It’s to read five pages a day. There’s a critical difference.
If you’re intrigued, feel free to set your own goal. It doesn’t have to be five pages. It could be three. Hey, it could even be one. That’s still better than none! Or maybe you’re a fast reader and could easily read 10-15 pages. The point is to start a positive habit that will change your life but to make it simple enough to be manageable.
Before I close, I want to share one more thought that has broader application than simply setting a daily reading goal. I want to share the faulty mindset that had been holding me back and help us see how we can challenge that mindset in more areas of our lives.
Before I set this new five-pages-a-day goal for myself, I felt like I had to be able to carve out substantial blocks of time for reading in order to make it worthwhile. After all, there were things I needed to learn! And to learn, I needed to devour as many books as I could.
The result? I read almost none. Ironic, isn’t it? My desire to read as many books as I could was one of the very things preventing me from reading any.
In other words, I was neglecting the power of small gains to accumulate into big wins. I was waiting for everything to be perfect before I got started.
You’ve likely fallen into this thinking from time to time as well:
- You want to declutter your home, but there’s no way to tackle it all at once, so you do nothing. (How about committing to throwing out two unneeded items each day?)
- You want to have a daily quiet time with God, but because you can’t carve out an hour every morning, days go by with your Bible untouched. (How about setting aside ten minutes as a start?)
- You want to lose a few pounds, but because you can’t go for a thirty-minute walk every day, you sit at home and never exercise. (How about getting a pedometer and committing to a certain number of steps each day?)
We’re waiting for everything to line up perfectly so we can finally do something the “right” way. And until everything lines up, we wait. And wait. And wait.
But what could have been accomplished in the meantime if we had just done something small during all the time we were waiting? What if you abandoned this idea that something has to be perfect to be worthwhile? What if you set a ridiculously small goal as a daily habit that would accumulate over time and make a big difference?
You just might change your life—in seven minutes a day.