Do you have a reading-pile? A pile for what you are going to read?
If you do, when you look at it, what do you feel? Do you long for when you get to enjoy the material awaiting you, when you have time to read it?
Or, is the pile associated with a bad conscience, stress and a stomach ache since it contains things you think you should already have read?
Is it becoming an increasingly urgent matter to obtain the time necessary to read the material in question?
A task amongst many
Too few of the people I meet regard reading as a task amongst others. Oftentimes reading is just as prone to creating value for the reader as any to-do-task on the list. The reading can be a material we need to read and comprehend prior to a negotiation, or it may be industry news which we do best in keeping up to date with.
When I work one-on-one with clients and process all the items stuck in piles on the desk and in the inboxes, occasionally we find an article cut out from a magazine, a newspaper, a book, a brochure, a report or a bunch of papers stapled together. I then ask: “Does this mean that you are going to do something?”, to which the client in question replies: “Oh that. No, that is just something I am going to read, so you can leave it there for now.” In the reading-pile.
“To read” is a verb, just as “to e‑mail”, “to phone”, “to fix”, “to write”, “to attest”, “to convene”, “to prepare” and “to meet”. As I see it, we should regard “to read” as any other to-do-task. But when it comes to literature and reading for pleasure I on the other hand do not feel it is appropriate to put it on the to-do-list. To me, that would ruin part of the pleasure. My intention primarily extends to the material we have to read in our work, such as a preparatory material or something like it.
Hardly just in passing
It is easy to regard reading as something we intend to do just in passing or when we have time over. But, most of the time reading what you are going to read takes just as long as an average to-do-task. So, why not put the reading on the to-do-list as well? It qualifies as a task just as any, which therefore also needs to be prioritized in relation to all the other things we have to do.
The risk of not doing so is that we create a reading-pile which grows at an alarming rate since we never set aside time to deal with it. The larger the pile grows, the worse our conscience when looking at it gets.
- Take out your reading-pile, or if it is of respectable size, get yourself to your reading-pile.
- Go through the reading-pile, document by document, book by book, and ask yourself ”Is this something I need to read before a certain point in time?”
- If it is, create a to-do-task something along the lines of “Read [the material]”.
- Set a due date, that is, the time by which you need to have read it.
- Since reading-tasks rarely are urgent we tend to not prioritize them in favor of more urgent tasks. Therefore it is a good idea to now schedule times in your calendar for reading the material, so that you do not unconsciously spend all your time on meetings.
- Put the book or document in the file in your tickler file which represents the first scheduled appointment for reading this particular material in your agenda.
- Proceed this way throughout the pile so that the only items left in the end are materials which you want to read if you happen to have time to spare, but for which it doesn’t matter when or even if, you get to them.
- Remove the books, reports and documents which you are neither required nor inclined to read, so that the reading-pile becomes a pile you enjoy catching a glance of, since it only contains undemanding possible positive reading experiences.
A diagnostic test
If you want to, do the following test:
- Take a good look at you reading pile.
- Ask yourself: “If I were to take this entire pile and throw it in a garbage bag, would it have any repercussions to my work?”
- If it would, there must be something in the pile which needs to be defined as its own to-do-task.
How do you get on with your reading?
What is your way of making sure you read what you need to have read as smoothly as possible? Do you take advantage of any travel-time you might have? Is reading your foremost weapon to defeat the deathly bore of a night in a hotel? Do you always keep something to read with you in your bag, something you quickly can pick up while waiting for a meeting to commence? Leave a comment to let others know your thoughts.