I wrote a while back about how I stay up to date with the news and current affairs. But just keeping track of the headlines isn’t enough. I need also to know what’s going on with the latest management thinking and what challenges and opportunities my clients are likely to be confronted with in the future. This means lots of reading. Long-form journalistic reporting, journal articles and books. It’s all great stuff. The challenge, though, is finding the time to do it.
To say ‘find the time’ is, of course, somewhat misleading. Because it’s not about finding the time, but rather about prioritising how we use the time that we have each day
Keeping up with my reading is important to me, as well as critical to my continued ability to do my job (and fun!), and so I’m willing to invest time in doing it. I could do other things with that time, but I choose to do this. Your value judgement in this respect may, of course, be different. And that’s fine.
The key, for me, is to make reading a habit. A sort of ‘non-negotiable’ that I do every single day. Like cleaning my teeth or walking the dogs. And, like these other activities, the way I make sure that I dedicate time in my day to read is to do it for a set period of time at the same time each day.
So I catch up on the news using my phone or tablet while I’m having my breakfast. (My wife has already left for work by this point, so I’m not being antisocial.) And I set aside half an hour to read a journal or a book as soon as I start work for the day, before I turn on my computer or do anything else. Author and productivity guru Oliver Burkeman calls this ‘paying yourself first’, which pretty much sums it up. Because I know from experience that, if I leave it until later in the day, it’s really not going to happen.
I’ve been running with this approach for the last couple of months now and I’m pleased to report that my pile of books, journals and magazines waiting to be read has gone down from a foot and a half to about eight inches. I also start my working day feeling cool, calm, collected and in control. As well as that little bit better informed.