“The 5% Approach” (to Reading More Books!)

Finish reading any book in less than three weeks, guaranteed!

Do you have aspirations to read more books, but struggle with finding the motivation or the time? As with most of life, if you always wait til you’re fully ready before you start something, you’ll leave a lot undone.

The key to getting past this sense of perfectionism is to drain the mysticism from the process by shifting to a workman-like approach. This may sound like it’s taking the joy out of the experience, but in reality, creating a framework tends to remove erraticism from the equation while also boosting overall performance.

To implement a reading framework, it’s a two-step process: first, establish a deadline for completing the book, and then finish by working back from that date to build out the daily schedule.

With regard to choosing a deadline, manufacturing an artificial one can be effective, but the lack of penalty associated with failing to meet it requires a high level of self-discipline to have success. For this reason, when possible it’s best to use a real deadline, because lurking consequences work thoroughly as an incentive.

So how exactly do you institute an actual deadline for a book you’re reading by choice in your spare time? By using the public library system, of course!

Most libraries operate under the 21-day loan system, meaning that books must be returned within that window or your ability to check-out new ones will be removed until you pay a small fine.

To make the numbers round, this means that if a book must to be returned in 20 days, it requires reading 5% of it per day to finish it in time. To put that into concrete figures, 5% of a 300-page book equates to a very workable 15 pages per day. Doing a little more straightforward math, if you finish one book every 20 days for an entire year, it adds up to an impressive 18.25 books! This idea is what I refer to as The 5% Approach.

Using The 5% Approach as an approximate baseline from which to work, as you progress with the technique what you’ll find is that routinely crossing the finish line of the day’s reading goal strengthens your fortitude and drive to cross it again in the future, resulting in a maturing consistency. In turn, this also has a tendency to encourage more pages being read in subsequent sessions, because the more you read the more proficient you become as a reader!

I live by the idea that in order to improve upon a plan, there has to be one in the first place, and therefore I’m regularly assessing and tweaking the systems I use for myself in life. So, while I would recommend using the 5% threshold as an entry point, it’s primarily meant to serve as a guideline for putting yourself onto a reading schedule that works for you. The core idea, after all, is to teach yourself to chunk through more books by re-wiring your brain to take manageable daily bites, independent of motivation.

Reading expands our scope of the world, and it puts us more in touch with our best self. The problem is, if we wait for perfect conditions to start or finish a book, we won’t read as much as we could. Whether you use The 5% Approach or not, find a way to begin reading today, and hold yourself accountable to continue tomorrow. By focusing on adding a single day at a time to the chain reaction, you might very well surprise yourself that you’re closing more books than you ever imagined, simply by keeping a daily promise to yourself.

You can do it.

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