6 ways great leaders make time for reading

From Oprah to Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, there are countless examples of highly successful people who invest heavily in reading.

Warren Buffett, who devotes about 80% of each day to reading was once asked about the secret to success. He pointed to a stack of books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”

Similarly, Elon Musk credits his success to reading. When asked how he learned to build rockets, he said: “I read books.”

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Reading does so much more than expand our knowledge. As highlighted in this Fast Company article, reading “can help fight depression, make you more confident, empathetic, and a better decision maker.” Reading also helps to prevent stress and dementia, while improving overall life satisfaction.

It’s not surprising author Steve Siebold identified a common pastime in a study of 1,200 wealthy people: they were all committed to reading. And they focused on reading for education versus entertainment.

While this is incredibly inspiring, it is admittedly hard to read on busy days. When was the last time you picked up a book? I was shocked to learn 26% of adults in the United States have not read a book within the last year.

Just how do busy people find (or, more appropriately make) the time for so much reading? Here are six simple strategies  even the busiest person can adopt.

  1. Make the commitment

The key to fitting more reading into your day is to commit to doing so. Set your intention to read for a certain amount each day or a set number of books each month. Then actually block off the time to make this happen. Brendon Burchard talks about scheduling the books he wants to read a week at a time. Leo Babauta talks about a daily reading challenge on his Zen Habits blog.

  1. Always pack a book

I grew up in a fairly academic household. Both of my parents were educators and my father, to this day, always has a book on him, wherever he goes. I’ve adopted this habit myself. I often tuck a book in my purse and keep at least one more in my car. Just recently, I was standing in the airport customs line and pulled out my book to read. I must say, I actually enjoyed the time (and shudder to think of how dreadful that long wait would have been without my book).

We can listen while walking, commuting, waiting in line, cleaning the basement, putting on our makeup, etc. Leadership guru, Robin Sharma calls this “traffic university”. Awesome.

  1. Listen on the go

So many of us are go-go-go these days. Thankfully, there are many great options to listen while we move. From audio books (I’m a fan of audible) to podcasts, we have countless options. We can listen while walking, commuting, waiting in line, cleaning the basement, putting on our makeup, etc. Leadership guru, Robin Sharma calls this “traffic university”. Awesome.

  1. Take mini reading breaks throughout the day

Short bursts of reading throughout your day can really add up. Simply reading 15 minutes over your morning coffee and again right before bed adds up to an impressive 3.5 hours per week. Any extra reading during the day is bonus time. So, make the time for these mini breaks. They do make a difference. And they are often a more productive alternative than using breaks for social media. This article shows the time a typical person spends on social media could be used to read 200 books a year. A sobering thought

  1. Trade screens for pages at bedtime

As tempting as they are, we really should be parking our devices at bedtime. Sleep experts warn us blue-light disrupts our melatonin levels and hinders our ability to fall asleep. These devices also stop us from picking up a good ol’ fashioned book. Do yourself a favour and replace your phone charger with a stack of books on your nightstand.

  1. Read what you enjoy

This last suggestion is fairly obvious. Yet far too many people lean towards what they feel they should be reading. Follow your instinct and read books that captivate you. And remind yourself you don’t need to finish every book you start. After all, there are countless other amazing ones waiting to wow you.

This sums up six simple strategies. Do you have any other suggestions? Or any book recommendations you’d like to share? Please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. And in the meantime, happy reading!

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