I have embraced life long learning. I read. A lot. It’s a habit and the benefits are enormous. I started reading a new book every week two months ago. I share the books I read with my Postanly Newsletter subscribers every Friday.

And guess what, I am stretched as a person. I am forced to embrace a new thought and evaluate my life against it. Reading makes me a better writer.

I still suck at writing. But that doesn’t stop me from showing up every week to share with my audience. I enjoy spreading thoughts and inspiring others through writing. And reading increases my capacity to write.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” says Stephen King.

Reading opens your heart to new ideas, new cultures, and new worldviews.

Charlie Munger once said, “I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you”

But reading is time-consuming.

The problem is many of us don’t have time to commit hours to reading like they do. “I don’t have time for reading” is probably your only excuse. But you can change that. You don’t have to spend a whole month reading a single book.

Even insanely busy and succesful people like Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday MAKE time to read. “I just sit in my office and read all day” says Warren Buffet.

Many incredibly successful people have embraced life long reading. To enjoy reading and make it a habit, you’ve got to be selective to be efficient. Life is too short to read books you don’t really want to read.

Tim Ferriss, New York Times Best-Selling Author says, he reads 1–4 books per week. In response to a question on Quora, Tim said;

“If I’m going for speed, I’ll use the following, which can help you 2–3x your word-per-minute (WPM) rate in 15–20 minutes without sacrificing comprehension: Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes It takes some practice, but it works when time is of the essence.”

“It’s now 80/20 for me — what you read (being effective) is much more important than how much or how quickly (being efficient) you read.” says Tim.

Why One a Week?

First, figure out why: why one books a week?

I thrive on new ideas to write better and share more every week. I like a challenge. It’s a massive goal and can be unreasonable but it works for me. I am selective about the books I pick. And I don’t aim to read every page. I look out for the most important ideas in each book. Ideas that can advance my long-term goals.

Find your WHY and figure out WHAT you should read. The HOW has been taken care of for you below.

Michael Jimenez, a professor of Latin American history, once said to Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners, in response to his question about struggling with the reading load. Bregman was still in college when he got this timeless advice:

“Listen,” he said, “you don’t need to read these books. You need to understand them.”

He explained more: Fiction demands that we enter a world of the author’s making, inspiring a more immersive experience. Nonfiction — at least the type we tend to read to support our work as business leaders — makes a point and asks us to learn from it.

Here’s Professor Jimenez’s advice on reading nonfiction, with a few additions of Bregman’s own ideas. Peter Bregman originally shared this advice on HBR. This advice has made a lot of difference for me.

  1. Start with the author. Who wrote the book? Read his or her bio. If you can find a brief interview or article online about the author, read that quickly. It will give you a sense of the person’s bias and perspective.
  2. Read the title, the subtitle, the front flap, and the table of contents.What’s the big-picture argument of the book? How is that argument laid out? By now, you could probably describe the main idea of the book to someone who hasn’t read it.
  3. Read the introduction and the conclusion. The author makes their case in the opening and closing argument of the book. Read these two sections word for word but quickly. You already have a general sense of where the author is going, and these sections will tell you how they plan to get there (introduction) and what they hope you got out of it (conclusion).
  4. Read/skim each chapter. Read the title and anywhere from the first few paragraphs to the first few pages of the chapter to figure out how the author is using this chapter and where it fits into the argument of the book. Then skim through the headings and subheadings (if there are any) to get a feel for the flow. Read the first sentence of each paragraph and the last. If you get the meaning, move on. Otherwise, you may want to read the whole paragraph. Once you’ve gotten an understanding of the chapter, you may be able to skim over whole pages, as the argument may be clear to you and also may repeat itself.
  5. End with the table of contents again. Once you’ve finished the book, return to the table of contents and summarize it in your head. Take a few moments to relive the flow of the book, the arguments you considered, the stories you remember, the journey you went on with the author.

I have turned reading into a habit. I don’t read when I am “in the mood” because that’s unpredictable. I read everywhere when I have even 5 minutes. It’s super convenient to pull out my phone and read a paragraph or two here and there.

Use every moment.

If you have a commute, use it. If you have a lunch break, use that. Waiting in line? Read. Eliminate one hour of television a day if you have to. The long-term benefits cannot be compared with the short-term pleasure of daily distractions.

Reading has made me a much better, more complete, and happier person. I learn something new everyday. And I look forward to that every day.

Don’t just read a book a week because you want to crush a goal or embrace successful people’s habits. Read because it makes you a better person. Read to broaden your worldview. Read to get a new perspective in life.

You don’t have to read a book a week. You can start small and stick to the reading habit that works for you. By all means find time to read. Enrich your life and perspective.

I have recommended a few books in the past here here, and here.

Before you go…

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Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com