I’m not reading fast enough


How many books do you read per week? Per month? Per year? I’m told that once Americans finish school, on average, they read less than one non-fiction book the rest of their lives. Ouch. Since I know many folks who do choose to read, at least from time-to-time, I have to believe this means there are a lot of folks out there reading zero books.

This leads me to hypothesize some reasons for the zero book club members, as well as some possible strategies to combat those reasons.  If I were to use this as something to help influence others, it seems ironic that I would choose to use the printed word to reach those who have taken a vow of readinglessness. That’s not a word, of course. But, since my target audience isn’t reading this anyway, who cares?

In project management, we have what is called the triple constraint. In any project, you are constrained by either time, money, or quality. Said another way, you can have it fast, cheap, or good. Pick any two. I think this triple constraint can explain why people do, or don’t do, a lot of things.

1. Time– we all say we don’t have enough time, and it’s easy to let self-improvement take the hit in our schedules. Here’s today’s blockbuster phrase™ that you may not want to hear: You have enough time to do the things that are truly important to you. The real question is, what are you making important in your own life, or what are you letting others make important for you?

If time is your issue when it comes to reading, here are a couple of things I learned in project management training that can help:
a. Set realistic goals (i.e. one book a month, or one every two months to start).
b. Establish milestones (mini goals) to track your progress (i.e. 15 pages every Tuesday and Thursday, 40 pages each Sunday)
c. Write down you goals and milestones, and chart them over time.
d. Find something you can give up, or reduce the time you spend doing so you can add in this new goal. (i.e. give up one 30 minute TV show per week, or read during halftime)

2. Money – a book habit can be expensive, especially if you choose to buy in hardcover and ignore sale opportunities. I don’t have a “you have all the money you need” phrase for this one. Lots of us are feeling the pinch in this economy. Prioritization can play a part here too, but don’t forget your local library. Better than that: Start a book exchange with your friends. You don’t have to go to the extreme of hosting your own book club, but you can talk with a few friends once in a while and exchange books. Plus, that will help you stay on task to finish you book if you know you need to give it up next month. This one is a money saver and it gives you some common things to talk about. Don’t have friends? Try using a bulletin board at work to get the ball rolling.

3. Quality– Saving the best for last is almost cliché, isn’t it? After all, like I mentioned above you will find the time, and usually the money, to do what is truly important to you, right? So what’s the thing stopping most of the zero book club members? However you want to specifically phrase it, many people don’t believe that reading will make any valuable difference in their lives. Can you belive it? Disclaimer: No single book will make you a PhD by next week. The fact is the changes come in small, manageable doses. If you truly believe that reading won’t make a difference in your life, I’d like to recommend you take a three-book challenge. Finish the three books I list below, and if after you read them, you can’t find a single thing that helped you in your life, let me know. I will write your story for the blog and make you a nationally known phenomenon. Here are the books:

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham
Bonus Book: Talk to the Human™ by Rob Christeson (to be published, 2010)

Put those three constraints to work for you, and you’ll find some interesting improvement opportunities for yourself. It has nothing to do with becoming the next CEO of your company. With the economy the way it is, rampant outsourcing, and increased competitiveness in the workplace, you need every edge you can get.

Don’t be a member of the zero book club; their book bag doesn’t even match your shoes…


  1. Hi Rob 🙂 We’ve not met, but I wanted to tell you that I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I also suspect we’re related somewhen… My roots are Waynesville, MO., now of Redondo Beach, CA.

    Gladwell’s Blink and Outliers are also astonishing breakthroughs. There are about 50 more books I’d add to your short list.

    Best and Keep Sharing,

    Rick Christeson

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