What Gets Measured Is Not Always What Gets Done

I’ve had an abysmal few months when it comes to reading books cover to cover as I keep inching toward my 1,000-book goal. And I’m perfectly OK with that because it’s for good reason.

As it turns out, I've started but did not finish reading far more books over the last few months. And, as I’ve explained previously, if I don’t finish a book—no matter how far in I get—it doesn’t get added to my list. 

I’ve abandoned or temporarily set aside these books for various reasons:

  • Poor writing
  • Lack of interest in the subject matter
  • Difficulty getting into the author’s style
  • Putting books aside for a bit in favour of more immediate/pressing interests
  • Needing to return them to the library and waiting to get them back

Over a dozen books from the last three months fit into one or more of these categories (pictured is a sample of these).

It’s the luck of the draw, I guess. 

Or maybe I’m just not picking them as well as I used to?

I don’t quite know the answer to that question...and does it really matter? 

What I do know for a fact is that my decisions are still based on the one criterion I set for myself when I first started: 

The mere act of measuring the number of books I’ve read cannot dictate my behaviour.

And if it does, I need to quit.

Quantification can be a very dangerous thing and this fact made me somewhat reluctant to measure my reading in the first place. 

Numbers are reductionist. They measure output but they don’t measure nuance, meaning, real value.

In a way, measuring the number of books read is crass, but I chose it nonetheless because it’s easy to understand and relatable for readers and non-readers alike.

Unfortunately, numbers are also easy to game.

If I were driven by the goal, I’d:

  • Choose the easier reads (shorter words, larger type, etc.)
  • Finish books that I don’t like
  • Stop taking copious notes about the books I’ve read
  • Skim pages and chapters, as opposed to giving every words due attention

But that would be missing the point. I’m not reading to keep score. I’m reading because it enhances my:

  • Sense of self
  • Think (critical and otherwise)
  • Creativity
  • Level of empathy towards others
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Quality of life
  • Ability to listen to others

Will I continue to keep score? Yes, for now, because it does offer some information about me, despite its limited value. That said, I never want to lose sight of what really counts as I do so. 

And, heaven forbid, if I do lose sight of what my primary driver is, it will be time to turn the page on this little project because I will know I have lost my “why.”