I feel lucky that I’m wired to be a reader. From my childhood I spent lots of time reading books and it’s something that I still do. My mother used to kick me and my brother out of the house so we would stop reading so much. I wish I had to do that more often with my kids!
In my career this has been so important. Each time I take on a new task or join a new team I assemble a reading list, plow through it, add new blogs to my daily feed, and within a short time I feel more comfortable with the basics of what I’ve been asked to do. Reading will never be the same as doing and experience is important, but for me quality reading makes the journey towards doing much shorter and fulfilling.
In our work we are judged on our output, rarely on our input. That’s unfortunate, because low quality input leads to low quality output. I love it when my boss gives our team something to read or watch. I learn more not only about the thing we’re working on but about his inputs and influences.
Here are some suggestions for getting higher quality input into your work routine.
Delete social media apps from your phone. More than any other action I’ve taken this year this has improved my life. I still use Twitter and LinkedIn on my computer and I can log in to the website on my phone if I need to. Not having the apps on my devices means I can’t default to using social media to kill a few minutes. Suddenly I have vast stretches of formerly occupied time available! It sounds like I’m trying to be funny, but I’ve read at least 10 more books this year because I deleted social media apps from my phone.
Read more than one book at a time. This sounds counterintuitive! Alas, most good books are not page turners the whole way through. There are times when I don’t want to read more about being productive, about business, or about anything non-fiction. I make sure I have a novel or two around, and I usually have 2-3 other books in progress at any given time. (A nightstand book, a bathroom book, a book on my work desk, a book on my home desk, and a book in the front room. If there’s a book wherever you go you’ll end up reading them!) Here is Scott Young’s great illustration on how this actually helps you read more.
Read before bed. I remember reading Tim Ferriss’s advice along these lines years ago and have enjoyed this habit since. I tend to read narrative-based books, like novels, historical fiction, or biographies, before bed. Listening to an audiobook works for some people too. (I suggest using a timer on your audiobook app if you go this route so you can easily find your place in the morning if you fall asleep before the book stops.) You’ll be surprised how many books you get through by reading 30 minutes per night. You also have the added benefit of not using a screen right before bed, which many people find makes falling asleep easier.
Put reading time on your schedule. Call it whatever you need to so that co-workers won’t think you are slacking. If you read more you will have better ideas, make broader connections, and problem solve more effectively. It doesn’t matter what field you work in, this will make you better at your job. As Harry Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Get your reading time scheduled on your calendar.
HT to Scott H. Young and Austin Kleon for the inspiration.