5 Effective Reading Strategies For The Busy Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs are often curious, passionate workaholics. Yes, that’s a generalization – but often true.

We want to learn more about things – our business, our world, our customers, our industry, our marketplace, our technology and other stuff.

And we each have our preferred ways of staying up to date. Watching TV. Listening to the radio. Reading books. Subscribing to magazines. Surfing the Web. Even getting an assistant or professional service to summarize the most relevant information for you.

One thing you cannot afford to do is fall behind. Information is indeed power, especially in today’s “knowledge economy”. And that’s why the staggering fact that the average American reads ONE book per year is so shocking. (I don’t know how different this figure is for other countries, but it’s probably representative).

I average between 2 and 5 books every week, and my bookshelf is loaded with reading material, both professional and entertainment. Indeed, my taste in books ranges widely, with spiritual guides and business reviews rubbing covers with medical texts, the latest pulp fiction or copywriting tutorials in my bookshelf.

What's In Dr.Mani's Bookshelf

And this isn’t all that I read. Online, I browse forums, blogs, news sources, article collections and social networks to stay on top of things. Studying so much material has given me a serious competitive edge over others in my market. And many entrepreneurs would agree that “applied information” is one of the secrets of their success too.

Why Does Reading Matter?

There are many benefits to studying new material regularly:

Course correction – Learning something new helps you measure your progress against benchmarks and allows you to make changes that will power you ahead more surely and steadily.

Keeping up with trends – Shifts and changes have devastated some industries. The unwary and uninformed were those crushed in those turbulent times. Being aware of trends helps your business adapt and stay competitive.

In-depth knowledge – Expertise takes time to acquire. Study any subject for 10,000 hours and you’ll become one of the world’s leading experts. And there are some areas where detailed knowledge sets you apart from competition.

1. Read Longer

I recently polled my contacts on social networks to ask how much time they spend reading every week. Not surprisingly, the answers were all over the place. The most frequent response was 2 hours a day.

Maybe you’re surprised at that. Maybe you think there’s no way you can find two hours every day to read. Well, if you are serious about keeping up with your business world and remaining competitive, it’s time you started trying.

Despite a hectic schedule, I manage to squeeze in 3 to 4 hours of reading every day, often early in the morning or late at night. It may not always be ‘easy’ and you might have to make small sacrifices – but the pay-off is rich and well worth the struggle. Here are some ideas to find reading time:

  • Give up (or cut down) watching TV
  • Wake up a half hour earlier
  • Go to bed a half hour later
  • Carry around a book and make use of ‘down time’ (waiting for a meeting, flight or client)

2. Read Faster

I’ve been an avid and voracious reader since childhood. And a key factor in reading so much has been my reading speed. As I wrote this, I tested my reading speed using an online test and it says my speed is “504 words per minute”. For material that I enjoy reading, my actual speed could be double.

When you consider that the average full-length book is between 50,000 and 300,000 words, I can zoom through it in 1.6 to 10 hours of reading time. And by reading faster, I’ll save 10 hours in comparison to another reader who can only read half as fast!

When it comes to speed reading, practice indeed makes perfect. Concentration impacts your reading speed, as does the absence of external distractions. If you’re serious about improving your reading speed, you can try:

  • Attending a speed reading seminar or course
  • Buying a speed reading book and studying the techniques
  • Using speed reading software to train yourself to go faster

No matter which learning method you follow, the improvement in your reading speed will benefit you massively – for the rest of your life.

3. Read Smart

What type of books (or other material) you read impacts your overall benefit from reading in a very significant way.

A powerful mental image that I use frequently to highlight similar concepts is one that I first read in a book by Stephen Covey called “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It was about a man who scrambled quickly up a very tall tree, reached the top, and looked around… only to discover that he was in the wrong jungle!

Doing things fast is not always more effective. Doing them right matters more. And that applies to reading as well.

When you focus on the right kind of things to read, you get greater advantage from every minute invested into the activity than if the greater part of your reading time is spent weeding through junk. That’s what makes ‘Top 10’ lists and ‘expert recommendations’ so powerful and valuable.

Some tips that may help you read smart:

  • Look at ‘best-seller’ or ‘recommended’ lists (if many others thought it was good, it probably is)
  • Seek peer group suggestions about the best sources of reading material
  • Keep a critical watch on what you read, and be quick to abandon wasteful drivel (How often have you plugged on with a book just because you started reading it? Stop doing that – it’s not worthwhile!)
  • Skim the highlights and dig deeper only where you feel you need more detail
  • Make it convenient to access quality material (buy or borrow books to keep by you for whenever you are free to read, bookmark favorite online resources, subscribe to great blogs in your RSS feed). If you click here you’ll see one of my 4 bookshelves – with titles I’ve bought so that I’ll be able to refer to them quickly whenever needed!

4. Read More

Everything else being equal, the entrepreneur who reads more (and applies the information effectively) will steal a march over another who doesn’t.

As the reading habit grows on you, keep exercising it like a muscle. You’ll be amazed at how much more information you’re able to consume, process and apply in a relatively short time.

In biographies of business icons like Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Richard Branson and many others, one common theme is the prodigious volume of information they have access to, and stay updated about, on a regular basis. At his busiest, Gates is said to have personally overseen the progress of almost 900 different projects – on a weekly basis! (And you thought it was EASY being the world’s richest man, huh?!) 🙂

That sounds impossible – until you start pushing yourself as you gain facility at consuming and applying new information in your business and life.

When you find a helpful resource, you’ll often come across references in it to other related information and material that will enhance your understanding about the topic that it covers. Following these links to explore new content sources will broaden and deepen your level of expertise. Before you know it, you’ll be a widely regarded subject specialist – and it all comes from reading more.

5. Read With Purpose

Simply reading more books without doing anything purposeful with the knowledge you have acquired is as wasteful as not reading at all!

Knowing what you hope to get from reading is the best way to maximize your time. In very broad terms, you may be reading for:

Information – This comes from studying how-to guides, news updates, technical manuals, polls, surveys, research reports and similar content.

Inspiration – When you study success stories, case reports, biographies and histories of famous companies, you feel energized and excited about replicating their models and successes.

Insight – Editorial commentary, opinion pieces, guest columns and special reports or whitepapers can sometimes spark a breakthrough idea, fuel innovation or provide a flash of illumination that creates revolutionary impact.

No matter what you’re reading for, be sure that you get value from your time and effort – by having a plan.

  • Record the big (or small) lessons you gained from what you read
  • Jot down ideas you intend trying out in your business or life
  • Highlight passages that you liked very much – and scrapbook them for later
  • Share relevant books and magazines with others in your team or mastermind group for discussion and debate
  • Set deadlines and targets for any actionable steps you plan to implement based on whatever you read

All of this will enhance the value you get from reading – and act as a positive feedback loop to encourage you to read even more. Then apply that learning towards further growth.

So get passionate about reading more. Start today. Find some time to read. Learn and practice reading faster. Read as much as you can. Do it the smart way. And have a purpose to your reading.

Oh, and let me know if you read any great books that I should look at too!

Dr. Mani

About Dr. Mani

Dr.Mani is actively engaged in spreading awareness about congenital heart disease (CHD) and fundraising to sponsor heart surgery for under-privileged children in India.

An ardent group of volunteers and donors have embraced this noble purpose that is bigger than any individual or group, and grown it into a global movement that has touched and saved the lives of 87 little children. You can help too. Learn how at http://www.DrMani.com

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  • Dr Mani!

    I could not agree with you more on the topic of reading! I don’t read as often as you do but I definitely make it a point to read at least 20 pages of a good business, leadership or some kind of personal development book. Since putting this into practice just 2 years ago I have read more than 13 books.. not too bad huh!

    My main reason for reading is more for mindset; conscious and subconscious, conditioning.

    There are so many naysayers in this world and so many people around us that try that tell us what we can and cannot accomplish.

    My way of combating the negative, scarcity, lack and fear energy that people try to drip on me is by reading and getting into the mind of successful entrepreneurs and business philosophers.

  • This is one of my favourite as it concern to Books and Reading.
    I like books very much as they my main power from where I have gain all the knowledge that I have in my mind and on this basis i.e knowledge I can able to rule on world.

    As one wise man says that “Knowledge is Power” and I have personally experience this power. Seriously it works as it force folks to attract toward us and make them feel that the person who know more is superior.

    Anyway thanks a lot for this important sharing.

  • Dee

    I also do believe there is one negative effect of reading fast, you end up talking very fast too!

  • I’ve found that my life is much better when I’m reading consistently. Regardless of what kind of book it is, I’m in a better frame of mind when I get a good bit of reading in each day.

  • This is an excellent post, Dr. Mani – I agree that reading is imperative, especially in business. These tips are very useful and I will implement them. Thank you.

  • I’ve saved time with podcasts as it’s an hour walk to the office, exercise and knowledge!…

  • Very thoughtful post.I am myself in a habit of reading,since childhood i had a habit of reading and now this is proving very useful in Internet Marketing.But I am struggling a little bit with writing because you can take advantage of reading only if you share it with other people in the form of good writing.I agree with Dr.Mani that information is power in today’s knowledge economy

  • When I taught college level reading and writing, I was amazed that so many of my students resisted understanding the importance of reading and writing to their academic, and life, success. I think one of the things that I love most about the blogging community is the understanding that those who participate have of the importance of mastering these skills in order to succeed at one’s goals. I thank you for sharing this very informative post.

    Readers who are disheartened by what you’ve shared may be interested to know that resistance to reading may have more to do with an emotional reaction they have to reading than with an actual inability to read, or to read fast.

    If you are a resistant reader, think about your past experiences with reading. Do you have a lot of negative memories associated with reading? If so, you may have made a subconscious decision at some point in your life to not be a reader.

    Here’s why.

    Just about anything we do repeatedly in our lives can trigger an emotional response. People who were good readers in school generally received a lot of praise and as a result, likely have a pretty positive emotional response to reading.

    Chances are that if you are an avid reader today, if you seek out opportunities to read, then the act of reading is associated in your body with a positive feeling.

    But what if you were someone who struggled with reading as a child? In today’s world, many adults are unaware that the ability to read develops very differently in children. Some children can be prolific readers long before they ever receive any formal reading instruction. Others may not develop the ability to read fluently until sometime around the age of 8.

    But most parents of 6- or 7-year-old children become extremely concerned if their child is not reading by this age, and public schools do little to ease their fears. In fact, in an age when teacher performance is evaluated by standardized tests, young children who are not reading can be seen as a problem, a nuisance, or even a threat.

    If you were one of these children, you may have negatively internalized the responses of the adults around you. You may have learned to associate reading with the uncomfortable feelings you felt when you were the object of their concern, or worse, ridicule, punishment, harassment….any of the unfortunate things that happen to children when they are not living up to an adult’s expectations of what they “ought” to be.

    Fortunately, there is a simple, powerful, and effective way to break the link between the negative feelings you learned to associate with reading (feelings that may be so subtle you may not be fully aware you are having them) and the act of reading.

    This technique is known as meridian tapping, or EFT (which stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques). EFT uses the same energy meridians that have been used for centuries in practices like acupuncture. But EFT is done by tapping on specific meridian points on the face and upper body. When you tap these points while focusing on the negative emotion, you can actually disrupt the emotion.

    Furthermore, you can use EFT to choose the emotional response you would like to have to the environmental stimulus in question.

    If you are someone who struggles with reading, or writing (or any other difficult emotions), I hope you’ll considering giving EFT a try. There are numerous resources on the internet for learning EFT (including my website), though you might want to work with a practitioner until you become familiar with the technique.

    I have used EFT to address numerous issues in my life and have found it to be a safe, effective, and powerful resource for overcoming negative forces that have stood in the way of my living the life I desired and experiencing success in my endeavors. I hope you’ll consider giving it a try!

  • Hi Dr. Mani, great post. Wow, you are really a reader. I, myself only reads book when I’m in the mood. I do agree that when you read a lot it will give you competitive edge among any others especially if you read a variety of things. i like your thoughts about read longer, read faster and read smart.

  • Beautiful frame and focus.

    I like the way you got prescriptive on how to read more effectively.

    You labeled it perfectly with “applied information.”

    I’ve found long ago that reading is the short-cut to success, and it helps us “stand on the shoulders of giants.”

  • Thank Dr. Mani…Reading for me it not just a reading a book… Nice article…and I agree with you in some on the topic of reading and I thing I get the meaning! I agree with you to spend more time to read if your jobs is as a lecturer or some alike. The reason is there are so many way to get the information and it is not just from “reading” as we normally do, but I agree with you if you meaning it Reading in big a “R”, by “Reading” with big “R”..it is means you get more understanding and get more value by “Reading” from something that you can see, you can feeling, from meny thing that you find in surround of you..

  • Being a mom, a part time worker, and a business owner has been hard on my reading life. When your carrying a bag already filled with toys, snacks, work notebook, business cards and more it’s new impossible to carry around a book. And frustrating when your adorable little one decides to read and lose your spot.

    But I finally found the solution Kindle! I love it because I can put it on my phone and tablet. I can read on my lunch break, while waiting at doctor appointments, or a few minutes while my husband runs into the store for diapers.

    My sweet ones can’t lose my spot anymore and if my preschooler is entertaining himself playing games on my tab my phone is synced to the last place I stopped.

  • I love reading… it gives me the wisdom in life. I like all the strategies that you have shared except reading fast. I understand what I am reading better in a moderate speed.

  • I found that with the advancement of technology I get to read much more than I did before. It is certainly easier to carry many books around on a cell phone as opposed to paper books. While I love traditional books, ebooks helped me a great deal to access much more information much faster.

  • I read so much everyday and it never seems that I get anywhere. How do people out there really make so much money on the internet. I have tried everything and it never works. I am glad to read this as it puts more into perspective.

  • Very interesting post Dr. Mani

    I would like to add here that:

    1. We can make our travelling time more productive by listening to audio books. I use a USB in my car and my phone which helps me to listen to various books in audio versions.

    2. Summaries of books are available on the web sites. We should filter the book contents first to chose the books which are really interesting for us to read

    3. Using electronic book reader is another point which can help. I-pads are good gadgets and there are various other companies producing electronic book readers which can be used.

    4. Become part of the book blog communities of our interest. I have started my blog on ideas from various self help, business and management books i.e. http;//wisdomfrombooks.com. At times, we may not have to read full book but simple ideas from the book may help


    Malik Mirza

  • […] nicht nur Tür und Tor, sondern versinkt auch im Mittelmass. Harte Worte, doch sehr lesenswert!5 Effective Reading Strategies For The Busy EntrepreneurDr.Mani Sivasubramanian zeigt in diesem Artikel auf, wie er es schafft, pro Woche 2-5 Bücher zu […]

  • Nowadays, most of my reading comes from reading online. Outside of that, I read the books that I need for the courses I take at college. If it weren’t for the books from college though, I would find myself as part of that statistic of the 1 book per year as you mentioned here. Though I would not be surprised if I didn’t read a physical book at all per year. Theres definitely alot of factors that have caused the downward trend for reading traditional form of books but when studying for school I much prefer the traditional book versus the online media format. There’s a few students who prefer reading the pdf version of the books but I still find that a majority of the students around me prefer the traditional books.


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