Why you aren’t reading more books

You say you want to read more business and development books, but you’re busy; you just don’t have the time.

Well, why aren’t you making the time?

I’ve been there; I’m still there. It’s a daily effort, but one that’s well worth it.

Let’s take a look at the value you can get from reading books compared to the value you’re getting from the stuff you’re doing instead.

1) Email. 99% of your email is providing negative value to you.

Are you spending time trading barbs with bitchy customers? Stop that. Fire those customers.

Do you subscribe to a bunch of email courses and newsletters? Join the club. They may be insightful, but are they necessary to your work? The next time you start reading one, consider whether you’re about to apply this knowledge to something real. If you’re implementing ideas from a newsletter and seeing tangible benefits, then by all means keep reading. Otherwise, toss it out.

If you’re like me, once you finish a newsletter post you just move on to the next one. Huge time-waster. Reclaim these hours.

2) News and Blogs. Are you addicted to information? I am, too. But I’m on the wagon now. You too can become a recovering information addict.

It’ll do you good to kick the habit. News is fleeting. It’s of short-term value only, and not much at that. Also, it usually has nothing to do with the specific challenges of your business. Instead it will get you worrying about dozens of problems that you can’t control and have little impact on your life.

So just say no. Don’t worry, you don’t have to quit cold turkey, unless you want to.

Make it easy on yourself and try this. Instead of hooking yourself up to the morphine drip of your RSS reader and your Twitter feed, let the information come to you instead. Ask trusted colleagues what’s going on. Have them email you stuff they find interesting. Chat with random people at events or on errands. Let them be your filter.

Developing a few go-to sources of quality information will save you loads of time, and you won’t notice anything’s missing.

3) Marketing Tweaks. This includes posting on social media, rewording stuff on your website, writing new sales pages, and a million other things you could be doing at any given time.

These things can be valuable, but only if they’re part of a bigger plan. I’ve wasted plenty of time mindlessly tinkering with things as a way of putting off the hard work of creating and executing a real strategy.

Too much time spent tweaking is often a symptom of too much email and too much news. Imagine this scenario: you browse through your Twitter feed one morning and see an article about the benefits of adding metadata to your website to make it easier for search engines to understand. You follow a couple links to learn more about how to do this. Then you spend the rest of your morning beefing up your site.

I’m not saying metadata, or any tweak, is unimportant. It’s probably beneficial. But until you read about it a few hours ago, you didn’t know it existed. Had you just moved on and continued with your work, you wouldn’t have known the difference. Instead, you’ve just wasted your peak productive hours on something that wasn’t part of your strategy at all.

What To Do With All That Time

If I’m right, being more intentional about what you do — and especially what you don’t do — will turn up dozens of extra hours per week. You might think you need dozens of hours to read books, but this isn’t all-or-nothing. You can start with a fraction of that time.

But first, here’s the hard sell.

Books help you with planning and strategy. They help you think in new ways and teach you concepts that are time-tested. They help you see the big picture of your business and how all the pieces fit together.

This makes you money.

People write books when they have big ideas to communicate. Valuable ideas. A book takes years or even decades of an author’s thinking and experience and distills it into a package you can read in a few hours. Talk about value. You’re getting a Big Bang for a few bucks.

This doesn’t require a gargantuan effort if you read with the specific goal of improving your business. Even if you just read the ten best books each year, or any ten books that are highly relevant to you, and you only execute on one idea from each one, that’s ten business-changing insights you’ve gotten for the price of a couple client dinners.

Ten books might sound like a lot. Say the average book is 200 pages. That’s 2000 pages a year — or about 5 a day, which you can do in ten minutes. Ten minutes a day to read the ten best books every year.

Or you could spent those ten minutes doing more email.