Simplify Reading: Collect less. Read more. Or Skim.

If you have piles (virtual or physical) of things “to read” that aren’t getting read, you have two obvious options:
1. stop collecting things to read, or
2. start scheduling more time to read.

This concept is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Often, we collect material to read because it seems interesting. Or we think we “should” read it. Or we imagine that we’ll have more time tomorrow. But ultimately, reading just piles up unless you schedule time to read.

Let’s face it:  The reading material isn’t doing you any good if you never read it. There’s no real difference between having it and not reading it, and not having it in the first place. Except, of course, that if you keep it instead of throwing it out, the accumulation looks lousy, gets in your way, and makes you feel bad.

You could just throw it all away.

But if that seems too drastic, embrace the art of Skimming. Skimming is about taking a quick look at the title and the topic sentences of each paragraph. Skim with the intent of finding the action: What, if anything, do you have to do next? How will you use this information? If there is no action, you are free to Skim & Pitch – just toss the item merrily into the recycling bin (or delete it) and set yourself free. No further action required.

If, however, when skimming, you clearly identify further action on your part, you need to Skim & Schedule – make a note what action is required, look for a time on your calendar, and schedule that action. Then you can either toss the thing you read, or, if you will need it to complete the action you’ve scheduled, file it until the scheduled time comes.

The key to skimming is to be on the lookout for the next action. “Read” is too vague an action.  I challenge you to know why you read things: what is going to change, how are you going to act, what will you do differently after having read? If there is no change, no impact, no payoff, no return on the investment, no reason to read, then you are free to pitch. And if there is an action, schedule that action. Skim & Pitch and Skim & Schedule will eliminate the “to read” pile without guilt and with a clear sense of your next steps.

Let me know when you get to the bottom of your (physical and/or virtual) pile of reading!

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