If you’d rather watch a video this is one of my pilot episodes on my channel. you can find it here.
I go walking at lunch regularly. I tend to try and fill time like that with something productive. Sometimes I can do my work because I’m consuming material like an audiobook. It got me thinking about personal improvement and development. I’ve had a plan for personal development for some time now.
I think people tend to get stuck where they are at. They call this “the grind” where you’re just riding through and waiting for some future plan or something to happen. Sometimes that thing hasn’t even been planned yet.
Just like in the work that we do where we practice, I think in order to be a good person we need to practice at that too. The rule that I’ve had since I started this journey was that I would read at least three books a year towards personal development. That’s not fantasy books or fun stuff, these are things like motivation, self improvement, philosophy, habits that you want to get into or learn about, etc. It doesn’t necessarily have to be books, you can mix it up.
Now I do different amounts of things because I’ve found different ways to consume stuff as part of my normal habits. So when I practice speaking for instance sometimes I passively learn speaking by watching YouTube videos. I watch speakers talk about the things I want to teach at work like management topics. That way I’m progressing my knowledge forward and I’m also working on something that’s a passion. It does apply to work, but it’s also a passion.
I’ll explain why the three book rule works well. If you take a book and read a chapter a week it’s dead simple to finish three a year. There are various sizes of chapters, and various depths of content, but usually this can be done in a reasonable amount of time. You might do it all at once, split it up as twenty minutes a day in the morning, do a half hour three times a week, use part of your lunch time, etc. You can find a comfortable pace to get through that book, and then over time you’ve consumed three books easily without having to have actually read a lot at once. An added benefit is that it’s hard to fall of the wagon. If you forget the weeks reading you can just sit down and get it done, and if you miss a chapter one week it’s not the end of the world.
The idea is to make it dead simple and maintain a consistent easy effort. I think sometimes we miss opportunities for these types of things because we don’t think about it. How many people drive long distances to work, do boring labor, or find themselves waiting often through the day? Those times we might be able to take advantage of a podcast, audiobook, or something like an ebook on our cell phones. There’s so much available to us that it’s very easy. It’s so easy that you really can’t mess it up. It seems more and more like there’s really no reason not to do it.
This process will make it easy to always move yourself forward. You might want to reach a new status in life, understand more, be more empathetic, or just lead a richer fuller life. If you wanted to be a public speaker but that’s five years down the road you may think that is too long. If you read one book a year for five years you’d have read five books about public speaking.
You have to think the long game and always propel yourself forward. You should always be doing something to improve yourself for yourself. Not for work, not for others, but for yourself. That’s a really good habit that I think everyone should adopt. I think it would be hard to find a reason not to spend a little time each week to consume a small portion of material that is going to help you. It’s pretty hard to argue against that.
If you have trouble starting then you can find a way to do it with something else. I’ve recently read Atomic Habits and he was talking about just that. There was a story of a guy riding a bike while watching Netflix. He wanted to get exercise, but he wanted to watch Netflix. This story is about tying two things together so you can remain productive. You can find these opportunities everywhere if you look.
I want to challenge you to continue to look for small ways you can improve yourself with very little effort. If you only focus on improving one percent in a small area and then move to the next, the percents will add up. Eventually your action will have a direct impact on you. Think of this the same way you would brushing your teeth.
It’s like Simon Sinek says (paraphrased) “Going to the gym doesn’t do anything now. You’re not getting anything from it. If you’re not fit then you should stop right? No. You go over time and you make it a habit and the incrementally, twenty minutes at a time, you’re in shape. You don’t know when that happened, but it does happen”.
Just keep moving forward. You want better for yourself right? So just go get it.