How I Read…

During the last 8 months, my family has managed to get out of our urban apartment on a couple of occasions to spaces that are more suited to quarantine. This week as I was packing for the latest temporary relocation, something occurred to me. A few years ago, I would have spent more time on what books to bring than almost any other item/s. Thanks to age and a lot of airline miles, I’ve developed a system that has me ready when a reading opportunity emerges and eliminated my(illogical fear) that I’ll waste time on a bad/wrong book. It’s working for me and I wanted to share. I follow a few simple rules:

  • Never hesitate to build your stack- buy the book!
  • Give each book a shot- read enough but don’t force it.
  • Classify the read- Yes/No. If yes, short, medium, long term material.
  • Cap at 3 books going at once- one of each type.
  • Don’t be scared to have a huge stack of unread books.

Allow me to explain the most important rule in my system “Classify the read”. It’s the lynchpin for it to work and the rest are pretty self explanatory.

  • Short term reads are rare and jump out at you almost immediately. These are books that you will drop almost everything to read, can hardly put down and give you a giddy happy feeling inside.
  • Medium term reads are the most common books due to the inherent filter when you decide to purchase it. You are happy to digest these books over a few weeks, a chapter at a time and you can take a break for any number of reasons then pick it back up later.
  • Long term reads are the books that you definitely want to read but they require something extra. Maybe you need a specific mindset, mood, energy level, time and/or tools(highlighter, notebook) and without the right conditions the book isn’t worth spending time with.

I keep and build a stack of “medium term” books ready to go. I physically stack rank my books on a regular basis and don’t hesitate to reclassify a book for any number of reasons. I will occasionally reintroduce a previous “short term” book that I read a long time ago back into the stack for a second helping at a more leisurely pace. I will also move a book into the “long term” pile or consider cutting it altogether if it keeps sinking to the bottom.

It’s a relatively simple system and by no means perfect. If you have a similar affinity for the written word, I’d love suggestions to improve!

I’m also actively looking for ways to improve retention and recall. That’s to say, I don’t have a system I like to document lessons, quotes, ideas that I want to revisit or share later. Currently, something fires in my brain and it’s a frantic shuffling of books and leafing through pages to find what I know is there somewhere. I’m open to all options both digital and analogue!

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