Every month, Page Advice columnists Mallory O’Meara and Brea Grant offers commentary and answer reader questions to help improve your reading life.

May asks:

What are your thoughts on reading challenges?

Brea: For your book-related question, I have a book-related answer. Have you ever read The Four Tendencies? It was a quiz written by Gretchen Rubin that is now a book and it tells you how you create and keep habits or goals. I’m an Obliger, which means I’m really great when I have an outside force making me do something. That’s why, in college, I loved a syllabus. I’m good at following rules set up by other people, and I feel the best when I check off an entire to-do list for the day. So, I think reading challenges are excellent if you create habits this way as well—especially if you are encouraged by other people helping you establish goals and you like meeting outer expectations. It may not be so great for people who try to buck all the rules all the time. Then you’ll just feel like it’s the man trying to get you down!

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Mallory: It’s December. Everyone is looking over the year they’ve had and the year that’s to come—a good time to think about goals and challenges! I feel the same way about reading challenges as I do about FitBits. It can be an excellent way to motivate you until you’re freaking out your cat while frantically pacing around your bedroom at 11:30 p.m. trying to get all of your steps in for the day. Reading challenges can help improve your reading life, but only if they do not stress you out. If you find that at the end of the month or week or day, you are anxious and guilty over not meeting your goals, set your reading challenge on fire and throw it in the garbage. (After the fire burns out.)

Brea: I try to follow some reading challenges of my own when I know I want to finish a book by a certain time or push myself to read a different type of book. This is especially true when it’s due back at the library in three days and I know that means I have to read ⅓ of the book each day or I will have to be on the dreaded hold list again. Library due dates are basically my reading challenge.

Mallory: Remember that you might be the type of person who enjoys a reading challenge and not even know it! You can set up a reading challenge to read more books, to read more diversely, to read more widely, to read more often. These are all great ways to improve your reading life! It doesn’t have to mean reading more books a year, it could mean reading more genres or reading more books in translation. Maybe you want to read more books with cute dogs on the cover. We’re not here to judge. Whatever you feel like you want to add (or subtract!) from your reading life, you create a challenge for. If you are the type of person who enjoys a reading challenge and it won’t stress you out, I suggest starting small, as you’d do with any new routine. Setting a first goal that’s easy to achieve will help you feel more productive and therefore more motivated to push yourself a little harder. Looking up pre-made reading challenges online is an easy way to start. Many of these have online communities around them, like BookRiot’s Read Harder Challenge or Goodreads’ yearly reading challenges. Having some online friends to talk with and support you can help! Or you can be a book maverick and create your own! Then you can impress people with all the reading goals you achieve. Yep, that always works. Definitely.