When reading is bad for you

- October 24, 2007 2 MIN READ

It is assumed that there are many benefits of reading, but are there some instances when reading can be a waste of time? Is reading a double-edged sword? What do you think?

How many of us have ‘reading’ files on our computer or ‘reading piles’ in our office? And I’ll bet they never get emptied.

Reading has an insidious way of filling all the cracks in our day. If we are reading, we can tell ourselves that we are actually working. In fact, there’s a good chance we are simply wasting time.

No matter what we do, we are constantly reminded of the benefits of reading to stay on top of developments in our field and to have our finger on the pulse of what our industry and customers are doing.

As a solopreneur I have spent many hours doing just that – subscribing to relevant newsletters, reading two newspapers a day, flicking through magazines and checking out websites. And if you are in the blogosphere, you are well acquainted with the inviting nature of other people’s blogs on topics that interest you. Before you know it you are scanning 20 blogs per week!

My question is does all this reading actually add any value? One thing is certain, it is very time consuming.

As solopreneurs our time is valuable. If you are an avid reader, perhaps it’s time to take up the challenge and evaluate whether that the benefits of reading contribute to the success of your business.

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Let’s take a two week window and see how much time is spent reading. Log the hours you spend:

  • reading the paper during business hours (reading while having breakfast or lunch is okay in my book);
  • reading on-line newsletters, blogs and other computer based material; and
  • reading magazines.

If you are reading for more than four hours a week, I’d suggest cutting back. You could be spending those four hours doing revenue generating activity, such as actually talking with clients or developing new products.

I felt somewhat vindicated in my views after reading The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. One of the key strategies he mentions is to quit reading!

I’m not suggesting that all reading is worthless and that there are no benefits of reading, but I do believe we can be much more structured in our approach. Why not decide how much time should be spent on reading? In that context you may want to allocate only two hours per week to this activity. Then decide when you are going to do it and schedule it in to your diary like any other task.