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Using GTD to manage reading books

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  • Using GTD to manage reading books

    The one thing that I just can't figure out how to manage effectively with GTD is by book reading list. My backlog just seems to get bigger and bigger (I'm addicted to buying books even when I know I've got a dozen or so still to read and I always have to have 3+ active books at any one time).

    So I list all my books in my Project List. Great...now at least I know how much I have to read! Then I add an action to read a chapter. But I just seem to procastinate on these actions and they just linger in my action list. I don't have the same problem with other actions - I get through them like I'm supposed to.

    What am I missing, why are these actions too difficult? Any one else have similar problems? Any tips on what other people do? Anyone have a good process? Has anyone incorporated Photoreading into this or other "speed reading" type techniques?

  • #2
    Re: Using GTD to manage reading books

    Originally posted by omerkhan
    why are these actions too difficult?
    Because they are no actions! Reading is not an action, i.e. productive physical action, but it's perception, comprehension, and storing information in your memory. Reading without active processing (taking notes, calculating, discussing, mind mapping, etc.) is either edification, entertainment, relaxation or a waste of time. Reading without active processing may lead to consequences or changes in your life, but it's hard to manage this kind of passive reading. You would have to schedule a certain time and discipline yourself to read when it's time to read. Or you would need an other person, e.g. a teacher or a friend, to test your progress on your reading project. And preparing and attending a test could be a project with actions that you can manage.

    Ask yourself: "Why do I buy so many books? For education, for fun, for collecting?" "What is the successful outcome that I want to achieve by reading, i.e. working through, this certain book?"

    Hope this helps.

    Rainer

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    • #3
      There is no consequence if you don't read, so you don't read. GTD can't motivate you to do something you don't want to do, just let you track it.

      I read on the train while commuting, if you drive, try books on tape/CD/MP3.

      Comment


      • #4
        Why are you looking at reading as a chore? Why are you trying to be so organized about it?

        I have over 8 bookshelves of books. Two of those bookshelves I have not read yet. I expect that as I move books off those shelves because I have read them, more will take their place. I tend to read 3-5 books a time, and that does not include textbooks for school. I read what catches my fancy when I am looking for a book. I will read them all eventually. If a book is cheap or out of print at a used book store, I won't pass it up just because I have so many shelves full already. Having a huge pile of unread books is comforting, because I know that I will always have something to read waiting for me!

        Reading is a hobby and a passion of mine. I read to improve myself sometimes (e.g. read GTD!) but mostly because I love to read!

        If you are reading because you like to read, just lighten up about it.

        If you are reading to improve yourself, and you are bored by the reading, maybe you need to rethink why you are reading. Are you reading because you feel you should be improving yourself? Are you reading because there is information in the material that you want to know? Maybe you need to keep that end goal in mind- not, "I am reading because I feel I should," but, "I am reading book XYZ because it has information about [insert topic] that I want to know." Maybe you need to motivate yourself with some sort of reward system. Maybe you need to decide that you don't need to read everything you feel that you should read (re-negotiate the agreement).

        For some of my other hobbies, I am trying to organize what materials and supplies I have, so that I am not tempted to buy more when I have so much to do at home. Maybe could that be the purpose of your list of unread books?

        Oh- one more thing: I keep a list of stuff to do in my free time. When I come home from work, I can look at it and try to decide what hobby I will indulge in- reading, knitting, playing with the cats, etc.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Using GTD to manage reading books

          Originally posted by omerkhan
          The one thing that I just can't figure out how to manage effectively with GTD is by book reading list. My backlog just seems to get bigger and bigger (I'm addicted to buying books even when I know I've got a dozen or so still to read and I always have to have 3+ active books at any one time).
          1. Write down every book you're currently in the middle of reading -- not every book you own or plan to read; just the ones that currently have your attention.

          2. Decide which one would be best to finish first.

          3. Make the page you're currently reading in that book your next action (e.g. "Read GTD pg. 118"), not arbitrary quotas like "Read Chapter 12."

          This exercise takes two minutes, but it cuts through the haze like magic. Once you look at an objectified list of 7 books, one will likely stand out as a priority. In most cases one book will be such the obvious choice that you'll wonder why you didn't realize it before you made the list. But if you simply think in the abstract about "all the books" you have to read, you'll go numb to them.

          Avoid putting future reading committments on your project list unless they're active projects for the current week. Put the one book you've committed to on the project list, the other few books that have your immediate attention on the someday/maybe list, and all the other books on a Books to Read list.

          Reading faster won't help if you keep flitting back and forth between books. The key to more efficient reading is to funnel it though in one direction, just like other inputs in GTD workflow.

          Comment


          • #6
            Reading is a mine-field of mixed messages.

            We can read for pleasure, for the betterment of our mind, for life management, to feel educated, and to fit in with the expectations of parents/teachers/wise looking older brothers and sisters of best friends.

            But while some of the people in our lives think that reading is the most wonderful thing you can do, others think it is an absolute waste of time, the opposite of action, a lazy man’s pastime, “typical” of a day dreamer.

            Will reading produce more money in our lives? If not, we feel guilty about it in our highly commercialised world.

            All I know is, I always feel better inside after a good read, but at the same time, a whole section of my inner committee tries to out-shout each other in telling me what a waste of time it was.

            The act of buying fulfils deep psychological needs which I can’t remember but are well documented (in books, of course!) The phrase “a little retail therapy” is not a joke, it’s a serious reality - it helps me get a little back for all the time I put into the office during the week. I love buying books, both for the retail therapy, and for what I feel I am buying into: a new view of business/society/history/art/literature or whatever the topic is. Does this mean I have been won over by clever advertising? After all, there will be another “fresh view” of these subjects launched in a year or two, so what is so great about the current lot that makes me spend my hard earned cash and increase my stock pile of unread books?

            I have no answers to any of these. Perhaps reading is a battle ground between the individual and the corporate world: at the moment the corporate world is winning – you get all the rewards for action and work, and none for bettering your mind (unless it is in the very narrow spectrum of things that will increase your chances of promotion, and lets face it, all you really need to read is the phrase “produce results”).

            We are surrounded by proof that it is better to work than it is to sit down, (inactively), and read. Maybe reading is going through the phase that sculpture and painting went through centuries ago: they used to be the only ways to capture an image, so that once photography and cinema came along, they had to reinvent themselves as an art form, which is simply a hobby for the lay man.

            And notice, it was when they became known as “art” that sculpture and painting began to spawn hundreds of books!

            Dave

            Comment


            • #7
              Book list

              Good stuff. What seems to be a theme here in this topic is active reading or purposeful reading. I believe in this type of reading. I have a very long book list on my Palm T5. I use Bonsai and my list is called: @TO READ. Also, I have a list called @TO READ ARCHIVE. My @TO READ ARCHIVE is merely a list of the books I have read that were originally located in my @TO READ list.

              I use Bonsai because I can number the books on my list or prioritize it. I can also move the titles easily with arrow keys and move it to the top, or bottom. I can also easily paste book titles from Amazon into Bonsai. It’s nice to have my list on my Palm because when I’m at the library I can quickly scan it. I have a @MOVIES TO SEE located on my Palm as well for the same reasons.

              In order for a book to make it to my @TO READ list, I scrutinize to the best of my ability. I really question if I should put it on my list. It had better be good! This is where Amazon.com helps me out because I can read customer reviews including chapter excerpts from the books themselves. Although, let me be clear I use a trick here as well. When looking for books, because I have strong goals (mission) I know what kind of books I want on my list. Therefore, this mindset already narrows down the books I will put on my list. Like some of the posted comments from the Topic here, I am also a firm believer in “Applied Knowledge”. If it is not applicable to me, I will not read it! It is a strong rule with me. Therefore, lately I have been reading a lot of non-fiction material mainly because I like applicable material. I do enjoy a good fiction book when I have time. Fiction books are endless “ideas” to me and I don’t necessarily need more ideas in my head, I have enough.

              I do review my @TO READ list frequently and have at times taken a book off my list. However, this if few-and-far between. This tells me the books that I do have on my @TO READ list are completely related to my strong interests. Furthermore this says to me, I did (and DO) have strong interests now, they have not changed.

              The "incubation" or "sitting" list technique works very good. This is letting a title, or thing to sit on your list and checking it later to see if you are still interested in it (weekly OR longer/review). I have many times found, by later checking it, that I did not really want it on my list, and I took it off. This technique has strengthened my "desires" because you have to know what you want.

              May sound corny (or not), but that’s my way.

              arthur

              P.S. usually when I read a book, (if I like it) I will stick to it and read it until it’s done. I also have read many books twice or more times. I find these are the "special" books. This may seem contradictory, but many times I have had to check out many books I thought were "worthless" only to find out they were great. I call this the Blitzkrieg method where you quickly scan as much as you can out of the large pile of books, then pick out the great ones. It's like surfing the Internet only to find a few good webpages, "special" ones only for your Favorites collection. I always keep a open mind for the little tipping points, and don't completely disregard everything.

              If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. Simply stated.

              Comment


              • #8
                This thread is funny.

                Briefly stated, some people use GTD as a way to have more time for things they enjoy, like reading. Some people use GTD to manage things that they need to do but don't necessarily enjoy, like reading.

                I'm not sure either camp has much helpful advice for the other.

                Katherine

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                • #9
                  Thanks for all the interesting replies and great feedback.

                  I should add that I sit in both "camps". I have books that I've bought just because I "like to read them". I don't have problems with these books. I always keep one with me and whenever I have downtime or I'm on the train/tube I'll get the book out, read and simply ENJOY!

                  The issue has been more with non-fiction books. Now each one of these books has a clear purpose i.e. it's related to another project like "become a better manager" which in turn is linked to a top-level goal like "get promoted in 12 months". So purpose is clear with all these books.

                  It's becoming clearer that the issue has been more about trying to treat reading activities as "actions". The other point is that for these types of books I don't really need a "reading session" but rather a "study session".

                  So my big takeways so far are:

                  1. Get clear about why you're reading what you're reading.
                  2. Schedule time and treat it as study rather than reading time.
                  3. Get a clear purpose for each study session e.g. I will identify and understand the key mistakes that managers make by the end of the next session.

                  and if I'm just reading for fun....enjoy the experience!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Sounds like you've got it - I've found it helpful to schedule the same block of time every week for professional reading.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Katherine has a very good point, which relates also to Nan's further up the thread - all of this has a lot to do with whether you view GTD as a way to manage your life, or a way to manage your chores so you have more time for your life.

                      Personally, I don't agree with the idea that in order to 'lighten up' about, for example, reading, you should refrain from trying to incorporate it into your GTD system. I'd hate to think of my system as only for the things that I have to do but don't want to do. Apart from anything else, the things that are in the system are the things that are more likely to really get done, and I want a large proportion of the things that really get done in my life to be things I really want to do!

                      My only other suggestion in terms of reading would be that, unless your book-buying habit is causing you financial difficulties, try to abandon the idea that because you've bought a book you need to read it soon. Going down that route, you can quickly TURN an exciting, fun read into a chore...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by omerkhan
                        I should add that I sit in both "camps". I have books that I've bought just because I "like to read them". I don't have problems with these books. I always keep one with me and whenever I have downtime or I'm on the train/tube I'll get the book out, read and simply ENJOY!

                        The issue has been more with non-fiction books. Now each one of these books has a clear purpose i.e. it's related to another project like "become a better manager" which in turn is linked to a top-level goal like "get promoted in 12 months". So purpose is clear with all these books.
                        What if you put the books you read with a purpose into the stack of things you read on the train? Then every so often just take a "work" book with you instead of a "fun" book? That way the reading will get done because you're trapped with nothing better to do, but you're not taking time away from either time-critical work tasks or personal fun time.

                        Katherine

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ludlow
                          My only other suggestion in terms of reading would be that, unless your book-buying habit is causing you financial difficulties, try to abandon the idea that because you've bought a book you need to read it soon. Going down that route, you can quickly TURN an exciting, fun read into a chore...
                          I agree ludlow. I use my book list for two other important reasons.

                          1. Store my books that I cannot buy now.

                          2. Store books that I do not have the time to read now.

                          My books are not chores. They are fun/exciting/etc. If it's not fun, don't do it.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I tend to buy more books than I have time to read.

                            Whenever I hear or read about a book I'd like to read, I immediately put it on my Someday/Maybe list, and then forget about it until my next weekly review. This is important.

                            I've found that, if I buy books as the mood strikes me, I buy more books than I can handle. However, if I have all my "to-read" books on my Someday/Maybe list, I can proactively sort through the books I still really want to buy, discard the ones for which my interest has cooled, and buy a smaller set of books that deeply interest me.

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                            • #15
                              I stopped reading non fiction books years ago as a way of saving time and devoting more to 'professional' reading or reading books like GTD but I still never get to read them all. I guess the key is that they should be treated for enjoyment and read as such and just because they are non fiction doesn't mean you have to feel guilty about the list getting bigger. You never know when one day you will be glad to have them all. It could be worse you could suddenly decide or find out that you didn't have or need to read one or some of them and they were a waste of money - but at least you saved your time...

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