Reading is a doorway to growth: intellectual, personal, professional, and spiritual growth. But it can also be a source of frustration as you try to stay afloat in a sea of available material. Last week, I wrote a post about my struggle with finding a workable reading routine. I’ve been thinking more about this and wondering if a framework for categorizing and filtering my reading list might help.
Continuous learning is not only important today but all signs are indicating that it will continue to grow in imporance in the coming years. The bottom line is, if you want to stay employed, you must keep learning. It might help to keep in mind a set of categories of the types of reading that professionals should be doing. Here’s a list that I came up with:
Field. First, you need to read within your field. My plan is to find a list of the top 50 journal articles in my field–based on peer reviews and article citations–and read at least four articles per month. Also within this category, I recommend that you follow no more than 10 blogs using Google Reader (probably a lot less, but I just haven’t learned my lesson yet). I hope that this blog will be one of those that you follow on a regular basis. Each day, either read all the posts you follow or, at the end of the day, mark them all as read. In other words, remove them from your list so you can start afresh in the morning. I also use a book summary service called Soundview Executive Book Summaries. Each month, I try to read the four or five summaries I receive electronically from this service.
Future. As a leader, you need to read in preparation for your future. This is assuming that you have a plan for your future or at least a dream that you would like to pursue. The question here is: what knowledge will you need to reach your goals? How much of that knowledge can be acquired through reading?
Faith. It is also important that you stoke the fire of your spirit. All leaders need a source of strength that exists outside themselves and even outside this physical tactile world in which we live. For me, that source is the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Not only reading but meditating on this resource feeds my soul, connects me to the source of inner renewal, and points me in the direction of wisdom.
Fun. Some reading is simply for fun. This is the area where your only criterion is that it’s fun to read. Within this category, there are certain authors that I have read so often that I feel I know them personally. Rex Stout is one of those authors. I not only know Rex but I know the two main characters that he created: Nero Wolf and Archie Goodwin. Such books as these enable the mind to take a vacation.
Remember though that reading is a double-edged sword. It can be a catalyst to growth or a waste of time, a mere escape from reality. The purpose of an effective reading routine is to gain insight that leads to personal and professional growth. To know the difference and to act responsibly on that difference is a huge challenge for today’s leaders.
What do you think? Please share your insights below.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.