The Power Of Reading Less

Sometimes, less is more.

Courtesy of Thomas Bethge / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Thomas Bethge / Shutterstock

In the last 12 months, I read 53 books (and wrote one).

In the age of information, reading books has opened me to ideas, skills, and possibilities I would have never been exposed to.
From ancient Chinese philosophy to the latest business and marketing techniques, books have shaped my life and my way of thinking.

In your journey towards creating your version of success and designing a better self, books are your best friend. Your muse and your mentor.

(If you run a business, it’s likely that, somewhere on a shelf, a book is responsible for your life choices.)

But is it ever too much?

Reading more books, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, and constantly looking for information can also stop you from taking action. Like a duvet in winter, it keeps you so warm and cosy that you never want to leave your bed and face the world.

But that’s where the magic happens.

Looking for more information is often a buffer to put off taking action and avoid any possible mistake. Reading a book is safe, taking action is hard. I call it infocrastination (yes, I made it up).

Entrepreneurs are particularly prone to constantly looking for more information as a way to procrastinate: try to learn everything instead of working on your own strengths (and find other people to do the rest, better).

Here’s the truth: taking action on one book, and following the exact step-by-step, is far more powerful than reading 10 books in a row (and not doing anything about it). You’ll be very knowledgeable, but your results won’t change. Actually, now you’ll have too much information to take action: knowing so much about what could go wrong, what you could (or should) be doing. If your practice levels don’t match your theory, you’ll end up overcomplicating things and never actually follow change anything.

After all, how many books did you have to read before being able to ride a bicycle? My wild guess is…zero. Sometimes, nothing can substitute practice.

So how can you leverage the power of reading before it transforms from your best friend into your sworn enemy?

Theme your reads

Instead of letting a random podcast decide your next read, know what you need to understand right now: what will help you get closer to your goals or get the clarity you need to understand what to do next?

Maybe you are working on a particular skill or attitude for yourself, such as being able to focus, or how to launch your next product: great, make that your theme, and read a 3–5 books on the theme. Then stop, write down what you learned, and take action.

(If you’re looking to get clear on your goals and take action daily, my book Invest Your Time launched in April as an Amazon bestseller—cheeky).

Get someone to help you take action

When I find myself reading a lot of disconnected books, I know one of two things are happening: I’m either struggling to jump and take action on limited information, or I feel too confused to know what should be my next step.

That’s when getting an external perspective from coaches and accountability groups really helped me: from having someone that keeps me to my word to having an external perspective to remind me of the big picture, not doing it alone helped me from drowning in a sea of information.

In my own coaching programme, the first thing I help my entrepreneur clients do is to get crystal clear on what the next level in their business looks like (and what it enables in life): only by knowing where you going you can confidently take action, and drop everything else that doesn’t serve you.

Go back to what resonated

At this point, I know what you’re thinking: “Matt, you told me you read 53 books in the past year (you’re a hypocrite!)”

I have a secret.

I love to read, so when I realised that looking for more information was truly holding me back, I decided to do things a bit differently.
Instead of gobbling down another self-development book, I introduced more fiction, history books, and biographies. That buys me time to take action in between action-requiring books.

When a book resonates, I read in twice or even three times, sometimes changing the medium: I may start on Kindle on my phone, and then read it again on audible. That way, I can digest key concepts, take action, and go for transformation over information.

Self-help books work, but only if you do.

Originally published on Medium.

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