Doing Our Best Work

Note: While I focus on pastoral work in this article, I believe anyone who struggles with scheduling creative work may benefit. I debated publishing this, fearing that some may not understand the various pressures and struggles of pastors and others who must address problems without clear solutions or perform other tasks which draw on creative resources. After sharing the article with a friend who encouraged me to post it, I offer it in hopes that some find encouragement, hope, or understanding.

The Creative Pastor

Are pastors creatives? While I’ve lamented the stress of forced creativity of writing and presenting weekly sermons, I don’t know if I’ve viewed pastors as creatives. I know artists, musicians, screenwriters, and such do creative work, but pastors aren’t writing screenplays, poems, songs, or painting beautiful pictures. I’m not sure I’ve considered that pastors may be just as creative but in a different way. Continue reading “Doing Our Best Work”

Michael Hyatt’s Leaderbox – First Impressions

If you want to see what a Leaderbox looks like, here’s my unboxing and first impressions:

I told myself I wasn’t going to do it. I told myself it was too much money. But then, I received a 10% off coupon for Michael Hyatt’s Leaderbox and I thought I’d revisit my initial decision.

After thinking about Leaderbox some more, I ended up joining.

What caused me to take the jump? Basically, the coupon came at the right time.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about reassessing how I read. I realized that if I was going to learn deeply, I had to read differently. So, fewer books.

I also realized physical books would help in my quest. I am able to make notes in a physical book. I can highlight and underline. At the end of each chapter, I can give feedback or write out a summary. For learning, I decided I would focus on physical rather than electronic books.

Leaderbox provides the tools I feel I need. Each month Leaderbox provides two (physical) books, a 21-day reading guide, a facebook group, and some quote cards. The Reading Guide asks questions about the day’s reading and provides a place for notes. The Facebook group provides an opportunity to learn from others. My hope and expectation are that my learning will be deepened and my thinking will be challenged and expanded.

The other aspect of Leaderbox that will be helpful is Hyatt’s team choosing the book. If I want to learn deeply and think differently, my reading must challenge me. I tend to gravitate toward the same type of books. I’ll browse through Amazon, see something that looks good, and then purchase.

Having someone else choose the book means I may end up reading a book I would normally avoid, which is good. If I am going to expand my thinking, I need to be challenged in areas I tend to ignore.

I could have decided to purchase a similar product from other companies, but I felt the books (at least the ones I knew about) Hyatt’s team provided were of higher quality. For instance, one of the books for March,The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors That Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders, as of this posting, hasn’t even been released. I received the book two weeks before the release. The authors expand on their Harvard Business Review cover story.

 

Why I Started Reading Fewer Books

I love reading books. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. I love the thought of reading. Reading, on the other hand, I find taxing.

I know many people who love reading. I’m not one of them. What I do love is learning. Since reading provides me the best and, perhaps, the most effective way to learn, I read. While I don’t necessarily find reading enjoyable, I read anyway.

Did you know over 300,000 books are published every year in the US? Yes, every year. That seems a tad excessive.

Thanks, Gutenberg!

If it wasn’t for his amazing printing press, there would be fewer books in the world. I would also have far fewer books on my bookshelf and in my Kindle.

I suffer from a buying books addiction. I can’t stop! I buy book after book, but I don’t always read them. Every time I look at my bookshelf, or look at my Kindle library and see all the unread books, I feel guilty.

Last year I decided to alleviate my guilt. I would make more time for reading. My reading would be intentional and focused. I would have a plan!

My plan revolved around creating two lists; Books I want to read and books I have read. I would choose a book from the “want to read” list and read that book and only that. Instead of having multiple half-read books, I would focus on one book and read it from beginning to end.

I would also keep track of the books that I read. Tracking would help me stay motivated, give me a plan to address my unread books, and provide feedback on my progress.

I am happy to report that my plan worked!

I read more books! I read a lot more books. I started my plan in April and by October I had read 53 books. I estimate, if I would have tracked the whole year, I would have read somewhere around 70 or 80 books.

I would read anywhere from one to three books a week. I was tearing through my unread books with ease. It was great. I felt good about myself and was proud of my accomplishment.

And then I stopped.

I didn’t stop reading. I stopped following my plan. I stopped tracking. I didn’t stop because I got lazy, I stopped with intention and purpose.

Why stop tracking when my approach seemed so effective? Basically, there were two problems with my plan that I didn’t anticipate.

For one, I was after the wrong goal.

If you looked at my list, you would see the books A Curious Mind (9 days), New to 5 (1 day), and Emotional Agility (5 days). Were they good books? I think so. To be honest, I can’t remember too much about them. Did I read them? Well, I saw all the words. I underlined things that seemed important. I can go back to Kindle and look at my highlights. Yet, I’m not sure the experience of “reading” those books was really what I wanted.

My stated goal was to read more books, which I was. But my real goal was to learn, which I wasn’t doing. I’m not sure I learned too much from any of those books. The fault wasn’t with the author, the fault was with me!

The second problem with my plan was the books I was choosing to read.

While I was reading a lot of books, I found I was gravitating toward books that seemed easier to read. If a book covered a difficult topic or seemed like it might take a long time to read, I wouldn’t pick it from my “to read” list. I started looking at the “average reading time” that Kindle lists and used that to pick the next book on my hit list.

In October, I decided to stop keeping track. Instead, I would focus on learning and choose books that could take longer to read, but offered a deeper insight and understanding of the subject matter.

Here are some key takeaways from my new approach:

  1. Passive reading isn’t the same as active reading.

  2. It’s okay to have unread books.

  3. Interacting with the book means I need a physical copy.

  4. Reading may not come naturally.

I am also learning that I don’t really know how to read a book. Not for deep learning anyway. So, I brushed off my copy of How to Read a Book that, I, ironically, listened to on Audible a few years back, and so I might find a process that helps me learn.

I assume I will be reading fewer books, but I am convinced I will gain a deeper understanding of the subject, read more challenging books, and, who knows, might just enjoy reading!

I may write another post outlining the process that I land on for reading. Right now, my process is too new to share. I have to live with a process for a while tweaking it through trial and error.

If you have a process or technique you use to read, share in the comments!