A Simple Workflow for Book Exercises

You know...those parts at the ends of chapters you usually blaze past

October 18, 2017

I have a goal to read at least 52 books every year — an average of a book a week. I’ve met that goal every year since 2004. I love to read. I also love to say I have read…that long list of books I’ve read probably makes me feel a little too good about myself. (Completely unrelated, but important — I read The Brothers Karamazov this summer!)

I don’t want to be too hard on myself here, because I do get something akin to a dopamine hit when I learn something new. I browse library and bookstore alike, scanning for covers and titles that catch my eye and curiosity. So, it is true to say that it is reading that I love as ideas pass through my progressive lenses into my brain.

But, I recognize that I’m also eager to move on to the next idea as soon as one book is in the final few pages. I have a helpful system to capture notes from books for future reference, and that often gets put to use in sermons and conversations.

Most of the time, though, I’m not so eager to stop and fully engage the ideas I read. I’d rather stuff them in my brain with the other words I’ve read and move on to consume more. Me is to words as Cookie Monster is to cookies.

I’m progressing in age, as that mention of lenses above might have told you. And maybe I’m gaining a little patience and wisdom too —- at least enough to recognize that those exercises and questions I often find at the end of chapters might be helpful to engage beyond a skim.

A few months ago I created a system to make space in my attention for those exercises. I’m a regular journaler in Day One, capturing personal reflections, beans or bourbons I’m imbibing at home, movies I’ve seen, and yes, books I’ve finished reading.

The ease of getting photos in Day One has made it a streamlined way to work through book exercises too. When I run across an exercise in a book I think worth returning to, I capture an image of it into Day One. A screenshot of an iPad screen, or a quick photo of a Kindle screen or (gasp!) physical page does the trick. I tag that entry with the Book title and an incomplete tag. A task in OmniFocus prompts me daily to work back through the unfinished tag to see what exercises still await.

Am I new man in the last few months after adding this workflow? Probably not.
Am I a little more thoughtful? Hopefully.
Am I more intentional and deliberate turning ideas into growth? I think I can say yes.

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