Leaders are readers. We know that’s true, yet it often seems like there isn’t enough time to finish the reading required for study and prep, let alone discovery, learning and personal enrichment.

Why read so much?

  • Reading stimulates your mind and stretches your thinking.
  • You gain ideas!
  • It’s like having a conversation with some of the world’s brightest people, without leaving your home.
  • You’ll do your job better.
  • You’ll become a more interesting person.
  • You can be inspired!
  • It expands your world.

How is it that some leaders seem to read more than others?

I read a lot, yet I remain inspired by those who read 50-75 books a year. But please remember, it’s not a race or a competition, it’s more about reading on purpose, and for a purpose. Don’t read to impress, read to learn and grow.

Ravenous reading without application is of little value to a leader; however, we don’t need to read only leadership and spiritual life books. (My two main categories.)

Here are a few examples. Reading a novel can help you think creatively or improve your writing style. Reading a biography can inspire you and give you great insight into people – who they are and why they do what they do. And learning from an industry outside of your own expands the way you relate to your career.

I’m currently re-reading Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull, former president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. It’s a great book about the story of Pixar, and at its heart, it’s about creativity. But for me, the relationship between the creative process and business practices (leadership) jumps off the pages. And, yes, it’s fun to have the illustrations about projects like Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. You might ask, what’s that got to do with leading a church? Trust me; it’s loaded with insights into how we do what we do in the local church.

The truth is, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of books this good. How can we get to more of them, lots more? That’s why I’m writing. I’m presenting several super practical and quick tips to help you get more reading done in your busy schedule.

Let me give you a note of encouragement before we go through the quick tips. If you find one principle, golden nugget or practical insight, the whole book is worth it.

I used to think that the whole book needed to be good, but I now believe that if I find one stirring principle, one golden nugget, one inspiring story, the book is worth it. Plus, I do not need to keep the book! I file the thought and give the book to someone so that they can find another nugget just for them!

10 Quick Tips:

1) Trade 30-45 minutes a day for a better future.

In 30-45 minutes per day, at roughly 20 pages a day, depending on the book, the cumulative impact is striking. You can knock out a book of well over 200 pages every two weeks. (Even if you miss a day.) And that’s reading the whole book! That’s one less TV show or 30-45 fewer minutes online each day … a good trade.

2) Make realistic goals.

In quick tip #1 that you just read, I’ve given you a good idea of a realistic goal. The point here is to set something practical for you. You might knock out 40 pages a day no sweat, or maybe 15 pages is your sweet spot. Remember it’s not a competition. It’s about learning and growing.

A certain number of pages a day is a much more successful approach than a bold general goal such as 30 books a year. Reading 100 pages in one day, for example, then reading nothing for 5 days is usually not as productive as daily reading throughout a year.

3) Don’t hesitate to “abandon” a book.

If you are the kind of person who must finish every book that you start, let me urge you to change your thinking.

If the book isn’t helpful, if it just isn’t good, stop reading! Recycle it or give it away! Move on. There are thousands of other books awaiting you. Think of it like this. If you were in a restaurant and eating a chicken sandwich that was terrible you wouldn’t keep eating it would you? This is the same idea.

4) Your purpose determines how you read it.

A couple of weeks ago I set two books on my assistant’s desk and casually mentioned that “I read both of them last night.” She looked at me like, “What? Both of them? Did you sleep?” I had a good night’s sleep. But reading for a specific purpose, and depending on the kind of book, I can skim. Fast. I can underline the whole book in a short time when I’m looking for specific content for another project I’m working on.

You can too, like for a sermon or leadership talk. You know the content you are searching for, skim fast and mark it up. Now it’s ready and waiting for you.

5) Think of your book collection as more organic.

One thing that can turn you off of “more books” is where to put them. And every time you move, you start to hate your library. There is no need to keep all your books. I’ll bet that if you have hundreds of books, you have some you haven’t touched in years. Give them away. Keep your favorite books and save space for the new ones coming in.

6) Read physical books too.

There is a growing debate about the pros and cons of reading digital only in a digital and screen-based world. Here’s an interesting article about the science of paper vs. screens. You don’t have to be a boomer or old school to gain value from physically interacting with a book. If you are all about digital, great, but give this a try.

There is something about holding a book and marking it up that creates a more intimate experience and possibly even enhances your learning.

7) Continually curate a list of books to read.

Don’t wait until you’ve finished your book to look for the next. Always be looking. Ask people you know that are avid readers what they’re reading. Search online for “top ten” lists of books and scan them to see if you are interested.  Also, if you find an author you like, keep going back for more books they’ve written.

8) Have a quiet place in your home to read.

This might be a challenge for you if you have young children, but if possible, find a quiet place you like to read. Obviously, you can read anywhere and anytime, which is going to be a separate quick tip. But for the majority of your daily reading, if you have a set place like you might have a place you pray, you’ll find that you read more each day. Try to know when you go to bed the night before when you’ll get your 30-45 minutes the next day.

9) Always have your ebook, your reading app, or a physical book with you.

The quick companion tip to a place to read with a designated time is always have a book with you. Keep one in your car, in your bag, and especially when you travel. There are so many times that I get stuck waiting, and I love it when I have a book with me. The time is not wasted!

10) Tell someone what you are learning.

A fantastic way to remember what you are learning is to tell someone about it. Tell the story, the quote or the new principle you learned. They appreciate that you shared it with them, and you are much more likely to remember it!

Stretching your thinking along with refreshing what you already know is vital to your growth. It’s so important to put to practice what you are reading.

O

Keep reading, keep growing, and you’ll become a better leader.