In line with an earlier post where I talk about taking responsibility for outcomes in your career and striving to give work the best version of you, I believe that one of the best (and easiest) ways to self-actualize is through reading top-shelf publications, including books and journals – both on-line and off.
Reading – of the good kind – is perhaps one of the best things that I’ve done for my career. That is why it irks me every time that I see a girl on the train, wearing what look like excruciatingly painful high-heels* and too much make- up for day light, holding a New Idea magazine (I prefer to call it No Idea – it’s Australia’s #1 gossip mag). To me that train ride is a missed opportunity for her to learn something of value and do something with her life. While I believe that a little brain candy is necessary to keep sane in life, it should by no means be something that a. one spends much time on or b. any money on. You read right.
My personal rule of thumb for keeping sane and staying actualized is 90/10. That means that I spend most of my life time reading worthy material and only 10% reading mind-numbing stuff. If you’d like to stick to the infamous Pareto Principle, by all means shoot for 80/20 – or risk turning into a personality-less consumerist.
I think I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve bought (with my own money) a beauty magazine. (Okay, I admit that getting beauty and gossip magazines from doctors’ consulting rooms, was one of the perks of working as a medical sales representative) However, I cannot keep track of the number of National Geographic, The Economist, Time, Business Week, Harvard Business Review, inc. and Entrepreneur that I’ve invested in.
While I do believe that EVERY publication, whether top-shelf or not, has SOMETHING to offer, I don’t believe in looking too hard to find gold. More so, statistics say (and don’t ask me how statisticians come up with this stuff) that you get an average of 10% from any book that you read. So if you insist on reading crap, well, you do the math…
By far the book that has had the most positive impact on my career has been (drum roll please) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (http://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits.php). My intention is not to give you a summary here – my intention is to get you to get off your bum and read it if you haven’t. I read it for the first time more than 10 years ago and some of the principles that Stephen writes about continue to guide me. Sure, his writing can sound like a sermon at times – but for those of you looking to take your career seriously, this is the Bible.
(I know that my dear friend James Adonis – a very successful twentysomething, would agree. Check out his new venture: www.teamleaders.com.au)
3 of Stephen’s habits that remain on the top of my mind are:
1. Be proactive. In my world, this has meant quite literally: ‘get off your bum and go get things done for yourself – cause no-one will make things happen for you’. Maybe that’s the reason why I get up at 5:10am every day to meditate for 20 minutes, then I read for 20 minutes and then I go to the gym for an hour. All this is to make sure that I give my work the best version of my self. That includes a focused mind, an actualized self and an oxygenated brain & body.
2. Begin with the end on mind. I remember that when I finished reading that chapter, I took out a pen and paper and wrote down what I’d like my life to look like when I looked back on my 100th birthday. Doing that exercise sure fired me up. That was when I realized that it was up to me to make out of my life what I wanted my life to be. It became clear to me that if I did not know where I was going, then I’d be leaving myself for the taking of those who did know.
3. Put first things first. I’ve taken this habit to a more practical level. The time management matrix that he offers for separating the urgent from the important is probably the best model that I’ve seen for getting things done at work. Ever since the days when I was working as a pastry chef, almost 10 years ago, I’ve been following a time-management ritual. I plan my weeks on Thursday afternoon and my days the night before. Every Thursday I jot down everything that I’d like to get done the following week; my to-do list. Then I go through the list and for each item I ask myself: ‘is this urgent? or is this important? or both?’ Then I mark the urgent and important with a letter A, the important with a letter B and the urgent with a letter C. Every night of the week, to get closure on my day and to get psyched up for the next day, I go through my to-do list and re-prioritize it based on what I’ve accomplished so far. By doing this I’m making sure that I’m focusing on what’s most important in my life – not in someone else’s.
What have you done for your mind lately?
*For the record, I believe in wearing stilettos at work. But please, if you need to walk on hard city pavement for more than two blocks, do me a favor. Get yourself a nice-looking shoe bag so that you can keep your high-heels in your purse. Then change to them in the elevator – feet binding is so passé ladies!
Note: I do not and will not get any remuneration from any provider if my readers – you – buy or use any of their services…I’m just sharing the wealth cause I care about you!