One of my all time favorite leadership quotes comes from Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts:
“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
In our constant contact, fast paced, instant information world; you know that it is a requirement to stay current. But, the question is how?
Many professionals stay current by subscribing to some sort of digest service (my personal inbox gets over a dozen digests each day). Your professional societies are also a great source of critical new information in your chosen field. Then, there are a host of personal digesting services or apps out there. But, this still does not solve the problem of how. Because, it isn’t the technical side of getting the information that holds us back; it is the time to review, assess, and comprehend the information that is the trick.
As leaders, you know that it is important to stay current in your chosen field. This is equivalent to the Queen’s running just to stay in place. It is information from other areas or solutions applied in one industry that can be modified to apply in another. So, not only do you have to deal with the information, you don’t have time for it now; but, you know to get to that next breakthrough, you have to “drink from the fire hose.”
So, what do you do? Of course, there is the shut down response – do nothing and hide in the dark. This won’t help, but may make you feel better temporarily. Here are some more constructive approaches:
1) Keep an active read pile – both an electronic one and a physical one. Instapaper is a great clipping service that can help you manage those internet or electronic articles you want to read. It is accessible through any device which makes it very helpful. You can use the same process, pulling out only those articles you want to read from your magazines and placing them in a folder which you can take with you to read over lunch. (If nothing else this reduces the physical pile of magazines to a more manageable stack.)
2) Make some time to read – Give your self permission to stop and take time to read. You might do it over your coffee break. Or use an application like NaturalReader to convert the information into an audio file so you can listen to that article while running the treadmill. This is one time where multitasking may be actually beneficial.
3) Relocate to a different place or office when it is time to read. Don’t sit at your desk, if you do – you know what happens – you won’t dedicate the time that you need. It gets swallowed up by other things.
Finally, make sure that you have something to write with or take notes on. Those ideas that come to you while you are reading may just be the thing you need to make that next breakthrough!