May Challenge: 30 minutes of reading a paper book

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At the end of 2020, I've decided to make 2021 a challenging year. I have committed to doing 12 monthly challenges, one for each month. You can see the list of all the challenges here. Below is a summary of the May challenge.

What was the challenge?

Challenge: 30 minutes of reading a paper book

Why: I don't read as many paper books as I'd like. At the same time, some of the most interesting books I have are on paper, waiting for me to read them, sometimes for months or years.

How well did it go?

Challenge completion rate: 100% (30 out of 30)

How hard was it?

At the end of each day, I recorded if I had completed the challenge for the day. I also rated how much effort it took on a scale of 1 to 10. While it's subjective, it gives an idea of how hard it was to complete the challenge.

Average effort score: 5.29
Lowest effort score for the month: 1 (2 times)
Highest effort score for the month: 10 (3 times)

What did I learn from it?

Usually, my challenges were either easy ("no sugar") or hard ("completed three priorities for the day"). This was both. There were both very easy days with an effort score of 1 and very hard days with an effort score of 10.

The learning is evident: the later in the day I started reading, the harder it was. If I managed to read during the day or in the early evening, it was pure pleasure. But if I didn't make an effort and left it for last, it sometimes meant fighting sleep over a book at 5am.

You can see a clear pattern in the first and second parts of the month. In the first half, I was much better at reading earlier in the day, and the second half was much busier, and I was constantly leaving reading for last, and it shows.

This is probably universal for all the challenges where something needs to be done (as opposed to avoiding something): the earlier, the easier.


  • Doing something that otherwise is always not a priority. I tend to have very little free time, if any. When I do, I spend it with my family. So doing something that requires free time never comes naturally. You need to plan it and then do it. Otherwise, it stays permanently in the "important, not urgent" part of the Eisenhower matrix.
  • Reading the best books. I read a lot, but usually not on paper. I listen to audiobooks, I read on my phone (Kindle app) or my Kindle. I do it whenever I have a few minutes of spare time. Paper books are not usually at hand. I also tend to have many paper books. I buy paper when I know the book is going to be very good or if I want it to last, or if I expect to come back to it and reference it from time to time. In short - I have the best books on paper. But I also read them the least.


  • Lost sleep. When reading time is non-negotiable, but life has other plans, the only time to read is often late, late at night. But that doesn't mean that the morning kindly comes later. You have a bunch of reading and sleeping coins, and you need to exchange one for the other. The exchange rate is steep.

Will I keep doing it?

I wish! "If only I had time" has been a more and more frustrating issue for me the last few years. But there are only more exciting things coming into my life, more duties, more things that can't wait, can't be reasoned with, can't be ignored (👧👦). As much as I'd like to still be able to read paper books on top of all this, I think it will be more of a luxury for me than a daily habit.

What's the next month's challenge?

Challenge: Wake up before 9 AM.

Why: Nobody would call this being a morning person, but for me, this would definitely be a big shift and a transition to becoming a morning person. I'll make an effort and see if this works for me. I've tried this a few times in my life, always reverting to late nights.