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14 Sep

“I read, therefore I am doing something”

Datum: 2011-09-14 15:45

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.

Do this

  1. Take out your read­ing-pile, or if it is of respectable size, get your­self to your reading-pile.
  2. 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?”
  3. If it is, cre­ate a to-do-task some­thing along the lines of Read [the material]”.
  4. Set a due date, that is, the time by which you need to have read it.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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:

  1. Take a good look at you read­ing pile.
  2. 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?”
  3. 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.