How I read one book a week (even with a small child)

I am obsessed by books. It’s a healthy obsession, though.

In the last 4 years I read on average a book a week. Many of them have helped me in my personal development and in my business.

Learning is a necessary step towards better decision making. So, if you are not satisfied with the amount of books you read, today I’ll give you some practical (and working!) tips to read more.

Before we begin, I have an invite for you. We are creators and know how many challenges there are to face every day. We felt extremely alone in front of them.

So, we decided to start a community for creators that want to help one another to improve decisions. Or simply feel less alone.

We are starting with a tiny bet: a Twitter group. If you want to join, DM samuele: https://twitter.com/samueleonelia

See you there!

Now on to today’s issue.

How does reading books help decision making?

Reading is essential to improve your thinking and your decision making skills. It doesn’t only help with specific skills or general self improvement.

Here are the three main reasons why.

Another one of those

Ray Dalio built his investing success on this principle. By the way, it’s well described in his book Principles (what else? 😉).

Every obstacle you face seems new and unique. It’s the first time it’s happening to YOU, right?

But you won’t ever have enough resources to come up with new solutions every time. You need to be aware that 99% of the times someone has already had a very similar problem. Probably, it was documented somewhere.

Dalio writes about financial crises and macroeconomics. He had to go study decades or centuries of history.

As creators in the third millenium we are much, much more lucky. The past lessons we need are summarized in books published at most some decade ago.

You can find manuals, biographies and collections of case studies about every aspect of your life and business. Learn the strategies and adapt them to your situation.

Books are “knowledge shots”

We all wish we were Neo:

image

Books are the best approximation available to us. Until Elon ships Neuralink to the masses, of course. 🤯

Good authors condense years of research in a single book. They polish their words to convey maximum knowledge. If you take books seriously, you’ll learn crucial skills.

Decision making always start with learning

Most of the outrageously successful people make time for reading books. They read to acquire new information and the ability to understand it.

You need both to make sound decisions.

A buffet of techniques to read more

So, now do you feel the urgency of reading more?

We already have tons of content to consume. Besides our infinite number of commitments.

Perfecting the next article or a deliverable for a client has an immediate return. Such priorities eat up our reading time.

Consider it as a long term investment. The more you do it now, the more you’ll reap in the future.

Here are the techniques that worked for me to be able to read one book per week. Even more before my son was born 😉 (I tracked everything on Goodreads for the last 4-5 years)

Make time for reading

Your calendar reveals your priorities. Does it have time reserved to reading?

If not, immediately add a recurring event, every day, when you’ll sit and read. Start small, 15 minutes in the morning, in the evening or after lunch. Aim at increasing it over time.

Replace other forms of entertainment

Our days are exhausting. The last thing we need is to dedicate our precious free time to learning.

Some days it’s true, our brains need downtime. Play some videogames, watch pranks on TikTok, sleep.

But you can build the endurance for learning. Try gradually replacing your leisure activities with reading.

Choose easier books in the beginning. For example biographies, motivational books, or guides about topics you quickly understand.

Choose the right topics

Reading doesn’t need to feel like a chore. Read books that:

  • ignite your curiosity
  • give you a skill you need
  • inspire you.

You’ll have your cake and eat it, too.

Choose great books

Bad books are a waste of time. And annoying.

The best source of good books for me have been recommendations from podcast interviews. Sometimes I read the book written by the guest. More often I followed his or her reading suggestions.

The “further reading” section at the end of an interesting book is also a good source.

When I like an author, I look for other books he wrote. Or I look for the best books about a topic I liked.

Sometimes, simple Google searches (e.g. “best books about coaching”) revealed very good books. Pro tip: triangulate different book lists and choose the books mentioned more frequently. Double check the ratings on Goodreads.

Speaking of which: Goodreads ratings are far better than Amazon’s. Its users are more demanding. So you’ll find a wider range of ratings. A 3.5 stars book on Goodreads can still be good. On Amazon it’s a no-no.

Finally, favor old books. In its first year a book can benefit mainly from the fame of the author, the book tour, the articles about it. If ratings keep high in the long term, it’s an evergreen. For example, some books about copywriting from the ’60s are still the best.

Ditch paper

I know many people like the feel of paper. Some prefer real books to take notes and highlight.

But a Kindle is thinner than any book. It carries hundreds of books. It’s readable (without eye strain) under the sun and in the dark. It also saves trees! 😅

It’s the perfect allied to increase your reading time.

The next tips show how.

Read whenever, wherever

I try reading a bit every time I have more than a couple free minutes. It’s not

feasible with difficult books, but I can always find something accessible.

Keep your Kindle in your bag, or the Kindle app on your phone. You’ll have your entire library at your fingertips. And you’ll waste no time recovering the last page you read.

Quit bad books

I’ll admit it: I’m still learning this. I feel a strong urge to complete what I started.

But sometimes a book:

  • doesn’t maintain its promises,
  • has no new lessons for you,
  • is badly written.

After a chapter or two, you’ll feel it isn’t working. Skip to the most interesting parts. If they still don’t satisfy you, quit the book. You’ll keep the motivation high and make time for a better one.

Read more than one book at the same time

Sometimes a book is long and starts boring you. Or it’s too hard and you’re too tired.

Have different books ready and switch between them, following your taste, energy level and curiosity.

A good mix can be having at any time:

  • a technical book (for example about design),
  • an inspirational book,
  • a biography or something more narrative,
  • a fiction book.

The secret weapon

In the last two years “thanks” to my son I almost only listened to audiobooks. I can speed them up and listen while I do something else.

I want to be a present father, so Leonardo consumes much of my free time. But I still make chores around the house, stretch, exercise, walk and so on.

Audiobooks allowed me to implement all the techniques above.

Why not speed reading

Years ago, I was fascinated by speed reading techniques. I studied them. I read books about them (meta!). I was never able to apply them.

I keep saying words in my mind. I know it’s a limitation but was never able to overcome it.

Many voracious readers share their aversion to speed reading. I don’t know if they hate it because they can’t do it.

Anyway, it never worked for me. Did you try it? Did you find out how to make it work?

Are you going to read more?

I hope this tutorial helped you. You can try any of these techniques and start reading more today.

Do you have other suggestions?

Share them on our new Discord channel. DM Samuele to join.

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