Melvyn Tan
November 4, 2013 — By tanmelvyn@gmail.com

3 Keys Towards Intentional Reading

[blockquote source=”Hebrews 6:7 (NIV)“]Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.[/blockquote] I love to read. I spend a fortune on books because I’d rather buy than borrow. All that changed when Amazon introduced the Kindle. […]

[blockquote source=”Hebrews 6:7 (NIV)“]Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.[/blockquote]

I love to read.

I spend a fortune on books because I’d rather buy than borrow.

All that changed when Amazon introduced the Kindle.

But there is a problem.

Discovering a Book
The process of discovering a book is very different from what it used to be. I often find myself making trips to the bookstore. There, I’d either go to the display of top-ten titles or the “New Arrivals”. However, if it is some dated titles, you’d have to scout for it yourself amongst the hundreds. If you are lucky, you might get some help with the store assistant. Many a times, I had to rely on my own skills and luck to locate a title I want.

Quite often, you might run into an “out-of-stock” situation or the last copy is some dog-eared browsing one, and usually the next shipment will be weeks away.

Amazon Kindle
Enter the Amazon Kindle (the Kindle Paperwhite is my favorite). Now, I have my entire library of books (most of these purchased through Amazon) with me all the time, as long as I have an Internet connection. Besides, if I want to look for a specific title, purchasing it and have it delivered to my Kindle happens within 30 seconds. This truly disrupted the way we shop for books!

With the Kindle, I don’t have to deal with:

  • Shelf-space: I ran out of shelf-space a long while ago. Besides those books on the shelf gets kind of dusty after a while and quiet honestly, you don’t feel like touching them at all
  • Out-of-stock: I don’t have to deal with this situation, although some specialized titles are not available on the Kindle, but quite often, anything that I want is available for the Kindle
  • Next shipment: 30 seconds. Period. That’s all it takes for me to wait for my purchase

Where’s the Problem?
Now where’s the problem you’d say. The problem lies with those of us who have the “preparator” mind-set. Let me explain. We’re the ones who depend on our ability to synthesise information, make connections, design new solutions for a living. We generally think that we need to feed our mind with as much as high quality content as possible. And fueled by this ease of purchase (Amazon’s 1-Click is a brilliant strategy) and the insecurity that some of us face (I need to know this), we sometimes find ourselves accumulating a huge and impressive library of books, but many of the books we might have never read them or we failed to finish reading them.

Return on Investment
The truth is, unless I produce a crop that is useful (return on investment), I’d have not only wasted my money, but have also wasted my time just reading and not applying what I’ve learned from the book. Moving forward, I’ve made three modifications to my reading habit that I called, 3 keys towards intentional reading.

Reading Objective
First is my objective. My objective of reading is to enable me to sharpen my mind as a creative. As someone who makes a living by turning thoughts (source: Todd Henryinto value for my clients, my primary and most critical tool is my mind. Given that, I’d need to ensure that I feed my mind with the ingredients necessary to cultivate and generate higher quality thoughts. The only way I can do is to invest in what I put in my mind. Using a GIGO (garbage-in-garbage-out) concept, I’d need to feed my mind with high quality content. However, just feeding it with high quality is not enough. I need to establish an objective in order for this to be most effective. Because what our mind does best is to make connections. And without an objective in mind, we could be putting a huge amount of high quality content, but our returns from it may be minimal or even dismal. What we need to do is to set an objective. Once that objective is set, our subconscious mind will go to work immediately and it will be able to make the connections when it “sees” one. Some objectives you’d like to consider might be:

  • Why are you reading this?
  • What impact does it have on your overall goal?
  • How specifically will this material help in bridging a gap?

Reading Schedule
The second is scheduling. What happens when you don’t schedule an activity that seems like a “good to have”? Simple, it doesn’t get done. Since that “good to have” (Stephen Covey called them Quadrant 2 activity) activity is one that is important but not urgent, it doesn’t act on you. Instead you need to act on it. Henceforth, such activities usually suffer the fate of being pushed back if it doesn’t get scheduled. The urgent ones, regardless of whether they are important or not, are the ones that get our attention. As a result, these Quadrant 2 activities, like reading and personal development, usually gets pushed back until it becomes a must-have before we give it sufficient attention.Therefore, scheduling at least 30 minutes each day to feeding your mind with selected high quality content is probably one of the best investment you can ever give yourself.

Reading Study
The third is studying. Studying and reading are two different things. Reading is just passively absorbing information and content that you can lay your hands on. It is the act of merely comprehending what you are reading. You may agree or disagree with what you read. You may even have a comment or opinion on what you’ve read, but usually no further actions are taken if you are just reading. Sometimes, you may find an article to be useful and take notes but that’s about it. Whereas studying is where you have pen and paper with you while you read. Of course these days, I’d strongly recommend Evernote as a tool for studying. Essentially, you’d underline or highlight a specific paragraph or sentence that you found it to be useful.

Answer these Questions
Now, based on the questions in the objective phase, you would ask yourself “how specifically will this material help in bridging a gap”? In this instance, there are basically three possible answers:

  • Action-Step: this material is groundbreaking and will help you bridge the gap in what you are trying to accomplish. For instance, I’ve always wanted to be a better writer and as I evaluated Jeff Goins’ course on Tribe Writers, I am of the view that it will provide me with the tools and techniques necessary to bridge my gap in better writing.
  • Someday/Maybe: you may evaluate a material and get really excited about what it can do for you. But the question is, do you have the bandwidth to implement it? If the answer is no, or if it’s not on your list, then it’s likely going to be a “someday when I find the time” situation. For instance, I found this extremely helpful resource on podcasting called Podcasters’ Paradise, and I’ve been thinking of doing podcasting for a while. But really, that is not currently on my priority list. Whether that is a correct decision or not, only you can answer.
  • Reference: some information are useful but you don’t need it currently. Besides, it’s never even made it to your list, but it’s something that is good to know. You can file it as a reference. Take for instance, SEO. It’s really not my priority now, my priority now is to generate a critical mass of high quality content. And besides, I’ve just started doing this consistently, my focus is really to generate high quality content on a consistent basis. Hence SEO, I’d find out more when the need arise.

Mind Like Land
Your mind is like the land, having the potential to produce useful crops but also possible in producing thorns and thistles. You must choose to produce useful crops by being intentional about your reading habit.

Prayer
Dear God, thank You for blessing us with the ability to create value by turning our thoughts into value. We pray that we will do the right thing by producing good crops that will not only benefit ourselves but also others. That is when we truly bring glory to Your Name. In Jesus name, Amen.