Friday, January 20, 2012

How I read (almost) 52 books a year

Since a lot of readers commented that they had only been reading 1-2 books max in a year, I thought it'll be a good time to share what I did to read that many books. First of all, let me add that in my opinion, reading many books is not as important as reading the right books. I rather read less books but books that are important and crucial to your mental well-being, than to say, reading many many books that are just trashy. But it's the law of diminishing returns that really makes it harder and harder to find those books that bring the right amount of inspiration and motivation to pump your hand in the air and gave a mental shout of victory. The best books are books that told you what you know internally already, in a way and mannerisms that makes it so easy for you to absorb. If I can read a handful of such books in a year, I think it'll be a great literary adventure for that year.

I read a lot more after I wanted to have a more disciplined approach towards it. In the past, I only read like less than 5 books in a year. I thought there is something wrong with this because there are so many things - wisdom and experiences - captured in books, written by people who had lived entirely different lives, that if I didn't know about them, I couldn't be living a full life, so to speak. It's a very good habit, I'll say. Things that I never though I knew, I actually knew. Besides being able to talk about almost anything, I find it useful in my work when I can relate certain facts or story and weave them into my lesson plans when teaching.

These days, I'm more likely to hold a ebook reader than a physical book

Anyway, here's how to squeeze more time and have some spare time to read:

1. I never watch tv. In fact, I don't even have a tv at home now, a fact that I'm proud of (despite the many cries by relatives and friends for me to go get a tv). I watch things from my computer though, because firstly I can skip by all the advertisements that a show usually will be splattered with, intermittently every 15 mins or so. I used the spare time to read instead. Roughly I can save around 2-3 hours like that to spend on reading.

2. I read while commuting. Though I don't bring my gigantic kindle dx around with me when I travel, I either have a physical book with me or an ebook saved in my handphone for idle time that pops out occasionally. I make it a point to always have something that I want to read in my bag (or handphone) so that when I'm commuting or when friends I'm meeting are late, I can whip it out to spend the time. Since I've reduced the amount of time that I spent travelling now, I read in between classes while waiting for students to come. I think I can save around 1 hr per day reading by doing this.

3. I always read before going to bed. Minimum of 30 mins or until a suitable stopping point in the book. It had been a habit since a long time, so besides calming me down to ready my mind to go to rest, it also serve as a routine that brings me to sleep. If I don't do it, I might even have problem sleeping! I think everyone needs to prepare for bed by doing things that will relax their body, so that when they actually go about sleeping, their mind will not be so alert and restless. This bedtime reading will allow me to spend a minimum of 30 mins to 2 hours reading.

So, in total, I think I can do about a minimum of 3 hours of reading time per day on average. Of course, there are other hobbies that I would do occasionally if I'm not reading, like guitar and playing computer games. But I think spreading between these few hobbies that I have, it's not too hard to be able to read an average sized book (around 2-3 cm thick) in a week.

Try it, you might find how easy it catches on!

(I'm off for a trip on 21st Jan, will be back on 26th Jan)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Reflection on 2011

After doing my end of month accounting for the Dec 2011 and thus wrap up my financial year 2011, I realised that a lot of my networth was wiped out. Okay, everyone's definition of networth is different, so here's mine - it's defined as all my assets (includes cash, marked to market investment portfolio, whole life insurance cash value, mmf  and cpf) but excludes my residential property. I also didn't include debts that I owed to the hdb because of the property. I think you can roughly say that's my investible networth since most of it is cash that I can utilize at short notice. I know you can't use cpf anytime you want, but then again, I don't have much of it anyway, so it doesn't matter significantly.

With this kind of definition, I realised that my networth is whacked down to around 2008, way before I had started any kind of disciplined savings. I had never had so little money in my savings account; the last time being just right after I had graduated from university. Wow, what a journey that I had in 2010/2011 right? But I had never had so much satisfaction and fun, so it's all worth it.

I realised that I had to begin from scratch again, working hard, savings hard and building up that excess money that I can hoard away for maybe another life's big bombs to hit me again. Sometimes I wondered if I had spend way more than I can handle. But the deed is done, so there's only one way to go and that's forward. I guess it's back to the 50k per year savings target. I'm really trying hard to double that savings but I think realistically, it's not going to happen this year 2012. There's simply no way to save more than I can afford to do so without sacrificing my current standard of living, so I'll have to do it by upping my income level. That's the challenge isn't it? I think if I can manage to save up 50k this year without including my mortgage payment, it'll be quite a feat already. That's technically 60-70k in total. Gulp.

So what had I set out to do in 2011?

1. Save 50k. Okay, that's old story, been there done that. Even though halfway along the year, I had to start paying mortgage for my flat, so the 50k includes all the mortgage payment too (I don't have much cpf, as mentioned earlier, so all of it is through cash)

2. Read 52 books a year. Nope, didn't manage to do that but I came quite close at 50 books. Here's the books that I read in 2011. Most of it is fiction, not some financial books that I've been gorging on since 2006. I realised that fiction taught me a lot on how to be human being. I haven't been reading so much fiction since my primary school day. PRIMARY SCHOOL - can you believe that? My brains must be super lopsided, haha!

You can see that I'm a loyal reader. If I like a particular author, I tend to 'cheong' all his/her books.

3. Set up and finish up the house. Okay, that's mostly done too. I still haven't got my bedside table and a tv. Yes, most people who came up to my house will definitely remark on the fact that I don't have any tv at home. I just don't see how a tv will fit into my life, so that's quite a low priority in my waiting list of things to buy.

In retrospect, I think 2011 had been a fulfilling year. It's a year that I had spent more than I had ever done in my life. It's a year that my friendship with my parents had just begun. It's a year that I had experienced a lot of new things (like cooking and maintaining the home, buying furniture, supervising renovation etc). It is certainly a year that is a big milestone in my life