It’s frequently said that those who lead, read. Research has shown that reading keeps leaders smart, creative and social. For those who want to lead, reading is not a nice to have or a luxury, reading is a habit successful leaders consider critical to their success.
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time – none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren(Buffett) reads – at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out”.” – Charles T. Munger, Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger
The conviction as to the importance of reading for leaders is not unique to billionaire Charles Munger. Tom Peters made the following comment in an interview with McKinsey Quarterly:
“I was at a dinner party recently with a guy who’s probably one of the top ten finance people in the world. At one point he said, “Do you know what the biggest problem is with big-company CEOs? They don’t read enough.” – Tom Peters, Tom Peters on leading the 21st-century organization
As a leader if you’re not reading daily don’t be surprised if you find yourself falling behind your peers!
6 Steps to a Daily Reading Habit
Reading is a habit and like any other habit it needs to be purposefully developed.
1. Set an Annual Reading Goal
As with most habits, change begins with goal. You set goals for your exercise routine, you set goals for how much weight you want to lose, reading is no different.
The first step is to set a goal for the number of books you would like to read this year. You could go big and decide to read 52 books this year – one book a week. Or you could decide to take it more slowly and read two books a month – one book every two weeks. For example Mark Zuckerberg has set himself a reading goal.
“My challenge for 2015 is to read a new book every other week – with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.” – Mark Zuckerberg
If you want to follow along with Mark’s challenge you can do so on the Facebook page A Year of Books.
So take some time to set a goal for the number of books you will read this year.
2. Maintain a Reading List
A powerful way to sustain your reading habit is to keep a reading list. This is a list of all the books you want to read. Some people keep this list in a journal, others as part of their to do list, you can find mine here.
Whenever you come across an interesting book or a recommendation from a friend, add the book to your reading list. It is also useful to get into that habit of asking others what they are reading from time to time. Then add their suggestions to your list for consideration.
In this way you never run out of books to read. Knowing that you have a list of books waiting to be read, helps to maintain your reading habit. Use your book list and purchase a bunch of books then keep them close at hand. The minute you finish a book, pickup a new one and start reading. Don’t break the cycle. Keep reading.
Lastly, share the great books you have read with others so they can learn and grow. Here are some examples of reading lists that others have shared.
- Your summer reading list: Rashida Jones, Elizabeth Gilbert, Bill and Melinda Gates and many more share their book recommendations.
- The 14 Best Business Books To Read This Fall
- 20 Books Billionaire Charlie Munger Thinks You Should Read
- You Are What You Read: 14 Thought Leaders Share Their Bookshelves
- Stephen King’s Reading List
- My Reading List – George Ambler
What are the books on your reading list? Which of the books from the above lists do you need to add to your reading list?
3. Read Broadly. Read Widely.
Diversify and add variety to your reading. Reading too much non-fiction or in one specific genre, such as history, business or psychology, can get boring.
All of us need to increase our reading diversity. Whilst the benefits of reading non-fiction are clear, helping to increase your knowledge and skills. For example research has found that reading fiction increases your social and communication skills.
When leaders read widely they gain insight from a broad range of topics. This broad set of knowledge provides the raw material for creative insight. Many of breakthrough ideas have come as the result of combining knowledge from unrelated fields.
Given this you should consider reading something completely different from time to time. Consider books on topics and genres you’d not naturally read. Books on philosophy, biographies, science, history, psychology, technology, business or sociology. Keep your reading broad and interesting.
4. Schedule a Daily Reading Time
Schedule a daily reading time in your calendar. If you want to develop a reading habit, you need to make the time. Time is not like money, which you can save. Either you use it or you lose it. So block off reading time in your calendar. Make reading part of your daily routine.
Commit to read 60 minutes every day. There are two ways you can schedule your reading time. The first is to schedule one 60 minutes session each day. Or you can break your reading time into three 20 minute sessions, each at different times throughout the day. Whatever approach you choose, make a commitment to read daily. Non-negotiable. No exceptions. No excuses.
5. Reduce Television and the Internet
“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” – Groucho Marx
Struggling to schedule time for your reading? Consider cutting down on the time spent watching TV, browsing the internet and reading the news. TV and the internet consume a huge amount of time, time that is better spent reading books. Whilst the internet has some good articles, books are generally of a higher quality. Given this you’re going to learn a whole lot more from a books, than browsing the internet.
6. Stop Reading a Crappy Book After 50 Pages
Life is too short to read crappy books. To prevent wasting your time on crappy books, adopt the 50 page rule. If a book hasn’t caught your attention after 50 pages, the chances are neither will the next 50 pages. The solution? Stop reading! Don’t be afraid to quit bad books.
“If I am not marking up a book very quickly, I put it aside very quickly!” – John Maxwell
With the huge number of great books available at the click of a button it make no sense to read an a crappy book. Stop it!
Bottom Line: Developing a reading habit isn’t a big secret. It comes down to choices. The question becomes “will you make time to read?” The same way you make time to eat, shower and exercise.