Gates, Buffet, Musk, and You

Bill Gates reads a lot. So does Warren Buffet. Elon Musk devoured books when he was younger. I don’t know if he still does, since I haven’t yet finished reading “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future”.

Keeping up-to-date requires reading, usually a lot of reading. Blogs, articles, books. It doesn’t matter if you have your own business, manage people, or if you are an intern – we all want to read more. But as we all know, getting reading done is tricky. The days are too short and reading competes with all the other things we need to do.

Kevan Lee wrote an insightful blog post for Buffer in 2014. (He uses Warren Buffet as his lead-in. Since Buffet did some things right, using him hooks us instantly. Pretty clever.)

Kevan covers a lot of ground in his post. For me, the main take-away is when he quotes Shane Parrish. What Shane says is simple: You need to make a conscious decision about how important reading is to you. Then dump what you perceive is of lesser value. Shane’s own words:

I don’t spend a lot of time watching TV. (The lone exception to this is during football season where I watch one game a week.)
I watch very few movies.
I don’t spend a lot of time commuting.
I don’t spend a lot of time shopping.

You don’t have to sell your home to shorten your commute but you do need to get your basic priorities straight.

Making time to read is only the first step. You also need to think about how to manage your reading list:

  1. keep track of what you think might be interesting, i.e. add candidates to your reading lists
  2. distill your candidates down to what’s actually worth reading, i.e. vet or remove candidates
  3. prioritize

Step 1 needs to be effortless. It has to be so easy and fast that I don’t get distracted from what I’m actually doing. Over the last few years we have seen huge progress in this respect. Bookmarklets and sharing extensions, like the ones Krumplr provides, are now available pretty much for all browsers and apps on all the different platforms. Since adding candidates is effortless I end up with more candidates than I realistically can read. I skim over the newly added candidates once a day and keep only the worthy ones.

For me, step 3 can not be limited to the reading list. I need to look at my reading list and all my other to-dos together. The big picture (“Reading is more important than watching TV.”) needs to trickle down to the decision making process in the trenches. I need to be able to arrive at something like: “Reading article ‘x’ is more important than making progress on product feature ‘y’.”

The way to do this is to consider and treat a reading list entry like any other to-do and thus to practically unify your reading list and your to-do list.

I do this mainly for two reasons:

  • There are dependencies between reading tasks and others to-dos, i.e. the reading needs to be done so that you know how to tackle a certain to-do. Having both on the same list, I simply rank the reading task above the to-do.
  • Since I follow the process I described in 3 Steps to Satisfaction and Happiness I don’t postpone the reading to the after-work hours that may never come.

Thanks for reading. Now you can take this post off your reading list.
Kai

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