There is no end to the list of excuses we can make for why we don’t read more. Almost everyone agrees that reading is better for your personal development than not reading, yet it is a struggle for many of us to make that time every day to invest in our future and our success.
What helped me the most in the pursuit of a daily reading habit was setting up a system for how I would get that done. Here is how I became intentional about investing in my personal growth:
“The book you don’t read won’t help.” – Jim Rohn
Step 1: Decide your areas of interest and where you would like to grow and develop (could be in the area of your work, or in the area of your interests outside of work). Mine were leadership, personal development, personal productivity, and leading cross cultural teams.
Step 2: Develop multiple ways to get books. I use three ways:
- Audio books: Audio books allow me to put previously idle time into play. Driving my car, walking on the treadmill or in the neighborhood, and working in the yard on a Saturday morning. It allows me to consume books I might never try if I had to hold a hardcopy in my hands.
o The Upside: ease of access and putting normally wasted time to use.
o The Downside: difficult to take notes, easy to be distracted from whatever else you are doing
- eReaders: I use the Kindle reader and App from Amazon. Amazon also owns the Audible audio book service. This is nice because the audio book and the Kindle book sync when you switch between the two. I try not to buy both the audio and the Kindle version of a book, but sometimes the book is so good that I want to have a print version.
Having the Kindle eReader App on my phone, iPad and laptop puts every book I ever bought at my fingertips. The WhisperSync technology from Amazon keeps all these devices in sync.
- Physical books: I am doing this less and less, but from time to time, either from an online retailer like Amazon or from a local used book store, I buy a physical book for my library. If you can find a local used book store it will allow you to get quality books for pennies on the dollar.
What About the Costs?
You might worry about the cost of buying books in the various formats, but as Jim Rohn liked to say, “Miss a meal if you have to, but don’t miss a book.” Here is a way I keep the costs down:
- On Amazon, sign up for the Kindle Daily Deal email. This shows you books that are on sale for less than $3.
- Go to BookBub and sign up for free to have a daily email sent with eBooks that are $2.99 or less. You tell them the categories of books you would be interested in and the daily email will only include those categories. I get 10-15 books/year from BookBub for under $2.
- Buy an annual subscription plan on Audible.com. This can drop the cost of an audio book to less than $10.
- Your local library. Yes, I have a library card. My library offers audio and physical books. It’s free!
The ROI (Return on Investment) of the dollars I spend on books is huge. Don’t limit your growth thinking you are saving money.
What About Capturing Your Notes?
What good is doing all that reading if you don’t capture what you are learning? This is where being intentional really pays off. Get yourself a free subscription to Evernote. This tool is a cloud-based app that is basically a filing cabinet for your life. I have it on my phone, my iPad and my laptop. Every time you enter a note it syncs to every device. You could also use OneNote or another cloud note taking app.
Audio Book Notes: I may not be able to write a note, so I use the voice recorder on my phone to capture any interesting ideas. When I am back at my desk I capture the book notes in my Evernote app.
Kindle Book Notes: When you use your finger to highlight text on the screen, those highlights are automatically captured in the cloud by Amazon. You have a webpage on Amazon with your highlights. Because I like having all my notes in one place I will copy my notes from my Amazon notes page and paste them in Evernote.
Physical Book Notes: I always have a yellow highlighter and/or a notepad handy. This means I will need to get these highlights from the book into Evernote. This requires some intentional effort and pushes me more toward the Kindle app where this is all done automatically. A good friend of mine told me that one of her children was looking for a job to make some extra money. I offered him $15/book to go type all my yellow highlights in a MS Word document and email it to me. Win/Win!
Bonus Idea: After doing what I have outlined above for the last 10+ years of between 50-60 books per year, I have amassed quite a database of notes and highlights. It’s difficult to keep up with all the neat things I have highlighted over the years…Readwise to the rescue. Readwise is a website/app that syncs with all your eReader notes and highlights and serves up 5 per day for you to read and remember the great things you have seen over time. I have really enjoyed this. You can try it for free, but there is a subscription fee if you decide it adds value to your life.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
With all this in place you are now setup for a successful reading routine. I am a believer in having a scheduled time to read every day, but with this plan you can read anywhere and anytime you find yourself with a few free minutes. You will be amazed at the number of opportunities you have during the course of a day to pull out a book, in whatever format I you are using, and capture what would otherwise become wasted time.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
What are your tips to establish or improve a reading habit?