I have been reading my whole life, but not like now. Before, I read a few books a year, no more than two novels and a technical book. But around six years ago (2015), I started to have a more systematic approach to reading.
I did not enjoy reading small formats like twits or comments. Instead, I yearned for longer reads. On those long formats, the author has the opportunity to extensively explain its ideas and conclusions without the restriction of the short form. Also, the reader has more time to digest the concept and reflect on its impact on daily life. As a result, I did stop using social media and moved to blog posts and books.
On reading books
I noticed that I needed to establish reading as a routine. Like everything, I had to do things intentionally, so I needed to decide what and when to read.
I love psychology, processes and self-improvement books. So I’ll start there by searching for contemporary classics in those fields. Not many of them look interesting to me, so I picked one that looks easy enough. Because of work, I also need to read technical books, and those are heavier to read since I need to take notes or even try things on the computer.
On the other hand, I needed to think about the best places to read. The first one was at night, of course. We do not watch television, so, just after dinner, around 8:45, I lie with Pau, my 11 years old son, and we read until 10:00 when we switch off the lights. We do all days but Friday and Saturday, which are movie days. But there is also another approach I have been using since 2009: listening to books.
On listening to books
In 2009 I bought my first audiobook from audible: Malcolm Gladwell, “Outliers”. Since then, I have not stopped listening to books, together with my other passion: Podcasts.
Many people told me that they could not focus on following a 15 hours long audiobook, and I understand that perfectly. It is easy to get distracted and stop listening while your mind gets lost in thoughts. They are two things that helped me with that issue: training and meditation.
I did train my listening by years of listening to podcasts. I’m a huge fan of podcast episodes to get all kinds of information, and I did spend 2+ hours a day on that. The second is meditation. I’ve noticed that meditation also helps you be much more mindful of what you are doing. I can control my attention better and focus on the book I’m listening to instead of my own non-related thoughts.
All that to say that listening to books for me is easy. If I do get distracted for any reason, I simply re-listen the chapter. I did re-listen many books entirely to get more from them. Re-listen, as well as re-read, is something that I plan to systematize the following year. Something like take back the previous year best books.
So, when do I listen? All the time except when I’m working, with the family, playing guitar or reading. House chores, moving around the city by bike, walking, exercising, or running are all great opportunities to practice your focus and listen to an exciting book.
In general, I do listen to non-technical books. Things like psychology, health, self-improvement or fiction are perfect in audio format.
Audible.com will give you the first book free if you want to try. Try any of these and thank me later:
- Shankar Vedantam, “The Hidden Brain”
- Patrick Lencioni, “The ideal team player”
- Chris Voss with Tahl Raz, Never Split the difference
I use GoodReads to manage my books, but mainly because the rest of the family does it as well (Laia, Julia, and Pau). I like to keep my books on my web page, but I admit that Goodreads is a good platform for keeping your readings. I also enjoy their end of the year summary.
I use the Audible.com iOS application on the iPhone and the Apple Watch to listen to books. Their application is not great, but it does the job quite well. And I use my beloved AirPods Pro. I’m amazed at how convenient they are. I have been wearing them all day for the last two years!
I do not use the iPad for ebooks. Initially, It looked like the right platform, but I only use ebooks for technical books. Those are better read on the Mac, where I can mess with stuff and play around to my heart content.
By far, my preferred platform for reading is good old paper. But, the one the I use less. I have at least always a physical book to read at night since I feel more relaxed when I’m reading on paper.
The study hour
As I said before, I do read technical books on the computer, and the is one thing that helps with that: the study hour.
Last year, I included intentional study time into my daily routine by waking up early and spending one hour honing my technical skill on one topic. That time usually involves a book, and I have noticed a better understanding of the topics and better notes for the future.
It is a practice that I’ll keep doing and probably one of the best learning strategies I have tried in years.
In summary, I do read technical books on the computer in the mornings, fiction at night before going to bed, and non-fiction, mostly in audiobook format, the rest of the time.
After five years of reading consistently and having it embedded in my daily routine, I can say that, for me, it is essential. Thanks to the books I have read in the last decade, I have significantly grown as a person, developer, and teammate.
If you feel that social media does not help you grow, try a book.
I hope you now are convinced why is it important to read and have some ideas on how to do it. Please, tell me if you find it helpful and e-mail me if you have any recommendations.
Finally, you can see what I read here.