I cannot understate the importance of continuous education. I’m a huge believer in reading books or listening to podcasts daily. As I discussed in previous posts, you are your most important asset. This extends to your personal health and your knowledge. An investment in a good book can return threefold or more and often can be compounded as you read more.
We stand today on the shoulder’s of giants that came before us. Everything that you could ever want to know in the world is outlined in a book somewhere. All you need to do is create a habit of continuous learning every day.
Reading books is the single most important thing you can do for your personal self-improvement.
I used to think reading a lot of books was challenging to do and that I did not have time for it. I have since learned that there is always time for it and while I have since gotten much busier I have found time to read an average of 60 books a year, or a little over 1 book per week.
This is 100% doable for everybody. It’s all about first, finding the time to make it happen, then creating a habit of reading daily.
I also don’t always read self-improvement books either too. I would recommend spending each month focusing on something you want to improve on or learn more about. Usually it’s something you can directly make applicable during that month. An example could be reading up on improving your health or diet, reading about traveling the world, or learning Tai Chi. The possibilities for improvement are endless.
All the skills you could ever want to learn are available for you today. It all starts with a making the habit possible.
Here are My Strategies for Reading More Books:
While Driving: If you have a long commute to work or you find yourself driving often then you have it easy. Try substituting music with audiobooks for at least 80% of your driving time. I’ve heard this phrase from others and I couldn’t agree more – Turn your car (or train) ride into a mobile university. You can easily read multiple books a week if you have a relatively average commute time. Typically my car ride goes from reading an engaging book for most of the trip then switching to my Spotify account to listen to a couple songs to get me fired up for the rest of the day. Consider downloading Amazon’s Audible for a free one month account.
In the Morning: If you do not commute to work on a train or in your car, then consider waking up 30 mins to an hour earlier than normal to read a good book. This may be tough at the start but once you make it a habit for a couple weeks it becomes much easier. Typically, high achievers combine this with a successful morning routine to reap more benefits from working out, meditating and reading. This is a surefire way to kickoff the day and often find myself kicking butt when I start the morning off on a good note. If you win the morning then you will the day.
At Lunch Break: Another method could be during a break at work. You can either go out for a run and listen to an audiobook or sit down with a physical book over your lunch and read there. Stepping away from the grind at work may be hard but it can often be rewarding. I usually will leave my phone at my desk and go out for a run then drink my protein smoothie shake while reading several pages from a book. Unplugging is a great way for me to re-charge as I prepare to take on the second half of the day.
At Night Before Bed: Lastly, if all of the above options are not available for you for whatever reason, then there is always reading at night. I personally don’t prefer it because I often run a bit behind towards the end of the day. Usually non-urgent tasks such as reading are often first on the chopping block. I typically will prefer to sleep earlier and wake up earlier because I’ll be more alert and motivated in the morning to read. However, everyone is different. Sometimes what I do is read a different book in the evening that is more for enjoyment since my brain is usually less opt for learning by then. But give each option a go and see what works for you.
Tip: Consider a combination of the above methods for maximum results, each has its pros and cons. Some books are better read via the traditional method while others I prefer to listen to via Audiobooks.
If You Are Too Busy: If you are unable to find 15 or so minutes each day to deliberately slow down and read a book then I would consider first re-evaluating where you spend your time and determine where cuts could be made. Often, when you record where you spend your time in 30 minute blocks for a month you’ll see that there is a large surplus of urgent but non-important tasks that consume your day. My advice would be to look for a solution to remove yourself as the prime decision maker for these “fire fighting tasks” and make time for reading. It’s the best thing you can do.
Goals When Reading
My goals for reading a book are to find takeaway points. These are things that you can directly apply in your day to day work. I will record these in an online notepad for future reference and sometimes will mark a book to return to at a later date. It’s helpful to read a book that you can directly make one of the takeaway points applicable in your life, that day.
I had to add a section on here about whether you should read 60 different books or 10 books, 6 times each. It’s a good point and something I hear sometimes from my favorite authors.
The short answer is it really depends. I personally believe that there are so many books out there in the world, and find it advantageous to read the perspectives of many different views instead of focusing on fewer perspectives.
Sometimes I will find myself reading the same book multiple times a year to reactivate those conversations in my head about the topic. Often, when I read a book multiple times, I will find new pieces of information that I did not know before. The purpose here is to start a habit that allows you to read an equivalent of 60 average sized books each year. Whether that takes the form of reading the same book multiple times or reading all different books doesn’t matter. It’s all about the continuous learning to make you a better person.
Just think of how much you’ll grow when you read 60 books each year. You’ll expand your knowledge and learn so many new skills.
Bill Womeldorf is an energy efficiency consultant and real estate entrepreneur in Boston, MA. He’s typically the one with the reusable water bottle in business meetings. When we all work together, he believes, it’s possible to solve the climate crisis. You can follow Bill on twitter @BillWomeldorf and read more about self-improvement and sustainability on his blog.