We can’t all be like Warren Buffet, who somehow finds the time to read for six hours a day. But even the busiest entrepreneur would benefit from carving out even a single hour every week for a little information and inspiration.
Recently at Think Productive, we surveyed 300 office workers from around North America and a few best-selling authors like Dan Pink and our founder Graham Allcott, to ask about their time-management skills. Of the 20 productivity-habit-probing questions we asked, making time for business reading was the second-least important priority for respondents.
But while they can’t find the time to pick up a book, most respondents claimed to genuinely value reading and appreciate that it makes them smarter. Successful readers we spoke to told stories of life changing impacts and inspired ideas from as little as two hours a week perusing published material. One CEO recounted how reading a single business book stopped him from having to hire a costly consultant. Even fiction has its advantages—a study published in Scientific American Mind found that reading novels improves emotional intelligence.
Even though many entrepreneurs recognize the value of book learning, they regularly struggle to make the time for it. Many confess to feeling “un-productive” using work hours to read—the lack of an immediate, measurable return on their time compared to say doing payroll or sending sales emails makes it seem lazy or a little self-indulgent. Interestingly, their guilt increases when they hold a book in-hand rather than reading on-line, perhaps because it’s more visible to neighbouring colleagues or employees.
Here’s how can you combat this guilt and find ways to fit reading into your hectic schedules.
Embed it into your office culture
As the boss, you’re in the best position to influence what’s considered acceptable and productive within your business. Rather than selfishly guarding the right to read on company time, start a business book club with your employees. In addition to the management and strategy insights you’ll gain, a book club is a good way to get to know your employees and build better relationships with them.
If individual initiative is more your style, designate a weekly power hour’ with your team to allow reading time for all. Encourage them to take part by create a reading-friendly space—even a quiet corner with a chair and a well-stocked bookshelf with do.
Make it easier for yourself
Minimize the barriers to reading, and you’ll do it more.
Set up an @reading folder in email. Filter your reading material—newsletters, company news—into this folder so that you can quickly access priority reading when in transit or waiting in the doctor’s office. Or use Pocket.
You should also ritualize your reading, giving it a set time and location each week. Book it in your calendar as regular event (even 30 min a week will do). Try scheduling your reading break for a time when you know your energy levels are low and you’ll enjoy a more passive activity. And sneak out to Starbucks with your book if that helps.
Try these cheats
Reading doesn’t come naturally to everyone—a thick book can be intimidating, and some people simply learn in other ways. But you don’t have to spend hours flipping pages to get the benefits of reading. Subscribe to book review and summary services that offer highlights of popular business books. There’s no need to read the whole thing unless you want to go deeper. Often you can get benefit from a concise summary at a fraction of the time investment. Try The Business Source or Actionable Books, a site for free summaries.
Or learn by listening instead—audio books are a great alternative to reading. Enjoy a good business book as you fold laundry, and you’ll feel doubly productive.
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Dan Pink— an avid reader—simply suggests, “Read more books and less email.” Reading might just lead to your big idea or opportunity. At the very least it’s a great topic for a networking opener. “What are you reading?” or “What’s your favourite business book?” is a great way to start a conversation, and look smart doing it
Dawn O’Connor is the Director and Master Productivity Ninja at Think Productive Canada, personal productivity and time management training company serving knowledge workers across Canada. With a team of Productivity Ninjas in most major cities, they deliver a range of stress-reducing and time-savings workshops including their most popular session—Getting Your Inbox to Zero, where participants walk away with transformed inboxes, increased focus, and a renewed capacity to dive deeper into meaningful and more satisfying work. And of course more time for reading!
BUSINESS BOOKS YOU MUST READ:
- Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard P. Rumelt »
- The Startup Playbook by Reid Hoffman »
- Running Lean by Ash Maurya »
- The Commitment Engine by John Jantsch »
- Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has a Minute by Brigid Schulte »
Do you make the time to read? What are your favourite business books, and what did they teach you? Let us know using the comments section below.