Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to Create a Reading Plan

Today’s post comes from the pen of Joey Cochran. Joey is transitioning to be a pastor at Cross Community Chicago. He blogs regularly at www.jtcochran.com. Follow @joeycochran on twitter.

Every year I set goals for myself. Rarely do I evaluate those goals. Yesterday was the exception. Now that the year is half over I decided to evaluate some of my resolutions for the New Year. One of those resolutions involved reading. At the beginning of the year I set a number of goals concerning how much I wanted to read and what I wanted to read. Setting reading goals such as these are helpful in accomplishing the objective of being a more productive reader.

For most of us, finding time to read is the first challenge. The second challenge is prioritizing that time. The third challenge is making that time productive. I have found that the best way to do this is to set goals.

Here are some helpful parameters for your reading goals.

  1. Determine how much time you realistically have to read. There is no point in setting a lofty goal that you will not accomplish. If you actually don’t currently read much, you might want to set this parameter lower for your first year. Maybe make the goal that you will read 15-30 minutes daily. In the case of reading, it is best to have a daily routine. Reading weekly or just when you suddenly have leisure time just does not cut it. You can accomplish more by scheduling reading into your life.

  1. Determine when you are going to read. After you determine how much time you can spend reading, pick a time of day to read. I have a couple of times during the day that work for me. I try to make reading a priority after I accomplish daily administrative work. Then I try to read a little during lunch or just after lunch. Then I read in the evenings when I could be watching TV. Last, I typically read between 30-60 minutes before I fall asleep.

  1. Determine what you are going to read. Everyone has different reading priorities. You will have to determine your own. I can demonstrate an example of what your priorities for reading might be by offering myself as a case study. I love reading, so I do a lot of it. This may not be you, so don’t feel like you have to read this much. Likewise, others of you might be reading much more than me and in different genres. For instance, I am not currently reading a fiction book and it’s not part of my reading plan. This is actually a weakness in my current plan, but I have not found time to supplement my reading time with this valuable genre. The most important part is starting by reading a book that you will enjoy. Pick something that you will be excited about reading. Make sure you start with a page turner. This will help you in being productive!

Here’s how I prioritize my reading:

  • As a follower of Christ my first priority is to read God’s inspired Word, the Bible. God revealed Himself to humanity through this immeasurably valuable book. Reading the Bible should be my first priority.

  • Then I read for spiritual development. Usually, this is a book designed to encourage my heart and root it deeply in the gospel. This book is typically written by a pastor or church leader that has an active ministry today. I am currently reading Milton Vincent’s a Gospel Primer for Christians.

  • Third, I read a book for personal development. This book is meant to help you grow as a person. Perhaps that topic is leadership, interpersonal relations, or developing professional skills. Usually I pick this book based on what weaknesses or blemishes I see in myself. For instance, I just finished reading Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. No, I have friends. I just want to be a better one. I am now currently reading Platform by Michael Hyatt.

  • Fourth, I try to read a writing from the historic Christian faith. In other words, I read a book by a dead dude. The church is built on great minds that have had much to say about Christ and about the church. These voices should not be lost. We should capitalize on all that these men have to offer. Currently I am reading John Flavel’s Christ Altogether Lovely.

  • Finally, since I am a blogger, I read a book for review. I try to review a book every Monday on my blog. Currently I am reading Aliens in the Promise Land edited by Dr. Anthony Bradley.

  1. Determine to read. Now you have to focus on being productive. You have to buckle down and do the deed. For some of us this is harder than others. You might want to think about the environment. Do you read better in the quiet? Do you need white noise? Are people a distraction? I love to read in a café but then sometimes I get caught up in my surroundings. Deciding to read in a location that offers optimal focus is essential. Once you find the right environment keep yourself from distraction. Put your laptop away. Silence your phone. Keep your mind off other things. Sometimes we read words but think other thoughts. Maybe you might start thinking about a meeting later today. Or maybe you might think about other things on your to-do list. Make those thoughts wait for later. Now is the time to read!

Reading is a valuable discipline. We live in a world that is being re-awakened towards literacy. When TV came around, literature leisure took a nose dive. However, with the new technology of e-readers, reading as a discipline is experiencing resurgence. I hope you take advantage of this resurgence and enjoy the discipline of reading.

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