My Plans for 2019 and Why I'm Not Making Any Reading Goals

Jan 21, 2019

As 2018 wrapped up and I began to look forward to 2019, I gave a good, hard look at what had worked well for me and what I could have done better. My theme for 2018 (which I think I only mentioned in passing on this blog) was to "Focus on the Important Things."

While I felt like I definitely prioritized things that were truly important, there was a missing element of engagement. Day after day, I checked off those important tasks, but sometimes I was only going through the motions while my brain was somewhere else entirely. Or worse, sometimes it wasn't even my own racing mind that took me out of the moment, but my phone.

This led me to decide that my theme for 2019 would be to "Be Present." It was only after I had chosen it that I realized it was totally one of those trendy buzzwords and that literally everyone seemed to have the same idea for 2019. I debated changing to something more obscure, more "my own," but this idea of being present in the everyday moments resonated so completely with what I want 2019 to look like, so I kept it.

I divided my goals into four categories: Habits I Want to Make, Places I Want to Visit, Projects I Want to Complete, and Things I Want to Do to Be More Present. Anytime I brainstorm potential goals, my list quickly becomes unwieldy and insurmountable, so I was careful to limit myself in each category to just three to five things.

I didn't want to bury myself in expectations which would have left me unable to actually "be present" and "live in the moment." I needed to be able to be flexible, change plans to meet the greater good, and analyze the kinds of things that would work right then. So I tried to only set goals that I've been thinking about for awhile and that I'm pretty sure I will still want to do at the end of the year (if it comes to that) as much as I want to right now at the beginning. The other thing is, I already have a good system in place of setting weekly goals every Sunday night, and that allows me to take a shorter view on things, which creates a nice balance to the longer term goals.

Here are my goals in each category:

Habits I Want to Make
  • Edit photos on a weekly basis
  • Write 2-4 paragraphs for "This and That" posts at the end of each week
  • Write book review within three days of finishing book
Note: all three of these habits are actually meant to help me be more present by not letting tasks pile up so that I have to reach far back in time to finish them or block out a huge chunk of time to complete them.

Places I Want to Visit
  • Go on a family vacation in the summer (location TBD)
  • Take my kids to the Joseph Smith exhibit at the Church History Museum in downtown Salt Lake City
  • Try new restaurants that are close to home (1-2 per month)
  • Go to a Utah temple that I haven't been to before
Projects I Want to Complete
  • Sew a dress for myself
  • Landscape the front of our house
  • Decorate Ian's bedroom
  • Knit a lace cowl
  • Read Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1
Things I Want to Do to Be More Present
  • Notice the eye color of the person I'm talking to
  • Observe what the sky looks like every day
  • Limit phone use by setting weekly time and usage goals
  • Write down three things I'm grateful for every night
  • Continue with weekly special times with my kids
You might notice that out of all those goals, only one of them has anything to do with reading, which is very unusual for me. In fact, since 2013 when I did it for the first time, I have set annual reading goals for myself every year.

But not this year.

Choosing (and then achieving) my reading goals has always been one of the great joys of my reading life. It introduced me to genres and classics and authors I wouldn't have read otherwise. It felt so good to check them off one by one. I loved that final push to the finish line.

But in 2018, those goals felt like a major burden. Perhaps it was because I didn't read as many books as I have in years past (only 48 compared to close to 70), but it felt like all of my reading was planned out for me and that I didn't actually get to choose anything (although, technically, I chose the goals to begin with). In 2018, I belonged to two book clubs, which accounted for about 13 books (there was some crossover between the two, and some of the books I had already read). My goals added another 16 books. Then add in the readalouds for my kids (another 16). That left just seven books that I chose spontaneously for myself (and if you're wondering about my math, it's not all adding up because some of the readalouds doubled as books for my goals). In addition to that, I read approximately 24 manuscripts for my little side job, which was more dictated reading.

All of this is to say that even though I enjoyed a lot of what I read (self-imposed or not), it felt like I lost some of the magic and relaxation of reading. It had ceased to be a hobby and begun to feel more like a job.

I was made acutely aware of this fact during the last quarter of the year when over and over again, I had to tell myself "no" to a book I wanted to read: I read one of the Betsy-Tacy books (ironically, for one of my goals) and really wanted to read the next one in the series, but there were too many other books in the queue. I received Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life at a book exchange and wanted to start it that night, but I had to get in my required pages on other books. And, you might remember, I spent New Year's Eve reading a parenting book I didn't even care about.

I realized that if I was going to "Be Present" this year, then I had to reclaim some of my reading time. My book clubs would still push me to read books I wouldn't normally read, so I could relax my hold on my own reading time. I could pick up a book that sounded interesting, but if it didn't deliver, I could set it aside, no questions asked. If one of my friends mentioned a book, I could check it out right then before it got buried and forgotten in my massive to-read list. I could read the books that piqued my interest in that moment rather than waiting until the excitement had passed.

I don't think I will never return to setting reading goals for myself. It's something that has brought me a lot of joy in the past, and I anticipate the same for the future. But I'm okay with admitting that at this time, I need a break. And I'm excited for the books that such a break might give to me. 

What are your plans and goals for 2019? Are you setting reading goals? What things are you doing to achieve balance and find purpose? 


  1. I'm thinking I might need a break from my self-assigned reading, or maybe I just need to pick books I'm more excited about. It worked SO well the first year I did it, but my "term" ends this week, and I haven't even started one of the it goes. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who goes through this intensive mental process of scheduling and planning books, ha ha. Hope you enjoy your year of reading!

    1. Same! These goals made me so happy...until they didn't.

  2. Oh, this so resonated with me: "All of this is to say that even though I enjoyed a lot of what I read (self-imposed or not), it felt like I lost some of the magic and relaxation of reading. It had ceased to be a hobby and begun to feel more like a job." I've never set reading goals for myself, but lately I've been reading a lot more nonfiction than ever before (for various reasons), and I also started feeling like I was losing some of the magic. This weekend, though, my husband and daughter went away, and I just read whatever I wanted (all fiction until the very end) all weekend. And I do feel like it helped me to recapture the magic. I'm actually working on a post about that. I'm sure you'll be able to do it this year, too!!

    1. Love this! That sounds heavenly! I'm glad you let yourself take a break and just read for pure pleasure!

  3. I love that one of your goals is to notice the eye color of the person you are talking to. I'm always trying to keep track of kids while talking & find ibdont have very good social skills (like looking the person in the eye) anymore. Also, i hope you blog abt your weekly usage goals and how it goes/adjustments you make. If you want to go to the Payson temple, your kids could play at my house while you are there. We live about 20 mins away, but it's closer than you live, if it was hard for you to be away from them that long. I recently read screamfree parenting & it has helped me be calmer & less of a bag. I love it!

    1. Noticing the eye color has been really grounding for me! We haven't been to Payson yet (except for the open house), so that is definitely a possibility. You are so nice to offer to take on five extra kids! If our cousin or grandparent babysitting options don't work out, I might take you up on it! I read Screamfree Parenting several years ago and remember liking it. Maybe it's time to revisit it!

  4. I quit reading goals after I had twins a few years ago. If I had time (very limited for too long!) I needed to read what I wanted. They just turned three and I contemplate starting goals again, but I don't think we're there yet.

    I did read Saints in December though. It's great, and it's a relatively quick read, especially considering how long it is. They did a great job.

    1. I think you get to cut yourself some slack for as long as you need to with twins!

      Good to hear your thoughts about Saints!

  5. Those seem like very good goals, and I wish you a happy year. I'm also looking forward to your review of Educated, as my book club is considering it but procrastinating because there are so many library holds...

    1. Whew, it's a heavy one, I'll say that (but I also couldn't stop listening to it).

  6. I'm with you on reading goals becoming a drag sometime and needing a break from them. I was trying to read a lot of classics last year and got bogged down by them by the end that I neglected my goal the last few months. Even though I have a much smaller scale goal this year, I'm thinking about just throwing it out and reading what I want, which is what I've been doing this month. I'm reading way more fantasy than I usually do so I guess I branched out of my reading comfort without having to make a goal out of it! Funny how that happens.

    1. Good for you! I am not a big fantasy reader either so I always feel super adventurous when I try one, haha!

  7. I tried to leave a comment earlier but I think it got swallowed by the internet. Anyway, I love your list and I am also so happy that you’re not setting reading goals. I like the idea of letting the books come to you. I feel like this also has so much to do with knowing yourself as an upholder... because there was no way you were ever going to abandon that list of reading goals. More to discuss, but I’m sure we’ll do it in person sometime soon. :)

    1. Totally. If I could make the goals and then not follow through, I might be okay. But since I can't, I just won't make them. :-)

  8. I read the 1st Betsy-Tacy to my kids and ended up reading ALL of the rest, just me. They're just delightful--a cross of Romona Q and Anne S. Janssen mentioned your blog for finding books and I love finding books for me and my kids -- My goal is to keep them reading through 12th grade!

    1. They're so good, right? And I'm glad you stopped by! I hope the same thing for my kids!

  9. I am going to think about your eye color goal all day. What a smart way to quantify being present. Thanks!


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