How to Prepare yourself for Reading

Please read.

Last week I spoke to an association of 30 business people who admitted to me they did not read blogs, and did not read books. They had all been given my book, Managing with Aloha as part of their welcome gift for the event we were all attending, and so I felt compelled to pepper my speech with some not-so-subtle commercials for my book’s content: I was determined to entice them to read it!

I should point out that this was a group of very successful business people — among other things, their gross sales had to qualify them to be in attendance in the first place. So I suppose you could make the argument that it is possible to be successful without reading a lot. However, imagine how much more successful they will be when they start reading in the business genre. Not “would be,” “will be.” I have faith in them.

Train yourself to fall in love with reading. Believe me, once you start it won’t be hard to do.

Don’t force yourself to read anything you’re not interested in. This is one of those cases where you don’t have to finish what you start. There will be a lot of better options, and I don’t want you to sabotage your own efforts because it’s a chore — reading should be joyful, intriguing and fascinating.

Don’t say that you don’t have time for it, for you do: you need to choose to spend your time that way, and allocate it. Stop watching junk on TV and read to learn something new.

The other “secret” is to prepare yourself for the opportunities you have to read.

Get a new inbox or basket that is strictly for your Reading-To-Do so that you are never wanting for something to read when you do have time. Start a book stack on the corner of your desk or on your nightstand. Be ready for those pockets of time when you are waiting somewhere (I have something in my bag to read anytime I’ll be caught in line someplace) or enroute somewhere (most of the books I read are read on planes and in shuttles) or when you can’t fall asleep.

I have 3 Reading Stacks / Places. They are separated because they represent different time pockets and different reading habits for me.

1. A shelf with a queue of hardcover books waiting to be read. Among the dozen-plus waiting for me there right now are Blink, The Wisdom of Crowds, The Companies We Keep, What Management Is, and The Success Principles.

My habit: I read books twice at minimum. I study them. I mark them up. I do look for bigger time pockets or sequential ones, for I know I’ll have a hard time putting the book down once I get into it.

2. A stack of magazines and newspapers to read. Usually I have Worthwhile, Fast Company (yes, I still love them) and Oprah’s O Magazine there (very underrated in my opinion). Sometimes Wired, sometimes the Harvard Business Review, and an assortment of local Hawaii community magazines. Newspapers.

My habit: This collection is for my mid-sized pockets of time. I’m going to cut them apart or rip out pages, only keeping what I’ll use later and tossing the rest. If something looks interesting but I run out of time to read it then and there, it’ll go to my place number 3.

3. Unbound assorted papers to read, such as an article I saw on the internet and printed to read later, advertisements and flyers that come in the mail, and programs for possible conferences I might want to attend and need to decide on. Note that this is all leisure time/ non-critical reading separate from my business-related inbox.

My habit: These papers are kept in a basket on the floor near my desk. Nice looking basket because of the pure and simple pleasure of having something that looks artistic and interesting, and with a handle so I can carry it around with me when I have the time to sink into my sofa, or I want to take it outside and sit on my porch some nice cool evening.

However these are my quickest reads/ quickest dispatches – this is the basket I’ll rummage in when I want to fold something up and keep it in my pocket or bag for a 1-5 minute pocket of time. If I do watch TV, this reading fills the annoying commercial breaks. In the basket I also have a pen and some 3×5 cards for any notes that result, and a plastic grocery bag if I’m not near a trash can — most of it will get tossed when I’m done reading it.

These 3 places are duplicated for me in the two places I need them to be: my home office on the Big Island, and my second office/travel hub on O‘ahu. When I have time to read something, the worst possible thing is not having that something to read.

In the course of my presentation for that group I spoke of, I made a few book recommendations that are not included in the Recommended Reading List printed in the ending pages of MWA (and that Todd Sattersten reprinted here.) They appear elsewhere on Talking Story, however I promised to list them here to make it easier for the group to find (as I said, they’re new to blogs too.) This will be repetitive for those of you who are already in The Ho‘ohana Community, however another reminder can’t hurt if these aren’t on your bookshelf yet.

Currently my top 3 recommendations have been these:

Getting Things Done by David Allen
Learn more: improve your personal productivity.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
Learn more: improve your professional relationships.

The One Thing You Need to Know by Marcus Buckingham
Learn more: improve your management and your leadership.

And ‘Imi ola: seek your best possible life at work. For your own mālama (self-care) and for pono (your sense of rightness and balance), read Managing with Aloha.

To sum this up, I like what Todd wrote for us here on a comment back in February:


Excellent points. I’ll throw out a simple approach.

Reading improves your life. Whether it’s just for entertainment or business reading, you will learn something.

I plan on continuing my learning process until I’m dead.


Related posts:

7 More Ways to get the most from books.
A Dozen Myths about Reading.



  1. says

    One suggestion: replace the books with a book summary service. AudioTech does them on CDs, Soundview on paper, and is PDFs. Much more respectful of your time, and cheaper to boot.
    The fact is, if you’re reading for content, books are woefully inefficient. A 300-page tome is 10 pages of content, if that much, and 290 pages of illustrations, justifications, explication and case studies.
    You either drink the Kool-Aid or you don’t – and you don’t have the luxury of extra time.
    Think of it this way – a book summary takes 5 minutes to read (a 4-pager from getAbstract). How long does it take to read the book? Conversely, in the time you read one book, how many summaries could you read?

  2. says

    Dear Rosa,
    your reading habits seem to be well developed, and I appreciate your time pocket approach. Sometimes I think my problem is the opposite of those who declare that they never read; because I’m reading all the time! Anytime I can find some written text, I start reading it and sometimes I don’t get things done just because I dive into the reading habit, perhaps now and then turning over into a reading obsession. And, the internet is a wonderful feeder for this.
    Eric, I don’t really agree with the fast food approach of reading those ten page summaries. I think that a lot of what an author’s efforts to make sense and tell the story are not coming through such short resumes; however for those who are always too busy to find those time pockets for in depth reading, this may be useful. And, after all, I enjoy reading shorter texts like articles and essays. And, though I’ve not yet even read Rosa’s MWA book, there are so many links and pointers that I feel like I keep getting here, anytime i google; either this is another proof of memes, or Goodle is giving me an extra push, knowing my personal preference profile.

  3. says

    Excellent post Rosa.
    I have a file folder that I keep in my briefcase that I put articles or print outs from websites that I can read at a later time. There are plenty of times when I am early to an appointment, sitting in traffic, waiting somewhere…where I can pull out the folder and consume!
    Thanks for the post mention and keep on learning!

  4. says

    Aloha Eric, Susanne and Todd, thank you all for your comments!
    Eric, as you can imagine I have mixed feelings about your suggestion! As an author I want people to read my book, and I tried hard to make sure there wasn’t anything superfluous in it – over a year of edits just because the time the book sits inbetween each one makes you more objective and increases the quality of your writing.
    However as a coach who wants people to read for so many different reasons, I do like your suggestions for those who now may consider reading a real chore – I don’t want books to intimidate them away from starting, or close their minds to thinking about new habits. I’ve also been able to sway a few would-be converts by getting them hooked on audio-books, for they are not visual people by nature.
    Personally, as an admitted zealous reader, books satisfy me on a number of different levels. (If anyone reading this is nodding their head, bookmark my February index here on Talking Story for your leisure-time reading: our Ho’ohana that entire month was called “A Love Affair with Books.”)
    And Eric I do realize you were generously offering us added suggestions, so thank you for getting this discussion going! I also know you are a voracious reader: I have a hard time keeping up with you and all the pointers you give us on your own blog.
    Susanne, follow those Google pointers! I’ll give you an extra nudge here: for you and anyone else who hasn’t read MWA yet, here’s a link for a pdf reprint of the Prologue and Introduction:
    As usual Todd, when you visit Talking Story you always encourage us, or have a great suggestion to add, mahalo nui.
    More tips out there Ho’ohana Community?

  5. says

    Dear Rosa,
    just wanted to let you know that I’ve just ordered TWO copies of your MWA book, one for myself – and one as a thank you present for my Born Global mentor – he’s a Covey Denmark man that I’m hoping to impress when I start talking management Hawaii :-)
    I’m going to read the prologue that you generously shared with me, as books sent from Amazon may take a week or two before getting here. I’ll let you know as soon as I hold the much desired treasure in my hands :-)

  6. says

    Carnival of the Capitalists at Blog Business World

    It’s Carnival time again!
    Grab your popcorn and cotton candy and sit back and enjoy Carnival of the Capitalists: The Greatest Business Show in the Blogosphere.
    That was a little long for a tag line. I’ll have to work on improving that one.

  7. says

    Eric, have you ever written a major work?
    I just finished my first book and I worked really hard to fit in all the information I needed to get into each page.
    Sure there are plenty of books that adhere to Sturgeon’s Law, but I tend not to finish them, and am rather picky about the ones I do pick up.
    I got the reading bug bad. One of the best things I did was to learn how to read faster, not speed reading where you just scan words and phrases but to read it all at high speed. It is a talent that has stood me in good stead. In my university Learning how to learn class we were all tested for our reading speed, I blew away the chart at 2000wpm. I have piles of books all over the place, probably time to get another bookcase really:)
    To fill my learning desires I have added audio books to my iPod. That allows me to fill up drive time with valuable learning instead of the mindless drivel from the radio. I also got some noise-canceling headphones so I could listen while I mow the lawn. I carry a little Hipster PDA now to write down all the ideas I get while listening.

  8. says

    Aloha Stephan, welcome to the Ho’ohana Community. Mahalo for adding your thoughts and sharing your own best practices with us.
    The iPod arrived at our place with my son’s April birthday, and I’ve been amazed with what he can store on there: Zach had bought one of those radio adapter gizmos, and its been great for those longer rides we are taking now in the rental car while here in Arizona.
    If the iPod were mine it would definitely have audio books on there too. Rosa

  9. says

    Hi Rosa,
    Thanks for all the tips on reading. My mentor taught me years ago that leaders are readers, but not all readers are leaders. I too read all that I can about business and success and I appreciate your blog.

  10. says

    Aloha Ken,
    I just came back from a visit at your blog, and I love your very positive and uplifting encouragement there.
    Mahalo nui for sharing your aloha with us here on Talking Story, and welcome to our Ho’ohana Community!