I have always had a habit of collecting books more than I managed to read them.
In recent years that has only gotten worse with an ever-extending list of technical and work/leadership-related books finding a place next to existing stacks of fiction.
In the past, I've tried things like moving the "to read" stack visibly onto my coffee table - until it got precariously unstable instead of any smaller - but never managed to read them faster than adding more.
In spring 2022, I decided to take a page (pun very much intended) from one of the best books I read this year, and try "Making Work Visible".
I moved my collections of things I could read from places like Amazon wishlists and Goodreads into one Trello board, creating a prioritized list each for fiction and non-fiction/"professional learning".
I even set myself a WIP limit of 1 learning and 1 entertainment book, to stop having several half-finished books.
Which had the immediate effect of... changing nothing.
But as I kept adding new interesting books to my list, it did one very important thing: it made it glaringly visible that I'll never get to read all the things I want to read if I don't start investing time in it.
Luckily my employer encourages professional development and sets an expectation to use a certain amount of hours for learning.
So instead of starting my day by diving into slack, emails and anything I felt "urgently" needed to get done before standup, I've made it a habit to start my morning with a coffee and half an hour of reading.
Of course, there are days when I don't manage - usually on office days when I already spend time just to get to work, or for the odd early meeting cutting into my morning.
But still, I managed to read ten great books since early summer, some of which had been on the (re)reading list for quite a while (favorites in bold):
- "The Mythical Man Month" by Fred Brooks
- "Kill It with Fire: Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones)" by Marianne Belloti
- "Making Work Visible" by Dominica DeGrandis
- "The New One Minute Manager" by Ken Blanchard, Spencer johnson
- "The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey" by Ken Blanchard, William Oncken Jr., Hal Burrows
- "Nonviolent Communication" by Marshall B. Rosenberg
- "The Coaching Habit" by Michael Bungay Stanier
- "Drive" by Daniel H. Pink
- "The Culture Map" by Erin Meyer
- "Radical Candor" by Kim Scott
Plus five fiction books, most memorably "The Night Watchman" by Louise Erdrich
Making things you intend to do visible in one sorted place is incredibly valuable at showing not only the "work" but the impact of not doing it.
If your focus tends to jump and you keep finding new things you want to do, read or learn about, setting a hard limit and sticking to is worth it.
Take the time to learn and develop yourself and most importantly find the moment that works for you - for me the mornings before I get caught up in the tasks of the day is that time, while the end of the week is not. Any time to learn new things on Fridays I usually end up spending on things I still want to get done that week.
More strictly defend and take the time to read - which will likely mean a calendar entry blocking any early meetings and which gets moved to a later time in the morning for in-office days.
Catch up on the technical reading list, as this year's list was mostly leadership-focused. (Which is off to an early start with "100 Go Mistakes and How to Avoid Them" by Teiva Harsanyi)
Find more chances to discuss books with others. I only had the chance to read two books as part of book clubs this year, but the amount of perspective and insights these discussions add is invaluable.
📚 What's the best book you read this year?
⏱️ How do you find the time to read?