I am really looking forward to so many things this month. As the season is beginning to change I'm anticipating falling leaves and fancy new seasonal hot drinks at Starbucks with ungodly calorie counts. If they just didn't taste so good. Most of all, this is my favorite time of year to stay in and curl up with some of the books I've been collecting all year. But I'm starting to feel like that last chick at the club, before they count up the registers, turn up the lights, and put me out on the street! Am I the one who had stayed too long before realizing that all of her girlfriends had finished their drinks and gone home at a respectable hour? Yes, that chick! I've discovered over the past year or so that it's not as easy as it used to be to chat about books with women friends and acquaintances because, well -- who has time to read anymore? *loud record scratch, followed by dead silence* Yes, you heard right.
No time to spend with something that will enhance our job prospects, our career advancement, our financial outlook.....our life? This, while making sure that we never, ever miss an episode of Scandal, Empire, or whatever your fave t.v. show might be? Maybe it's college football, the Kardashians, the Real Housewives or Game of Thrones. Could be the 45 minutes we spend perusing Facebook every night. Whatever it is -- I've got a question for you. Have you ever learned a thing from any of the above that made you more promotable? Anything that prepared you to get certified in a skill set that could make you more marketable or increase your pay grade in the position you already have? Anything? OK, that's what I thought. I got baaad news for you my friend, being allergic to reading and seeking information relevant to your career can stall, or kill your career potential. So what's the story?
Guilty as charged. Yep, I'm guilty sometimes. I know very well that the people I most admire in terms of career building success tend to have certain things in common. One being that they are voracious readers. After all, how can you expect to randomly stumble across the information you need to get farther than you are now? Will you just happen to hear some nugget of wisdom in a Toyota commercial that helps you get a raise? Good luck with that. Let's say you are like me and you already recognize the value of investing in books on topics that will get you closer to your career goals. Will you invest the time to read them? Or can you think of five excuses right off the top of your head why you'd rather be doing anything besides sitting down and reading a book. This is where I sometimes fall down on the job. I may listen to a radio interview with the author of some intriguing book, jump on Amazon and buy the ebook, only to let it sit on my Ipad without reading it. Or never finishing it after getting off to a good start with the first few chapters. So really, if I'm not reading the books, I'm essentially just collecting them. And unless I can absorb some knowledge by putting the Ipad under my pillow at night -- that is just not going to do the trick.
Here's my self-prescribed cure. I manage to read only a few of the books I buy every year, but starting now my plan is to be more disciplined about gaining the knowledge that interests me related to my career. This month, I plan to read a book I just bought this week from start to finish. It's called Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Based on a friend's recommendation, I think it will have helpful new insights for me as I consult with young adults who are trying to identify an ideal career path. Sure, I'll still catch some of my shows. I plan to sign up for Hulu again so that I can watch the shows I'd rather not miss when I have time on the weekend. I'll still spend my social media time, but only after I've spent at least 30 minutes of the day reading my book, in my "book chair" right after dinner. Next month I'll read a new book for pleasure and alternate each month with a book for development followed by a book for pleasure. If a book is particularly long or I have unexpected demands on my time that throw me off schedule, I may plan to allow 2 months to finish it. Before you start reading, you can set your goal by dividing the number of pages in your book by the number of days in the month to find out the minimum number pages you need to read daily in order to finish at the end of the month.
A few helpful tips.
- I have a place and time devoted to reading each night where I'm most comfortable and less likely to be interrupted or distracted. I make sure my phone chirping, beeping and dinging is in another room.
- I try to keep my book (or book reading device) with me in my purse so that if I have any downtime during the day, like in the dentist's office waiting room, I can get in some reading time.
- Listening to an audiobook on my way to and from work is another good way to get some "reading" in rather than being on the phone or listening to music during the drive. I recommend one of my all time favorite audiobooks, The Slight Edge:Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success, by Jeff Olson.
- In addition to reading books, I feed my thirst for knowledge by watching and listening to t.v., radio programs, YouTube videos, or articles on the web that will teach me something about my field, rather than just entertain me. My fave radio shows to listen to in the car are Marketplace and Radio Lab. My new favorite website for daily news/info is OZY.com. I love watching Blue Collar Millionaires and Undercover Boss on t.v. I've learned a tremendous amount from some of the experts I've been following with the free live streaming app Periscope since I started using it earlier this year (see our Periscope blog post). If you've decided it's important to shift some time from entertainment to learning, you'll find that it's really easy and convenient. According to this article on Business Insider.com it make just make you rich!
All in all, it's up to you to decide how important purposeful self-improvement will be in your career. Our attention span for consuming information these days is less than 3 minutes, and trust me, an attention span like that will keep you wondering why you are coming up a day late and a dollar short in your career. With all the information on the web accessible via a device that you carry around with you everyday, I hope you'll make a decision to strike a balance between time spent becoming career knowledgeable versus just being entertained, that will pay off for you. As we seek to advance our careers, whether we are employees or entrepreneurs, we are always going to be competing with others for better jobs, more customers, more clients, etc. Does your competition have an advantage over you because they already recognize the importance of ongoing personal development? The best in your field already understand this, no matter what field that is. While you are watching your favorite one-hour t.v. show, the people on your t.v. screen have already earned their big paychecks. Your competitors who are spending that same hour gaining skills to help them outperform you on your next job interview already know. What do you have to show for that 1 hour? Can you take it to the bank?
What field are you in and what have you read, listened to or watched lately that will enhance your career?