“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
– Harry Truman
Contrary to what people who know me think, I wasn’t always a reader. I’ve become a voracious consumer of knowledge in different formats. But while there are blogs, podcasts, papers, and digital books, my favourites are still physical (paper) books. Just like with handwritten notes, there’s better retention when we combine the mental with the physical in tactile learning.
A common mistake I find people doing all the time when deciding to develop a skill is to drown themselves in that skill, burning out even before they get started. Learning skill can be difficult, especially one that you haven’t developed foundations for or used regularly. That’s why it’s important to take baby steps and lay a strong foundation, not rushing to the “sexier” or more exciting parts of the skill, but patiently progressing correctly. Here are 3 steps to get you started.
Note: These are my tips for reading towards learning. You can also do this for novels and fiction, but unless you’re doing a book report, you’re probably better off just enjoying it for what it is.
3 Baby Steps to Improving Your Reading
- Choose books on topics you’re interested in
- Read 1-page a day and progress from there.
- Take physical notes of what you’re learning
Choose books on topics you’re interested in
When getting started, pick a topic that you’re naturally interested in. For me, when I was younger, I chose things on basketball, or Star Wars, or books with illustrations. At this stage, the goal isn’t to challenge yourself. The goal is to simply get started on building the habit. By choosing a topic you’re interested in, the chances of you sticking with it are higher.
Read 1-page a day and progress from there.
Reading multiple books may seem daunting for many but the trick is to break it down into single pages. Don’t rush into finishing the book. Don’t rush into becoming a “reader”. Just start with a very simple and doable goal: Read 1-page a day. It’s important that you start with a load that you can do regularly, and, even more importantly, you actually carry the load regularly, or in other words: read every day.
As you improve in your reading skills, you’ll find 1-page too little, so progress from there. Don’t stretch yourself beyond what you can constantly do. You’ll surprise yourself that you’ll be reading whole chapters and whole books in no time. But don’t rush. Start small and progress in increments.
Take physical notes of what you’re learning.
Retention is an important part of reading. Too many people rush through finishing books but don’t retain enough information to put what they read into practice. If you’re like me, the purpose of your reading is to improve yourself by gaining more knowledge. The goal isn’t to be able to brag about how many books you’ve read or that you’ve read the “must-reads”. Those are vanity metrics. The goal is to be better informed and, hopefully, make wiser decisions. This is why taking notes is an important part of reading for me. I don’t have a crazy memory, but my notebook, phone, and laptop do. By storing the insights there, I’m able to improve my ability to recall the information and at the same time reference my notes in the future.
Now that I’ve shared some ultra basic tips on getting started on the habit of reading, here are 3 books I highly recommend if personal development and productivity truly interest you.
3 Foundational Books I Recommend You Reading
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People By Dr. Stephen Covey
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
This is probably the book I’ve recommended the most. It’s also one of the books I reread every year (along with the other two books on this list). It’s very simple, straightforward, wise, and timeless. I still get new insights from this book despite it being so old and despite me reading it many times. For example, the last part about Sharpening the Saw has only really started to make sense to me now that I’m older. Click on the image to read a more detailed description.
This is another book I recommend a lot. It’s extra useful for us today because the pace of life has gotten way too fast! If you’re wondering how I get to run a few businesses, lead a family, serve communities, get involved in different projects, as well as stay fit, continue to learn, and have time for art, one big key has been reading and reviewing Dave Allen’s system on productivity. If you want to be productive, you have to adopt some form of organised and systematic thinking. I really like the Getting Things Done or “GTD” method. Click on the image to read a more detailed description.
This is a very easy and insightful read that explains how much of what we do fall into the category of Habits. This is important because our habits make or break us. Why do you think I’m encouraging you to make reading a habit? Because leaders, successful people, make lifelong learning not just a good idea but a practice so regular that it becomes a habit. So understanding what a habit is, how it is formed and broken, and how it can be maximized towards improving one’s self or one’s organization is important. Click on the image to read a more detailed description.
There you go! 3 baby steps and 3 books to take those steps with. Enjoy!