This photo is the stack of books next to my desk I need to read. It’s big, but it’s not random. My dad used to read even more than me, but WHAT he read were random books. Books his friends recommended. Others he found on sale. Books he stumbled upon. On the other hand, I read strategically. I believe to maximize your time, and increase your knowledge, you need a strategic plan for reading. Here’s what I mean:
1. Start by focusing on books that deal with issues you’re struggling with right now. When I’m writing my own books, I collect everything I can find on that subject, and immerse myself in it. When I have a speaking engagement, I isolate the books in my library on that particularly subject. I want to learn information that helps me with challenges I’m dealing with today.
2. Save the leisure reading for the beach. I’m a huge fan of leisure reading – but I hold those books for times when I actually have “leisure.” When I try to read a new novel in the middle of a big project, or when I’m stressed out, it’s a waste of time. But on a plane, I have all the time in the world. Nearly every summer our family spends time at Donner Lake, near Lake Tahoe. I save a stack of leisure books for that trip, because I can relax and really enjoy them. Last summer I read “Unbroken” by the lake and enjoyed it enormously.
3. Underline. If you really want to learn, become an obsessive underliner. Don’t be afraid to write in your books. Write notes in the margins. Circle great quotes. Dog-ear pages. You need to use that book as a resource, not a museum piece.
4. Be organized. A library is nice, but if you’re a professional, you need a WORKING library. You need to know where specific books are on the shelves, and make them easy to find. You don’t need an elaborate file system or barcode reader, but if you want to be productive, take the time to organize the books in your collection.
5. Re-read. In the photo, you’ll see a number of books I’ve already read, but I pulled to read again. Memories fade, and we need to keep immersing ourselves in great ideas. Just because you finish reading a book doesn’t mean you’re done. Keep it handy and check on it from time to time. Your diligence will be rewarded.
6. Finally, don’t be afraid to toss it. There are plenty of books I begin, but quickly realize it’s nothing new or particularly insightful. Don’t listen to the inner taskmaster who says, “You paid for it, so you need to finish it.” If you’re not captivated within a chapter or two, set it aside and grab something else. Perhaps you’ll come back later, but most likely, you’ll leave it for good. And that’s OK.
Reading is informative, and certainly fun, but it shouldn’t be random. Develop a strategic reading plan because when it comes to personal growth, we never stop. As the legendary artist Michelangelo said late in his life: “I am still learning.”
Any other tips we should consider?