When it comes to books I have a lot of good intentions. I am forever buying books and if that wasn’t enough I cruise the libraries for interesting material. The intention is to read this ever growing pile but I never seem to get around to adding books to the books read list. It is not that I don;t read. I read all the time. But one thing I have noticed – I am always reading or seven books and I never finish them. Luckily I came across some god advice this weekend that I wanted to share.
My latest obsession in organizing is the Personal Kanban. A Kanban is a Japanese management technique pioneered at Toyota that allows companies and teams to visualize work-flows and maximize efficiency. It has been adapted for personal use as an organizational tool. The secret of the Kanban is to visualize your work and then to limit your in progress so that you increase your work flow. Correctly executed the system ruthlessly squelches multi-tasking, fosters prioritization of tasks and encourages a laser-like focus that allows you to actually get things done. In other words you get more done by doing less.
In its simplest form, all you need for a Kanban is a poster board, a magic marker, a pen and sticky notes. However, there are now software programs on the market that will digitize the whole process. One of the better known programs for this is Trello.
The beauty of the Personal Kanban and its electronic extensions like Trello is that you can apply the concept to any number of areas and subjects. One enterprising philosophy student by the name of Dan Shipper was organizing his reading around it. Shipper visualizes all the books he wants to read by keeping a running backlog of everything he wants to read and then culls the herd into a manageable to read list and then – here is the secret ingredient – he takes one book at a time and reads it until he is done with it. As Shipper puts it
I have a rule for myself: I never read more than one book at a time, and I always finish every book I start.
I started doing this because I had a tendency to read five books at once. When you get into the habit of doing that, you end up never actually finishing anything. You’ll read a book for a few chapters, and then put it down for another one. This is annoying and doesn’t get you the satisfaction of reading a book from start to finish. By limiting myself to one book at a time and committing to finish it, I actually end up reading more books than if I read a bunch of them in parallel.
The more I think about this the more brilliant it becomes. Right now I’ve got about ten books that I have started but haven’t managed to finish. I started applying the “Shipper Principle” this morning and I quickly knocked out a book that I’ve noodling around with for over a month. Later in the morning I tackled a book on Personal Kanban that I managed to get through in one afternoon. And with notes no less. !
I am going to continue on with the Shipper technique and seems if I can’t get more reading done. I invite you to try it as well.