Updated: May 14, 2020
A week ago, I took The One Week Challenge to read 7 books in 7 days and I have successfully completed it. This post will share what I have learned from that challenge. Here are the books I read:
Before I share the learning, I wanted to tell you why I took this challenge. After my post on why having a hobby is important for CAT aspirants, I received a lot of messages that hobby-building is a very tough exercise. So, I decided to take up this challenge myself and learn how it can be made easier.
The idea was to do something that didn't lie in my comfort zone. I have never been an avid reader in my life, most of the books that I've read are on marketing. So, reading a non-fiction on anything else after months of not reading any book was a daunting challenge for me to take.
Now, we come to the most interesting part. Remember that these are not my learning points from the books, but my learning points from taking this challenge. These will help you in understanding how new habits can be developed with ease. While reading them, think of the challenge you took or you plan on taking:
Starting is difficult - On day 1, I began reading too late, which costed me a lot of time. Hence, from day 2 onward, I adopted a strategy. I started reading 10-15 pages of the second day's book on the first night itself. This gave me a head-start for day 2. When I woke up in morning, I had not only read 10-15 pages of the book the previous night, I was also curious to read what the book will unfold ahead. So, remember that starting a new habit is the most difficult thing. If you prepone that start somehow, you are more likely to succeed.
Make the obstacles invisible - I read all the books using an app on my phone. Now, the problem was that whenever I set to read a book, notifications started pouring in. I often tried to ignore them but sometimes, those distractions took over me. Hence, I made a rule that whenever I'll start reading the books, I'll switch off the data of my phone. Without internet, I could use the app but no longer be distracted by the obstacles in my way.
Make it easy - The more the number of steps in between you and your habit, the higher the chances you won't do it. For example, noting down anything important from the book required me to carry a pen and paper along with me every time I set to read it. However, it's an additional step for me to carry out. So, I started using my WhatsApp Space (point 4) for the purpose of recording any interesting points I came across in the book. This way, I had to carry nothing along while reading the book.
Follow habit stacking - If I were to set a time for reading the books, let's say, "At 2 PM, I will read 30 pages", this would have caused boredom due to the fixed schedule. The other way around (which I found in a book) was to stack my habit next to an already established habit. For example, I exercise everyday for a couple of minutes as a part of my fitness routine. So, after the exercises, I maintained to read a couple of pages. Similarly, I had decided to read a couple of pages of the next book before sleeping.
One place, one use - Another helpful tip I learned from a book and practiced during this challenge was to fix a place for a particular use, in this case - reading a book. I used my study room, especially the upper berth of the bed to read the books in peace. This way, I also set a cue to my habit. Whenever I thought of the place, I thought of the habit and vice-versa.
Accountability partners - I mentioned this one on the social media handles when I posted about day 5's update. I was too tired to finish the book and had almost given up. It was a bad day. But then, the only thing that inspired me to keep going was the fact that I had announced this challenge to all the blog members across social media handles. Not only that, many of my friends, who knew that I was taking this challenge, asked me for updates regularly. This helped me remain accountable.
Slight variation - We all get bored of routines, it's so natural. So, bringing some variety to your habits is important. I tried mixing up things during this challenge. On day 4, I announced that I would read the book in the first half of the day itself and finish it early. On day 5, I had read a long book, so I rewarded myself with a relatively shorter book on day 6. Mixing up things and bringing some variations is important to ensure that you're enjoying the process of habit-building.
Parkinson's Law - I realized that it took me the same amount of time to read a 300-paged book as it took me to read a 100-paged book. That's what happens because of the Parkinson's Law, which states that we spend more time on a work than it needs, to fill the extra time we have at hand. Once you've realized this, it becomes easier to handle it. The next time I read a 150-paged book, I told myself consciously how much time it's going to take to finish this book (half of what it took to read a 300-paged book). By telling myself this thing, I cut short the time I thought I had at hand.
So, these were the things I learned by taking this challenge. It was an amazing experience and I hope you learned a lot too. I am super thrilled to share that many members sent me book recommendations. Many members also shared their experiences, which have been shared below as a token of appreciation:
Overall, it was an immense learning experience for me. If you're interested in building a habit and find it hard to start, I'd suggest that you read the book Atomic Habits.
Building a new habit is not difficult. Sustaining it might be, to some extent. So, hope I'm able to continue with this new found habit and so are you :)