These are thoughts from success and failure in my own reading goals over the past 30+ years , as well as insights from sharing the journey with others.
1. Don’t do a devotional or topical approach. Read whole books. There’s nothing wrong with devotions or topics, but without the larger context, often the meaning is lost or wrongly applied. Nothing is as good as knowing the themes, ideas, and outlines of complete books first before highlighting (or isolating) individual verses or parts.
2. With point 1 in mind, if you haven’t read the Bible before, start with small and simple goals. Instead of “I’m going to read the whole Bible this year”, maybe start with “I’m going to read the Gospel of Mark in the next 15 days, doing a chapter a day.” Gather some success (and learn how much daily content works for you), and then move to bigger steps.
3. Also with point 1 in mind, keep track of the big ideas and the feel of the book you are reading. Look for repeated themes and elements, and possibly twists on those within the text. Try to come up with one to four sentences that summarize each chapter, and focus on memorizing that. If you read something like one of the Gospels, think in terms of “how would I retell this chapter by chapter to someone else?”
4. Have fun with it. Too often I think we approach the Bible with a somber take. Try not to do that. You might actually find that the Bible is full of great humor, drama, sarcasm, history, emotion, etc. Don’t miss it by being too serious about it!
5. Do this with a friend or two (or three or four). “Personal Bible study” doesn’t actually have a long history in the church. For the most part, the Bible was written in community and has been experienced/interpreted in community. That’s a good tradition to keep. Invite some friends to read with you.
6. Lastly, consider reading an actual physical copy of a Bible rather than a digital version. There are a lot of great digital resources out there (free and paid), and I use them all. But the tangible approach of “seeing and feeling where you are” in the scripture is something I have found helpful, both as a matter of perspective and also as a matter of memorization and recall.