As digital technology disrupts the way we live and work, it’s posing new challenges for professionals today. In the world of work, you’re constantly expected to do more with fewer resources. Staying ahead requires that you make lifelong learning a habit. So, how does one do that?
If you look at the lives of the ultra-successful—Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet—you’ll discover that many of them are voracious readers. They’ve made reading a habit because it’s one of the easiest ways to constantly expose yourself to new ideas, gain new skills, and grow your professional toolkit.
Before I reveal the two books that will skyrocket your career success, let me highlight a 2012 study by McKinsey Global Institute of office workers in the US, Germany, France, and Great Britain. It found that workers spent, on average, 5.6 hours a day “reading and answering e-mails and processing written information.”
That’s more than half of your workday spent consuming information. Which begs the question: Where will you find the time for professional development? A more recent report by McKinsey Global, The Future of Women at Work: Transitions in the Age of Automation, “estimates that between 40 million and 160 million women globally may need to transition between occupations by 2030, often into higher-skilled roles.” This means that to up-skill isn’t a choice; it’s a necessity that can be addressed by selecting the right books to read.
My two essential books are The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch and The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo. Although the books are very different from each other, they share a core idea — doing more with less. Let’s look at how the information in these books could be a game-changer for your career.
The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch.
You already know that lifelong learning must become a habit if you are to continually succeed in today’s workplace. But how can you add reading to an already over-scheduled day? The answer is in learning how to read more intelligently.
The 80/20 Principle says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. How many books covering the skills you need for future jobs might you digest, if you knew which 20% to read? Imagine using the time you save when you read 20% of any book (and understand 80% of it), to read other books?
Now you’re probably wondering how you’d determine which 20% of a book to read. The reality is that most of us don’t understand how to read both efficiently and effectively. The most effective way to read a book is to pre-scan it first. When you pre-scan a book before you start reading it, you’ll discover the meaty sections to focus on — the 20%. By mastering this skill, you’ll find that you’re reading more books.
The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo.
To avoid spending too much time pre-scanning a book before reading it, The Pomodoro Technique will keep you focused. It helps you to cut down on distractions.
Here’s The Pomodoro Technique in a nutshell:
- Shut off all distractions. That means turning off your phone, TV, and computer.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Spend those 25 minutes pre-scanning the book.
- Read the foreword.
- Read the preface.
- Read the introduction.
- Read the conclusion
- Read the table of contents.
- Make a note of sections and chapters you must read.
- Start reading the meaty bits of the book.
- When the timer goes off, give yourself a reward for five to ten minutes. Do something very different from reading.
- If pre-scanning the book takes more than 25 minutes, you could always do another Pomodoro.
Your goal is to be able to scan an average length book in 25 minutes. In 25 minutes, you should know which sections of the books to read. After you’ve highlighted the meaty sections of a book, do another Pomodoro to focus on your reading. The important thing is to develop the ability to distinguish between essential and non-essential information.
If you’re feeling guilty about not reading the entire book, carry the following Francis Bacon quote with you:
Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.
Why The 80/20 Principle and The Pomodoro Technique are important.
The more books you read, the more equipped you are to understand and thrive in the rapidly evolving world around you. In this age of disruption, it’s better to know a little about a lot of things than a lot about a few things.
I’ve mentioned one specific way to use the content from these books to skyrocket your career. However, remember, you must invest the time to read the books to discover additional ways of using the techniques they cover to achieve more in less time on the job.
Which brings us to the next piece of the puzzle: To skyrocket your career success, you must apply your newfound knowledge. Use what you learn from reading the right books in the right way to address serious issues in your company.
[Related: Investing Perspectives from Leo Tolstoy]
Originally published on Ellevate.
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