Leaders Are Readers (Part 2)

This updated article was originally posted on Transforming Leader January, 2011. Being both a popular and a particularly long post – we decided to split it into two parts and re-post. Haven’t read part 1 yet? No problem – click here to read it right now! Enjoy!

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HOW TO INCREASE YOUR READING SKILLS (part 2)

Go digital.
If you already own a smart phone, Kindle or iPad and have regular internet access with them, then I urge you to begin taking advantage of the digital options available to you. For example, you already have the basic tool needed to begin reading blogs (see next point). Additionally, Amazon will let you download the kindle apps for free on your device, which can then be used to purchase and read audio books. This year alone I have read about 5 books on my phone/Kindle using the kindle app. In fact, I read the entire book, Crucial Confrontations, on my phone each night during a 15 minute slot in my day when I was doing nothing else, but didn’t have a book handy nearby.

Discover the power of blogs.
I know many pastors and leaders who are afraid of the word “blog”. It’s an unknown so it’s intimidating. It’s something for the younger generation, right? Not true. I’ve discovered that reading blogs is one of the best ways to stay fresh on just about any topic or issue without stealing too much time. In fact I read an average of 10-12 blogs a day if possible, all within chunks of time when I wasn’t going to be doing anything else important anyway. Here’s a couple ideas to get you started:

  • Use an rss (blog) reader.
    Nowadays, there are several free apps/services you can use to keep track of blogs you’d like to read. Among the most popular is feedly.com (check it out – just go to the website and type in ‘transforming leader’ to find my blog.) This is a great place to keep track of any blogs you come across that you would like to read. Feedly will keep track of the articles you haven’t read so you can catch up later. It also allows you to search for new blogs that might interest you. You can search either by author, blog title or your subject of interest and then save what interests you to your account. Feedly offers you a free account that enables you to keep track of what you’ve read, are reading or hope to someday read. I’m currently following more than 500 blogs including some great and popular ones like: michaelhyatt.com, thomrainer.com, ronedmondson.com, churchm.ag, tonymorganlive.com and more.
  • Afraid of rss? Just subscribe via email instead!
    If you aren’t interested in learning how to use an rss reader like feedly.com. No worries. You can still subscribe to most blogs via email to get their posts in your email inbox. If you’re like me, you won’t want to clutter up your inbox with more emails though. One suggestion you might consider is to create an email with a popular email service like gmail.com that is dedicated just to your blogs. That way, you can just receive email updates for your blogs in that email without gumming up your main email address. Just a thought.

Here’s the main thing you should understand about blogs if you are new to them. Don’t read every one. That’s right, unless you’re only subscribed to mine (joke) you’ll want to look through the list of blog titles that pop up in your reader or email each day or week and decide which ones sound or look interesting to you. You’ll then skim or read those as you see fit and mark the rest read. Every once in a while (almost daily for me) you’ll find one you really like and want to either forward or keep for future reference. If that happens, I recommend you take care of it right then, or it will likely not happen at all

Take advantage of dead time.
This may seem obvious, but it actually takes diligence, preparation, and intentionality to take advantage of the dead time in your life (time that you aren’t really doing anything valuable). One of the best ‘dead time’ tools is, as I already mentioned, a phone with reading materials available on it like e-books or blogs. If that’s not available to you, I recommend you try to keep one or two books with you at all times that you can pull out to read whenever you have a few minutes. If I stay focused, I can read a whole book in one month just by taking advantage of the white space in my life.

Become a bathroom reader.
Uh, well I just covered this above, but thought perhaps it was worth mentioning specifically. Most of us can often spend anywhere from 4 to 24 minutes alone in the bathroom. Other than the obvious, there’s not much else to do in there. It’s a great place to get some reading done. Even the four minute sessions can be valuable if you pick the right kind of book – one with short chapters. For instance, I read Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and Axiom from start to finish in the bathroom. Find a good book that will work, or some magazines that are relevant to your life or ministry, and just leave them in the bathroom. Don’t read them except when you’re umm, you know, busy in there.

Kill your guilt.
I used to get so frustrated with myself if I didn’t finish a book or if it took forever to read. I’d even feel guilty if I was reading the book (which someone else told me was awesome) but thought it was real boring. My suggestion . . . don’t be so hard on yourself. Some books are going to hit you as amazing, relevant, and inspirational, others won’t. Don’t worry about it.

Read a whole book in 8 pages (or listen in 20 minutes.)
OK, I guess you won’t actually read the whole book, but there is an awesome way to get all of the relevant highlights and major points of hundreds of popular books on leadership, management, marketing, etc. A while back I stumbled across www.summary.com and www.studyleadership.com. These have been awesome resources to me and my team. Basically, you pay the fees you feel are appropriate for your situation and find yourself with access to all sorts of great book reviews. You can download them as pdf’s – each one being 8 pages long or you can listen to someone read the summary in a 20 minute period by downloading the mp3 version. You can even subscribe to them in a blog if you want. For me, I occasionally walk to work. It takes me almost exactly 20 minutes. I can listen to one book review in that one walk. It’s awesome.

Read while exercising or commuting (audio-books).
You already know about audio-books. I actually don’t utilize them myself too often, but have several friends who do very successfully. Audio-books are perfect for your 15 – 45 minute commute, for when you exercise, or when everyone else is watching that program that you just aren’t interested in. I also know that the national literacy rate is about 14%, which means some people just don’t read very much. Additionally, I have friends who can read fine, but hate doing it. Audio-books are a great alternative.

How about you? What other ideas might you suggest on how we can stay sharp as readers and leaders?

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