Why I’ve decided to read less (Hint: It’s to learn more)

Published by Thriving Erin on

 

Last month marked the end of my commitment to read one nonfiction book every two weeks for a year. I made the commitment to myself, there were no consequences for failing or rewards for succeeding. There was simply me and the 26 books I had selected. Now that I’ve finished, I can say it was an incredible year. I learned a lot, but I won’t be doing it again.

 

Let me start at the beginning. I love reading. I guess you could call me a bookworm. Many, many times during my childhood my mother would yell at me to “get your nose out of that book.” Even today, I can easily read two (or even three) fiction books in a week, but I try to guard my time more carefully nowadays. Last year, I decided I wanted to be more intentional, more purposeful with what I was reading. What were all those hours doing for me? What were they accomplishing? As I started on my journey to thriving intentionally, I decided I could easily be spending much more time learning and improving myself by shifting the types of books I was reading.

 

I wanted to learn. I wanted to get advice on how to thrive in different areas of my life. The list of books I put together included self-help books, business books, leadership books, relationship books, and biographies. I searched for books by authors I already knew, books recommended by people I respect, and books by people who had been guests on some of my favourite podcasts.

 

I learned a lot this past year. Having a schedule kept me on track and forced me to be consistent with my reading schedule (even if getting through some of the books was a bit of a slog). Since I would write a blog post about each book after reading them, I couldn’t skim them. I really had to focus on the big ideas, on making sure I received what the author was trying to tell me. The base of knowledge that I established through really taking the time to digest all these books is amazing. But in spite of all that, I won’t be renewing my commitment.

 

Here’s the thing, I learned a lot. In fact, I learned a ton. But most of it is still in my head, I simply haven’t had the time to apply all these amazing principles and lessons to my everyday life. Head knowledge is great, and it’s a necessary place to start, but I want some of these values and lessons to become part of who I am and how I live.

 

I will still continue to read this coming year, but I may spend a month with one book. Maybe I’ll spend less with some and more with others. I want to make sure I’m firmly establishing a foundation, that I’ve asked myself the ‘why’ questions, I have a clear sense of where I’m going, and that these incredible lessons I’ve learned have been put into action in my life. Learning about growth is not the same as growing. Knowing what to do is not the same as doing it.

 

I’ve read, I’ve learned, I’ve absorbed, now it’s time to take action.

 


 

If you’re looking to get started with being more intentional with your reading, here are a few of my favourites, they would all be a great place to start.

 

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

When by Daniel H. Pink

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Ben Zander

The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield     

Do Over by Jon Acuff

Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

 

 

Categories: Musings

3 Comments

Ted Lemon · September 18, 2019 at 1:14 am

I’m impressed that you pulled this off, and not at all surprised at how it went. I like that you’re changing your methodology. One thing that occurs to me to ask is, why is it necessary for you to have read the whole book before you could write a blog about it? Would it be bad if you dived into a book, got what you needed from it, blogged about that, and then chucked it after the third chapter?

I ask because I think a lot of books are built around a core idea that’s really valuable, but then the book itself winds up trying to say more than there is to say, or more than you need to hear, because the author has a different agenda than you do.

E.g., did you read Black Swan by Nassim Taleb? It’s a great idea, and I’m glad he wrote a book about it, but after about the second chapter I realized that I didn’t need to finish the book. Do you think that if you put the book down at that point, you aren’t allowed to write about the idea of black swan events? 🙂

Courtney · September 16, 2019 at 1:57 pm

Hi Erin! I had to read your post because I had the exact same revelation this year. I set out to read the number of books that coincides with the year (so 2019 meant 19 books). This year, I found myself reading for reading’s sake. I felt I couldn’t spend time with sections of books I resonated with most because I had to stay on schedule and finish the book. I already noted that next year, it will not be to read 20 books, but to spend time with the books I do select and enjoy them. How crazy it is to have lost this simple principle. I think I fell in love with the way it sounded when I could say “I read x books this year!” instead of sharing a takeaway that impacted my work/life after absorbing it. Thanks for sharing your experience with this and confirming it is “OK” not to measure your reading by the number per year!

Maria · September 16, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Hi Erin,

Your blog put a smile on my face. I wish more people – the bookworms and book nerds among us – would realize the power of your decision sooner than later.

“I’ve read, I’ve learned, I’ve absorbed, now it’s time to take action.” I love this!

I read non-fiction books very intentionally. I usually want to learn something or find out more about a problem I have or an area I want to improve. I borrowed about 200 books from the library last year – in groups based on the topic I wanted to research – and I ended up reading parts of the whole book of about half of them. And I bought about 20 of them for future reference.

I also reread books like the Deep Work by Cal Newport to assess what I have already applied to my work and identify new ideas I want to implement.

What you are describing will 10x the impact of reading books on your learning.

I cannot wait to read your reflections! Thank you again for such an insightful blog.

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