We’ve long known Mark Zuckerberg to be a man who sets goals for himself.
Having previously learned Mandarin (and carried out an entire 30-minute interview in it) as a New Year’s resolution, this week the Facebook CEO announced his goal for 2015: reading a new book every other week.
“I’ve found reading books very intellectually fulfilling,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.”
Of course, taking on a new habit isn’t easy, as we’ve learned especially well over the past few months through the Fast Company habit challenges. Here’s our best advice for Zuck, and for anyone else who wants to follow in his footsteps.
It’s hard to imagine how your life will be a year from now, which is why yearlong resolutions often fail. And when you know you have a year to complete an objective, it’s easy to put it off until tomorrow (and the next day, and the next). That’s why many entrepreneurs swear by 90-day goals. You’re more likely push through the 12-week period, at the end of which you can reevaluate your priorities, and commit to another 90 days if the habit is working for you.
Marketers know that visual cues can trick us into associating one thing with the need to buy their products. Environmental triggers can also be a great way of reminding us about our resolutions. In our recent article “How To Change Your Habits With The Help Of One Clever Marketing Trick,” we described how well-placed visual cues (such as keeping your running shoes outside your bedroom as a reminder to exercise) prompt us to fulfill our goals. Zuckerberg would do well to place the book he wants to read in a prominent position—say, by his bed, or next to his computer monitor.
When we challenged ourselves to wake up earlier than usual for one week, we saw significant gains in our productivity, creativity, and focus. If you wait until the end of the day to tackle a goal, you’re essentially deprioritizing it–which means you are much more likely to let it slide when you’ve had a challenging day. If Zuckerberg’s daily goal is to read 50 pages of The End of Power by Moisés Naím (the first book on his reading list), he should set his alarm an hour or two earlier.
Zuckerberg has the right idea here: If he framed his resolution as “read 10,000 pages before 2016,” it would be easy to become discouraged and give up halfway through. On the other hand, dividing the task up into manageable chunks, as he is doing by aiming for one book every two weeks, makes success much more likely. Meeting smaller goals along the path to a larger one can provide the motivation needed to continue, as we learned during our recent exercise challenge.
It likely won’t surprise a reader of Fast Company to hear that technology can help us achieve our goals. While there are plenty of tools out there that can help track goals like number of books read, what is particularly exciting in 2015 is the number of apps and services which allow us to dive into our data in a way we never could before. Might it be that your coffee intake is slowing down your reading progress? The answer is in your data.
Good luck, Zuck!