The average CEO reads one book a week. I used to wonder how that was even possible. After all, CEOs are really busy, as I knew from experience. But then I got to thinking—
I’m a huge college football fan, right? Everybody knows that about me. In particular, I love following the famous football coaches and their careers. One of my favorite coaches is Urban Meyer. The guy is a genius. So, what would I do if Urban offered to spend six hours with me, talking about his life, his goals, how he overcame his challenges, basically everything about his successful career? I’d clear my schedule, of course. In a heartbeat.
But Urban has offered to share all those things with me. He wrote a book. Now, if I could find time for Urban, why can’t I find time for his book? Or for the books of all the other great people I wish I could meet?
Turns out, I can. So can you. Here are some tricks I’ve found helpful.
1. Create a Reading List on a Theme
Ever heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder?” Turns out, same goes for reading. Put some thought into what you want to read, and then write up a list organized around a particular topic. You’ll get multiple angles on the same subject, so you’ll have a richer, more rewarding experience than if you read the same number of unrelated books. Plus, the list gives you something to work towards.
Try for a list of somewhere between four and eight books long. You don’t want to get distracted or overwhelmed before you finish.
2. Have Multiple Books Going at Once
Some people really prefer to pay attention to one thing at a time. That’s ok. This tip doesn’t work for everyone. But if you like to keep a couple of balls up in the air at once, especially if you crave variety, go ahead and read multiple books together. Maybe have one for the weekends, one or two for light reading when you’re tired, and one for reading at the office. It might take you all month to read all four books, but that averages out to one per week—and you’ll have more fun.
3. Keep a Book in Your Pocket
Keep a book with you at all times and read when you have “dead time.” Say you have a meeting scheduled but the other person is late, or you’re sitting in the waiting room at the dentist, or you can’t sleep—whatever it is, read your book. Technology today makes it easier than ever with apps like Amazon Kindle and iBooks.
4. Listen to Audiobooks
Audio books are great for when you’re driving, doing yard work, getting ready in the morning or anything else that demands your eyes. My favorite time to listen to books is while I’m exercising. I’m amazed at how fresh my mind is and how ideas and inspiration tends to flow so much easier when the endorphins from exercising are being combined with great content from the book I’m reading. My favorite book listening app is Audible, because I can listen to the books on 1.5x speed.
5. Take Notes and Use Them
Even if you have really good reading recall (and lots of people don’t), taking notes helps you get more out of your reading. One powerful practice I like is to write down a couple of key take-aways as they come and then apply them to my life. I capture all of these takeaways on an app called Evernote. This way, I really live the book. The insights of the book become part of me.
6. Find a Book Buddy
Sharing your reading with someone else isn’t just enjoyable; it’s also a great way to get more out of your books and to stay motivated. You could join an organized book group, but you can also casually discuss your reading with a friend, or post to a social media group of like-minded people. The point is you have somebody who cares whether you finish your book and wants to know what you think about it. A reading buddy can be a big help with putting together your reading list, too.
Read Smarter, Not Harder
Not all of these tips look like time-savers. In fact, some look like they could take extra time. But, as I said at the beginning, it’s better to work smarter. Anything you can do to get more out of your reading ultimately makes your reading time more efficient—and if you can get yourself motivated, you’ll make time to read almost without thinking about it.
Early in my career, a great mentor of mine told me that who you become depends on the books you read and the people you surround yourself with. I’ve made that quote central to my professional philosophy ever since. But I’ve come to realize that reading is just another way to surround yourself with great people. Writers put their heart and their soul and their best ideas into their books. Why not meet them there, between the pages?