Healthy Habits: 5 Guidelines for Successful Reading Time

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[callout]In the Healthy Habits series, I’ll be sharing habits I put into practice that help me to live an integrated life.[/callout]

One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to digest as much information as possible. Be current and aware of what’s going on. Challenge yourself to read about diverse topics and opinions.

Strategic thinking starts with context. Being aware allows you to lead. Knowledge is power.

To this end, one of the core elements of my morning routine is my reading time, when I get up-to-speed on the latest news and information. I scour multiple and diverse sources, skimming through titles and diving deep into what I find interesting or new.

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I then broadcast the most compelling and insightful articles on the subjects I talk about most – innovation, technology, product, business, entrepreneurship, work-life integration, and humble confidence – to my social networks. I figure if it’s insightful to me, it will be insightful to those who choose to follow me.

A lot of people ask me how I do this. How do I read and share as much as I do? How do I get through my daily reading without getting distracted and taking action on what I’m reading?

I have a proven process for morning reading that I’ve developed over the past several years. Here are the five guidelines I use.

Do your reading before (almost) everything else.

The first thing I do when I wake up is have my prayer time (even this includes reading). As soon as I’m done, I begin daily planning and reading. For me, they are both intertwined, because what I read fuels some of what I end up doing.

Optimize your reading by using the same tools every day.

I come armed to my planning and reading time with the same tools every day – Nozbe and Feedly. These are core to my process and they both help me optimize my reading time.

Start your reading from the outside and work in.

My reading always starts with that which is the furthest away from my tactical day-to-day life. Periodicals and general news comes first, followed by industry news and bloggers I follow.

Only after I get through this “outside” information will I turn to company news, social media, my project and task list, and finally email (because I commit to Inbox Zero, my email is manageable every morning when I wake up).

By starting from the outside and moving in, I am able to delay the most distracting aspects of my reading list. My project list and email are likely to spur thoughts, ideas, and the desire to act.

Stay committed to your reading and resist the temptation to act.

So many things that we read prompt some sort of response. Some will demand a direct response, some will prompt action, and still others will get our wheels turning.  The secret to getting through your reading list is to resist the temptation to do any of this.

As these things come to mind, simply put them into your backlog of things to do and move one. I find that physically writing them down (ok, actually digitally, in Nozbe), I’m able to free my mind without the temptation of forgetting it. Often I will even attach or reference the reading item in the to-do.

Finalize your reading by planning your next steps.

Once I’m done reading and collecting information, I find that I’m in the optimal position to plan the rest of my day. I go through each of my project lists and identify tasks that need to be prioritized and acted on within the next 24 hours. This “action list” gives me a queue of items to work on whenever I have a free moment and ensures that the information I’ve consumed doesn’t go in one ear and out the other.

By following these five guidelines, I’ve found that I’m able to optimize and stay committed to my morning reading time. This healthy habit, in conjunction with others, helps me stay on top of my game.

[callout]Looking for some summer reading? Check out The Pope and the CEO, by Andreas Widmer. It’s a book I found insightful and inspiring, reading it as a businessman and a Catholic.[/callout]

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