How is it going with getting reading done? Not good? One reason may be your reading tasks are actually projects-in-hiding, and therefore need to be broken down into smaller pieces. I’ve noticed, for example, that it’s possible for reading a book to look like a simple Next Action, “@ Home: Read this book.” Nevertheless, because it takes greater focus and time, it “feels” like a project and thus it gets avoided. It’s important that your task list, including your Read-Review list, presents a list of things you can do in a bite-sized amount of time. If it looks like “Read this entire book” your mind will naturally conclude you don’t have time to work on it right then.

It’s important that your task list, including your Read-Review list, presents a list of things you can do in a bite-sized amount of time.

Break Down Your Reading Tasks

Breaking these down further can help fast-track your reading again. Instead of “@ Home: Read this book”, make your next action @ Home(<60min): Read chapter 1 of [Name of book]. Estimating the time, specifying the location context, and breaking the next action down to one chapter has helped me immensely with getting my reading done. I also don’t need to have all of the @ Home: Read chapter 2, @ Home: Read chapter 3, since I can just simply change the next action after I finish reading the previous chapter. If you find your mind going numb to your reading list, try breaking down your reading tasks into smaller next actions.

Attach a Purpose to Your Reading Tasks

Adding a purpose to your reading can also help tremendously. The purpose could be as simple as “@ Read-Review(<15min): Read this article on mindmapping because Joe Schmoe sent it to you.” You may avoid some of your reading simply because you don’t remember why you put it on your reading list in the first place. Maybe you tag your reading under certain subjects such as “productivity,” “leadership,” “technology,” or you link it with a project. This is better than “read whenever,” and may motivate you enough to get your reading done. But when you first add something new to read to your system is when you are the most in-touch with your reason for putting it on your list of things to read. So why not specify that purpose right then and there? My reading needs a purpose statement in addition to a location context (e.g. @ Home), a specified next action (e.g. Read this…), and an estimated time to complete (e.g <30min) in order for me to step toward the reading and get-‘er-done. That kind of specificity on reading has enabled me to get lots more of my reading done and to avoid the litany of read-this-whenever-you-get-time trap which (in the past) left me with lots of reading I never seemed to find the time for.

Reading is also one thing academics spend more of their time doing. If you’re an academic, check out The Unique Difficulties of Getting Things Done as an Academic for some insight on ways to help you get things done.

Do you have some things that have worked to help you get more reading done? What’s working for you? Let us know in the comments.