How Much Time Should You Spend Reading? - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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How Much Time Should You Spend Reading?

Mar 10, 2017

How Much Time Should You Spend Reading? 

My friend Bob Bly had something interesting to say recently about allocating time. It's meant for any producer/writer of ideas, but can serve "management professionals working in any field."

Specifically, he addresses the question: How much time should you spend reading and researching - i.e., keeping up to date on knowledge and skills?

Now, the fact that you must make time for reading is a given. As the timelessly wise Confucius said: No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.

But Bly gives a formula for how much of your time should be spent reading. He uses a management formula he's developed over time, called "25-50-25." It works like this:

  • Spend no more than 25% of your time studying and learning your topic, skill, or specialty by taking classes, reading books, listening to podcasts, attending conferences, and so on.
  • At least 50% of your time is spent actually doing the work - meaning if you are a freelance copywriter, you spend more than half your time writing copy for your clients.
  • No more than 25% of your time is spent marketing and selling the products you make or the services you render.

That way, you recognize that your time for studying marketing (or whatever your specialty is) is finite.

For instance, if you work 40 hours per week and limit your study time to 25% of that, you have 10 hours for reading and self-education - and no more. The key is to understand that you can't keep up with all the new knowledge, technology, and skill sets in your field, no matter how narrow it is. In fact, to stay productive and make money, you shouldn't even try.

But how do you make good reading choices?

Some novels - think Chetan Bhagat or John Grisham - are easy to read and loads of fun (if you like that sort of thing), but provide no lasting pleasures. You read them quickly, caught up in the plot or amused by certain well-drawn characters. But then you put the books down and forget about them. You've invested time into them and you've gotten a return on your investment, but the return was very modest.

Compare that experience to reading Sophie's Choice or The Old Man and the Sea, books that are more "difficult." Such books challenge you on every level. The authors' writing styles are more sophisticated. Their plots are less conventional. Their characters are multifaceted, like people tend to be in real life. And there are ideas presented throughout the story - ideas that often test your convictions and notions and beliefs.You will get some of the benefits of reading - especially stress reduction - no matter what kind of books you read. But if you want a life that is richer in terms of your emotional and intellectual experience, you have to be selective in your choices. As with music and art, that means choosing books that have complexity, subtlety, and emotional power.

Note: See our list of must-read books that can help you in every area of life.

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1 Responses to "How Much Time Should You Spend Reading?"

Nem Chandra Singhal

12 Mar, 2017

Thanks for the superb article. It gives an indication for the young people how to manage their daily affairs, who are active in their jobs or business. However a majority of people are in such a position where there is sufficient time and less work to do like retirees. For those people, there may be different set of principle for reading standard, if any at all exist. Thanks.

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