I have had my annual itemized goal since 2020. Since then, one of the items on my plan was to read one book every month. However, what’s the reality about my book reading goal? I read seven books in 2020, and I read only five books in 2021. Did I set too high a goal for myself? 

Amazingly, I have already read 12 books this year! I finished the twelfth at the end of April 2022. I am reading the 13th and the 14th this month in May. Why is there such a big difference in the result?

This blog is not a motivational one that motivates people to achieve their reading goals quickly by changing themselves. 

I need to mention that I did three things differently than in the previous two years.

The first thing is that I bought an e-reader from DeDao last December as a Christmas gift to myself. DeDao is a Chinese APP launched in 2015, and I am a loyal user as I have found there is a lot of valuable audio content on this platform. 

DeDao Reader 得到阅读器

The contents I followed included the high-quality audiobooks summarized in 30 minutes. There are also many different types of content, including courses, audiobooks, ebooks, and training. I purchased lots of various courses. Those courses include content for people who seek to improve their professional and personal lives, such as financial knowledge, professional development path, skills on how to have a good relationship with your family and kid or knowledge on how to keep healthy. There are also different challenging games such as reading 20 mins per day for consecutive 30 days.

After I purchased the e-reader, I started joining the challenger games to read 20 minutes per day for a month. If I did not read for 20 minutes because I was too busy or forgot, I would fail the challenge game. Of course, I did not want to fail as I wanted to win the challenge every month. In the end, I received a medal on my DeDao profile, and sometimes there was an RMB 30-50 yuan coupon. Those coupons can be used as discounts when purchasing other courses or products on DeDao. The true motivation is that once I participated in the game, I wanted to do my best.

I found this gamification design very helpful for people like me who like to do something like reading, but sometimes other things take over. Sometimes it is difficult to find 20 mins in the day for reading.

There was only one time I forgot to read, and I lost that challenge last December. I had already read for 16 days but I forgot on the 17th day. Then I had to start over from 0 again; since then, I got into the habit of reading 20 mins during lunchtime or before going to sleep. I don’t want to lose the challenge again. 

After two months, I found I had the habit of reading every day, and then at the end of February, I noticed I had already read six books (not including the 60 audio books because I also joined the other challenge, which was to listen to one 30 min audiobook per day). And that e-reader is very helpful, as it has 30k+ high-quality books, and the number is still growing. I don’t need to go anywhere else for books.


I was trying to say that being part of a group of people with the same goal as myself helps. Even though I did not know the other challengers who took the same challenge with me on the App, I got motivated to keep reading as I felt I had companions and I had a clear goal to reach, which is 20 mins per day. There are a few other challenge games at the same time, and I can choose to join in the game according to my preference. I have also been in the challenge game of listening to a 30-minute audiobook per day, which means I have listened to 133 audiobooks till now in 2022.

After a couple of months of participating in the challenges, I had successfully had the daily habit of reading for 20 minutes. Although I am busy, have a full-time job, and need 8 hours of sleep every day, plus several dozens of other things in my life, I can still devote 20 minutes per day to reading. That’s how I finished reading 12 books in 4 months. The more I read, the faster I read.

To summarize, what did I do differently? One is, I purchased an e-reader that has six figures of great books in it. And that number is still growing. The second is that I joined a group with the same clear goal as me, which is to read for 20 minutes per day. Don’t neglect the power of the group’s influence. In nature, people are more motivated to do things together with a group. I do not know if I could continuously learn piano for 2+ years if I did not take the group class. I do not know if I could achieve my three times per week exercises if I didn’t have an exercise partner when COVID started, and I didn’t want to go to the gym for a while. 

What is the 3rd thing I do differently? 

Recently I read the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” again. I heard of this book after I graduated; then I was fortunate that I took a three-day training course when I was at Cisco China. So, I purchased that book, but I did not read it until this month. We are not aware of many great things around us, just like this excellent book by Stephen Covey that was on my bookshelf all that time.

One habit out of the seven is “Put the most important things first.” Stephen is a coach, and he asked a female student to do a demo. There is a big glass jar, lots of sand, and several big stones. Those big stones are the important things in her life, such as vacation, relationships & family, service, community & church, opportunity, urgent & important cases, and personal time for her busy life, children & work. The sand represents everything else in her life.

She was asked to put all the sand and big stones in the glass jar. First, she poured all the sand into the jar, which already occupied 3/4 of the jar; then she tried hard to put the big stones in it. She squeezed the sand, but it was not possible to get the stones in.

Stephen asked her which ones she would like to take out? There were vacations, relationships & family, service, community & church, opportunities, urgent & important cases, and personal time for her busy life, children & work. The lady was frustrated as she did not want to take out any of them as they were all important to her. But there was no room to get those big stones in lots of sand.

Stephen said there is another approach to deal with it. Stephen asked her to put the big stones in the empty jar first, and then she added the sand to the jar. Hooray! Everything fit in the jar perfectly! (here are the 10 minutes of the video about this demo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyL93MlR_I0 )

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

What does this story mean to us? We need to put our important things first. An example is that if a mom needs to cook healthy food for the whole family, then she needs to treat chatting with her friends like sand. Not the other way around. 

What are the stones and sand in our lives? We may have different answers. However, there is definitely sand in our lives that leaves less room for our stones. There is a lot of sand, but it can also occupy lots of our time and attention. Especially as social media is so popular, how many hours on average does a person waste on it? According to www.statista.com, worldwide, daily time spent on social networking by internet users is 147 minutes per day. According to Forbes, Americans spent an average of more than 1,300 hours on social media last year.

I am not talking about social media or time management in this blog. I already have other blogs talking about this topic. 

I am talking about the 3rd difference I had: I separate the sand from the big stones in my life. If reading is one stone I need, I need to get the reading in first.

So what did I do differently for me to turn around my reading habits and achieve the reading goal early in 2022?

First, I purchased an e-reader, so finding books to read is a finger click away. I recommend people who read Chinese to purchase the e-reader from DeDao; you cannot imagine how many great books are selected and filtered from the e-book team for us. 

Second, I participated in the reading challenge game with others on a 30 days basis each time; after four months, I had this reading habit even though one day I didn’t participate in the game. Of course, participating in the game and gaining a medal is something extra from a gamification point of view that makes reading also something fun to me; So always trying to look for people who have similar goals to me will make me feel I have companions; 

Third, put the most important things first. We need to decide which are the big stones, which stand for the most important things in our lives, make room for them first, then fill in the sand later. 

Good luck to you!  I hope that you enjoy reading too.  I hope you can reach your reading goals!