If I could remember even a tenth of what I've read in the books I own, I'd be a lot better off. But that's only a part of the problem — I own books I've never even read. I bought them with good intentions, but somehow I never got around to reading them. You probably have some too — our bookshelves are smarter than we are.
If you like to browse bookstores, you probably know the thrill of new ideas, new perspectives, and clear thinking that only a book well savored can provide. When I find a book worth reading, I want to own it, and that's how it gets to my shelf.
This phenomenon is so widespread that in the book business, the "self-help" category is sometimes known as "shelf-help."
We probably would sit down to read if we had more time, but we're so busy that only the essential or fascinating reading actually happens. Since we do read if we have time and motivation, here are some tips to help you read more of what you really want to read.Many of us are
so busy that we
don't even read
the directions on
- Avoid reading what you don't want to read
- Electronic mail can really waste time. Report all spam to your postmaster, and make sure that your private and company spam filters are up to date. If you have an assistant, ask him or her not only to screen out unwanted mail, but also to make batches of related non-urgent messages.
- Return unused books to the company library
- Return to the company library any library books you rarely use. Another library user might make better use of them, and if many people do this, you might find something better in the library.
- Listen to books on tape
- Some books are best "read" on tape during your commute, especially those you read for entertainment. You'll get through a book, and you'll be less bothered about your commute.
- Organize a book swap
- Nearly everyone you work with has unread books, and some of those books are so interesting that you actually would read them if you owned them. Organize a book swap with the people you work with. On the designated day, all of you bring books to swap, and you're sure to find something even more fascinating than the books you now have.
- Organize a lunchtime book club
- Book clubs help keep you honest. Once you promise others that you'll read a book, you're more likely to actually do it. And you get more out of it when you discuss the book with others who've just read it, or who are reading it along with you.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Games for Meetings: II
- We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized
games. Here's Part II of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
- Organizational Firefighting
- Sometimes companies or projects get into trouble, and "fires" erupt one after another. When
this happens, we say we're in "firefighting" mode. But it's more than a metaphor — we
have a lot to learn from wildland firefighters.
- Most of us follow paths through our careers, or through life. We get nervous when we're off the path.
We feel better when we're doing what everyone else is doing. But is that sensible?
- Illusory Incentives
- Although the theory of incentives at work is changing rapidly, its goal generally remains helping employers
obtain more output at lower cost. Here are some neglected effects that tend to limit the chances of
achieving that goal.
- Asking Clarifying Questions
- In a job interview, the interviewer asks you a question. You're unsure how to answer. You can blunder
ahead, or you can ask a clarifying question. What is a clarifying question, and when is it helpful to ask one?
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 25: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VI
- Narcissistic behavior at work distorts decisions, disrupts relationships, and generates toxic conflict. These consequences limit the ability of the organization to achieve its goals. In this part of our series we examine the effects of exploiting others for personal ends. Available here and by RSS on April 25.
- And on May 2: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VII
- Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects of that disregard. Available here and by RSS on May 2.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.