On being intentional with your reading

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I used to read a lot of books at once.  Exclusively non-fiction.  Probably 4-5 at a time.  During that point in my life I would say to myself, “I’m just interested in so many topics.”  But here’s the thing.  I rarely finished them.  I justified it by telling myself that even though I didn’t finish the books, I still absorbed some information from them.  I mean that’s better than nothing right?

But now that I have the elevated vantage point of living 4 more years, I believe I see it more clearly.  I believe the reason I took on so many different books, from so many different subjects, was because anytime my focus waned, anytime I got the slightest bit bored with what I was reading, there was a different book with a completely different topic that I could read in it’s place.  Boom!  Boredom gone.   Until I got bored with that subject and the viscous cycle would repeat.  I also lacked the focus to zero in on one priority.  I lacked the ability to make a decision.  My inner child knew this, knew that it would be a difficult exercise to pick one book and stick with it.  So it avoided doing it.  Plain and simple.

Making a decision was hard.  Especially when you have so many viable candidates.

You have to look all the books in the eye, and to 4 out of 5 of them you have to say, “you guys are great.  Really, you are.  But I can’t hang out with you right now.  I’m gonna spend the next month with this guy over here, and only him, but don’t worry,  I might come back to you.”

We live in a period of time where all subjects are accessible.  Want to learn about astronomy?  There are thousands of great books to choose from.  Interested in the influences Genghis Khan had on the medieval European economy?  Yea, there is probably books on that too.  And with all this choice comes the debilitating reality that we can’t have it all.  Even in a hundred life times we wouldn’t have the ability to read all the books out there.  I will absolutely write more on this “information buffet” we currently find ourselves living in, but that will be for a later date.

I felt that while reading multiple books at once my attention was spread so thin.  Sure I was reading the books, but I wasn’t absorbing the information.  I could recall the information sure, but when I read one book at a time I feel the information crystallizes much harder.  I think of it like this.  You can hang out with 5 friends at once, and there is nothing wrong with hanging out with five friends at once.  But compare your level of engagement with those five people verses if you were to be hanging out with just one friend.  Your ability to engage with that person, to soak up when they are saying, is heightened.  And at the end of the day that is why I read.  To soak up the information and carry it with me as long as I can.

To combat the paralysis that is brought on by the overwhelming number of great books that are out there just waiting to be read I have started creating book schedules.  I decided to start with a schedule of 6 books.  Switching back and forth from fiction to non-fiction.  Like a Kanban Board, when I complete one a new one is added.  And when the time comes to add a new book to the schedule I can go to a “potential read” list.  This list is where I can write down a book when I hear about it on a blog or just through random internet strolling.  It’s where I can add everything and anything I want.  The schedule is where I have to have discipline, the “potential reads” is where I can go wild.

So far this has worked wonders for me.  Anytime I am feeling lost or overwhelmed by where I need to “go” next, or anytime I hear about a fucking great book (i.e. Tony Robbins book on money) and that inner child in me wants to read it NOW!  I can just open the list, reassure myself that I have structure, and that if I really want to read it, to put it on the list, and either wait patiently for it’s turn to come, or kick it in gear and read the books ahead of it as fast as I can (while still absorbing the information.)

 

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