Like many busy professionals, I often make the excuse that I am “too busy” to take on any additional tasks requested of me. So in 2015, when I set a personal goal to read just twenty books during the calendar year, I thought it was too lofty a goal to accomplish, given my “busy” schedule.
I read 41 books…
Now for some, I know that 41 books is still not a great number to achieve. But for me, it felt like a remarkable accomplishment. Not only did I complete a goal that I had set for myself, but I (more than) doubled the goal I had set. I was still as “busy” as ever…but through the incorporation of reading into my schedule, I actually found myself accomplishing MORE than I had during the previous year.
In a previous post, I shared Michael Hyatt’s blog article about the benefits of reading. There are those who probably read that article and said, “Yeah, Jon, that sounds great, and I would love to experience the benefits of reading, but I just don’t have TIME to read!”
I felt the same way when I set my reading goal for 2015. I was skeptical that I could find the margin in my life to read. Looking back, I can identify four things that helped me to accomplish my goal while actually increasing my level of productivity in other areas of my professional and personal life.
FOUR WAYS TO ADD INTENTIONAL READING TO YOUR SCHEDULE
Put it on Your Calendar: Things don’t happen if you don’t schedule them! This might seem like an obvious statement. Most of us carry around some type of schedule keeping device—whether it is a day-planner, a calendar, or an electronic scheduler on our phone or tablet. And we use that device to record our work schedules, doctor’s appointments, kids’ soccer games, and nearly every other meeting in our lives. But we rarely use it to schedule an appointment with ourselves—an appointment with a good book. By scheduling time on my calendar with myself, I am able to read more books. An added benefit is that scheduled reading time forces me to step away from the busyness of my workplace and focus my mind in other areas. This is wonderful for stress management.
Listen to Audiobooks: I have an hour long round trip commute to work each day. This is a great opportunity to listen to an audiobook. Formerly referred to as “Books on Tape,” most books are now offered in an audio version that can be downloaded from iTunes.com, Audible.com, Audiobooks.com, and other sites. You can also find books on CD at your local library. Some individuals like to listen to audiobooks while working out, and, while this has never worked very well for me, it might be a great time for you to absorb some excellent reading content.
Diversify Your Reading: When I set my reading 2015 goal, I filled my reading list with books on business, personal development, history, and a handful of biographies of great leaders. I intentionally left fiction off the list, as I didn’t really see any value in spending my limited time reading the imaginings of others. But a few months into my reading program, I started to grow bored. A friend recommended a sci-fi novel that he enjoyed. I wanted to spice up my reading, so I gave it a shot. I almost changed my mind when I picked up the 950 page tome from the library, but I reluctantly dove in—rationalizing that I could always quit if I didn’t like it. I devoured that book in about four days…and I learned a valuable lesson: the “imaginings of others” can revitalize our tired brains. The incorporation of well-written fiction into a reading program is just as vital as the best biography or leadership book on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Discuss What You’re Reading: Joining a book club is a great way to engage others in what you are reading. When I finished reading the aforementioned novel (“Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson), I couldn’t wait to talk about the story with the friend who recommended it. After reading “Turn the Ship Around” by Captain L. David Marquet, I couldn’t stop talking about the book’s leadership principles with other leaders. Reading good books encourages you to read more good books. The cycle perpetuated itself, and before I knew it, I had read over 40 books in a year!
The New Year is barely two weeks old, but I am already deep into my fourth book. I opened 2016 with a biography—“The Wright Brothers. ” I followed that up with “Ready Player One” a popular science fiction novel that has been called “Willy Wonka Meets the Matrix.” Book number three was “Lights Out,” Ted Koppel’s chillingly researched report on the vulnerability of the United States’ electrical grid to a cyber-attack.
I know that the idea of adding something else to an already busy schedule may seem counter-intuitive, if not downright oxymoronic. But the level of stress relief and refreshing energy received from reading a good book will actually help you increase the margin in your life and lead to higher levels of productivity. So in 2016, take up the challenge, add 15-20 books (NOT TEXTBOOKS!) to your reading list, and at the end of the year, you will be amazed at the results!
Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Now I need to get back to my book. My goal in 2016? Read more than the 41 books I read in 2015. I’m on my way!