Too much reading? Best way to deal with it

Date: Friday, April 22, 2011 by GTD Times Staff

Most of us have far more reading material than we could ever possibly get to, even with the noblest of intentions. So what’s the best way to deal with this challenge, short of canceling all magazine subscriptions and running the other way when a colleague tries to give us yet another article or book to read?

Coach Julie Ireland weighs in:

One of the solutions I’ve found that often works for people is to divide reading material into 3 buckets. Here they are, along with a brief description of what they entail:

1. Critical Reading – This is reading that I am responsible for as part of my work; e.g., an article that was hand-delivered to me by my boss, a brief from a client, etc. These go onto my next actions list, and I am committing to reading them.

2. Of-Interest Reading – The “I’m REALLY interested in this, and it would be good for me to read it but I’m not committing to” stuff – a bit like Someday/Maybe for reading. This goes into my “Reading – of interest” bin and periodically, when I’m taking a short break or heading off to the airport, I’ll grab something from this stack. I have a rule that if it goes onto an airplane with me and I don’t read it, it goes into the trash rather than back into the bin. Every so often, I have to bite the bullet and purge. (Am I really going to read the October 2007 issue of The Economist? I don’t think so…)

3. Purely Recreational Reading – This usually lives by my bed, unless it’s a real page turner and I manage to read during the day while my eyes are still open.

If you’ve been overwhelmed by your reading stack in the past, I hope this will bring some much-needed relief your way. Good luck, and happy reading!

8 Responses to “Too much reading? Best way to deal with it”

  1. Edd Dumbill says:

    About 80% of my reading happens on the web these days. Managing the reading list can be difficult when it’s a bunch of URLs that need you to be online to get at them.

    I (and lots of others, so this may not be news!) recommend using the service to save articles for later, organize and archive them, and transport them to your Kindle or iPad for later reading.

  2. Dinah Sanders says:

    Definitely categories help tremendously, Julie, I agree.

    Equally important, though, I would argue, is a periodic review to make sure what once went into that bucket is still something you’d put in there today.

    I’ve talked about this in my writing on Discardia: we change over time but we often experience a lag in acknowledging that change, particularly where our aspirations are involved. We hold onto expectations of what we should know and we hold onto the objects which we thought would bring us to that state of competence.

    It is curiously as difficult for us to let go of something we thought we should study as it is to drop a project that no longer serves our current bigger picture goals. That reluctance shows up in our words – biting the bullet, purging, weeding, culling – painting a picture of us killing off something alive.

    As a mental exercise, consider a different metaphor next time you look at those buckets:
    “Does this train go to the station I’m trying to reach?”

    Just because you don’t decide to take it, the train doesn’t vanish from the world or cease to be useful to other people.

  3. Dave Sena says:

    I try to read from the following: one fiction book, non-fiction book and webstuff.

    Web stuff is done on my DroidX when I am waiting with others. My fiction book sits next to my bed. Non-Fiction is done in the morning when I am fresh.

    Non-Fiction at night is used as a sleeping aid.

  4. John Ohman says:

    an alternative to instapaper, particularly for us android users, ia

  5. Abhishek Payal says:

    That was very succinctly put Dinah. This happens with me all the time. The alternate metaphor you suggested sounds interesting. I’m going to try it out. Thanks!

  6. Siobhan says:

    Great article. I use instapaper for my online reading. I can then catch up on the reading from my iphone or ipad no matter where I am.

  7. Glen says:

    I’m a little confused by this post. Doesn’t this get right back to what David said in the original GTD book… Prioritized lists simply fail (like Steven Covey’s 7 Habits quadrant system– I don’t think he references it by name but that’s where my mind went immediately when I read GTD). the only way to get on top of this stuff is to do frequent reviews and either decide it’s ‘stuff’ to read today or it goes into the maybe someday list…?

    One thing that’s really helped me with the non-critical but ‘want to read’ category is my iPad. Now that I can download issues, I can read stuff during downtime – airplane/travel time, riding ex. bike, 10 mins before bed without the guilt factor of stealing the paper version from the house when I’m on trips (my wife and teenage son really dig into Economist– kinda scary; you don’t want to misstate facts when you get home from a trip! 🙂 🙂 )

  8. Kelly Forrister says:

    Hi Glen–

    I can offer something to your comment “Doesn’t this get right back to what David said in the original GTD book… Prioritized lists simply fail (like Steven Covey’s 7 Habits quadrant system).”

    So many people we coach have tons of backlogged reading and get so many “wouldn’t it be nice to read” kind of stuff that they are buried in choices. Julie’s tips are really specific to triaging reading–not other input. I wouldn’t treat other input this same way.


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