I had a typical goal last year. I wanted to read more... a lot more! I wanted 2017 to be a huge boost in my self development journey, so I did what many people do and headed to Barnes and Nobles Bookstore to look at some books that I could read throughout the year. I pulled out my iPhone, made a new note in my Evernote app entitled "Books to Read in 2017" and started making a list of the books that peaked my interest. My goal was to choose 12 books in the bookstore so that I could read one book per month. I gazed through the many book titles by highly acclaimed authors, I couldn't help but continue to build my list.
My list kept getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Finally, I stepped away and found a table nearby and started to go through my long list of books. I was shocked to find that my book tally was well over one hundred! I reminded myself that I could only choose 12 books from the list, and then did that math and figured that at this rate it would take almost 10 years to read all of these books.
I sat there gazing at my list, thinking about what would happen if I read all of these books.
I began to ask myself... If I invested in my personal development and read all of these books, how would my life be different? How would this impact my business? How would this impact my marriage? My spiritual life? My fatherhood? If I were to invest in my own personal development, how many of the people around me would benefit?
I came to the realization that this is not really about me and my goals, it's about others and the impact that I could have on their lives.
That's when I had the crazy idea to change my goal from reading one book per month, to one book per week. That's 52 books in one year! Yikes!
For many, 52 books in one year is a huge goal... and it was for me too. So I started to reverse engineer my big goal.
I made a list, numbered 1 through 52, and wrote down the 52 books that I would read in 2017. I also took it a step further and wrote the date by which each book should be finished (I did this all on a Google Spreadsheet).
Once my list was complete, I went home and bought the books from Amazon because they were a better deal than Barnes and Nobles. (Sorry Barnes and Nobles)
It was January 2nd, so I was already a day behind, so I picked up my first book and struggled through 2 chapters late at night. It reminded me of my college days when I was assigned books to read for assignments, I always felt like the professors would choose the worst books to read (with the exception of a few professors).
I used to hate reading books. I once told a friend of mine that I didn't read because it was too time consuming and that books only served as an alternative to a sleeping pill. My friend suggested audiobooks, and I told him that audiobooks were too monotone, that I couldn't focus for too long, and that if I listened while I drive I might doze off and wreck my car. You can either make progress or make excuses. Back then, I chose to make excuses.
That's until I came to terms with the man I was versus the man that I wanted to be. The pace that I was moving was too slow and it was no surprise that my slow progress had a lot to do with my self-development habits. Everything changed when I decided to change my mindset. It's all about your mindset.
I have had numerous questions of people asking how I have had the time to read this much. Here are a few things you should know:
70% of these selections are audiobooks. My wife thinks I'm crazy when I am in my garage pumping iron and instead of listening to upbeat music, I'm listening to an audiobook. Additionally, the average American spends 101 minutes in their car everyday and I have taken massive advantage of my car time. You can read about that in my blog "Life Hack: The 90 Minutes Difference That Can Make All The Difference". In the blog I talk about how I made the switch from listening to things like sports talk radio and mainstream music to audiobooks on business and leadership.
I read books while I am on my Nordictrack Freestride Trainer, which is pretty pricey (around $2,000) but you can find an elliptical that does that same thing for much less. I recommend the Nordictrack Elliptical. Before I go into any lifting session I do at least 30 minutes of cardio, thus, 30 minutes of reading. I try to find ways to kill two birds with one stone and I have found that I love growing my body and mind together. When doing cardio on a machine, you want to make sure you can prop up a book (or iPad) in front of you. When lifting weights or running/biking outdoors, I always listen to an audiobook. It may sound boring at first and hard to get used to, but I feel like it improves my concentration when lifting and helps me forget about how hard and grueling the running trail is.
Television has been extremely limited this year. I used to be a big fan of a whole list of TV shows, all of which I intended to keep up with, but I have given that up. The only thing I allowed for this year was the NFL and NBA Playoffs (and even that was limited). This allows me to get a massive amount of reading (and business) done. I have had a few friends ask me why I'm punishing myself... but the funny part about that is that I'm not. I don't feel like I've missed out on anything, so I guess it wasn't that important to begin with.
I wrote a blog on Discipline and Habits a few months back in my blog "The One Thing You Must Master to Develop Successful Habits" and I truly feel like this was essential for me to even start my journey. My blog gives you a breakdown on how disciplines are different from habits. Disciplines are the grit and the grind. Habits are unconscious and second nature. I believe that if you persist with the disciplined grit and grind long enough, these tasks will end up becoming second nature. I am very glad that a few weeks of discipline is now solidifying into good long-term habits. Trust me, it makes things a whole lot easier. I spend my leisure time differently, because of my habits, and wouldn't change a thing.
I mean, how much time do you really spend near the water cooler at work talking with colleagues? Or how much time do you linger after you've already finished lunch, mindlessly checking Facebook and Twitter. Give yourself project deadlines, rather than saying "I'm going to finish the project today" say "I'm going to finish this project in 2 hours." Then watch how quickly you will get your work done. Spend your extra time however you see fit. I am a productivity junky... I'm always trying to find ways to maximize your time, which is why I wrote "5 Productivity Hacks That Will Save You 10 Hours A Week"... You should definitely check that out.
Additionally, I have cut back on a few unimportant things that were consuming my time and replacing them with more productive ones. For example, I did not participate in my Fantasy Football League this year, but instead put that time towards self-development. Don't shoot me for this, but I realized that checking my line-up and waiver wires wasn't as important as other things. For me, it was Fantasy Football, for you it could be something different. I highly suggest that you list a few unimportant things in your life and replace them with more important activities.
I have an Evernote note for every single book that I listened to during the year. Whether I listened to my audiobook while working out or driving, I would always make it a point to go back to my notepad and jot down a few thoughts about what I learned. The awesome part about this is that I now have my very own database of thoughts, notes, and tips that I learned for each book that I read. I can refer back to each book and scan the notes to get a general idea of what I read and what I was thinking at the time I listened. Of course, you shouldn't just do this for books you listen to, but also for books you read.
What gets scheduled gets done for most people, especially for me. I have slots in my work schedule that I reserve for reading. Yes, sometimes important things come up, but if I planned to read for 30 minutes after lunch, then that's what I'm going to do. Otherwise it gets thrown to the back of my mind and is easily forgotten. Putting reading on my own calendar is a very strong commitment that I made to myself. So in reality, if someone asks me to do something during my reading time I can say, "Sorry, I have a commitment to take care of... Can we choose another time? Thanks!" As you can imagine, focusing on your self development can help you 10X your life and leadership. Remind yourself constantly that investing in yourself is not always a selfish motive because you aren't the only person who wins. When a leader gets better, everyone gets better. I can honestly say that I have become a better husband, father, spiritual leader, businessman, colleague, friend, and community leader in 2017 by challenging myself to up my self development. 52 books in one year was a huge goal, and as you can see I actually hit 70. You can too! I hope that this motivates you to have positive growth this year.