Reading Tips to Program Your Mind for success

I have a second generation Kindle. I will use it until it won't run for a few reasons:

These Kindles are newer than mine but still offer a focused reading experience without notifications.
  1. I can operate it with one hand (I like to read everywhere.)
  2. I get no messages or notifications of any kind, meaning I can focus on what I'm reading. Silence is really golden, especially when it comes to reading.
  3. I can organize my reading in intentional and powerful ways.

Brian Tracy shares in several of his books that if you want to be in the top 10% of any field that you should read an hour a day in field. That is my goal.

Michael Catt, my pastor says "Leaders are readers." I'd like to lead and encourage others, so reading is important. It brings new ideas. It motivates. It encourages me when I'm down. Now that I've written one book and almost done with a second, I see that a book is really an author bleeding on a page. It is that much of your life. I have always cherished books, now many of them are almost sacred.

Let's look at #3. If you have a traditional Kindle, you can likely organize your books into collections. This is a major feature missing from the Kindle app on the ipad, in my opinion. I organize my books 4 ways.

Type of Reading

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction

Right now I have 36 fiction books and 219 nonfiction books. This is not because I don't read fiction, but typically, most fiction books I remove from my kindle when I'm done. I see no reason to keep them because they are still in my archive.

Stage of Reading

  • on deck
  • @ctive
  • Finished Reading
  • Stopped Reading

On Deck

On deck means I want to read this next. When I get the urge to buy a book just because that is what bibliophiles do, I "shop" in my on deck and always find something. If I have to shop, I will put things into my "wish list" on Amazon and come back to it if I know that I really need to read it.


Active means I'm reading it RIGHT NOW or have within the past week. I usually have a fiction, a nonfiction / inspirational or leadership book, and a nonfiction book on writing. I limit myself to 3 or sometimes 4 in the active category. If I add more, I have to move one into the next two stacks and admit I may not finish that book. I use the @sign out of habit because I start my @ctive folder on my computer with an "@" sign to help me sort it first in any folder where it appears. By limiting my "active" books, I finish more books and am also intentional about my reading. I don't go on guilt trips because I haven't finished 15 books, I just say, "hey" that book needs to wait a while.

Finished Reading

When I finish a book, I always move it to finished reading. I often leave them there for a bit if there's a reason. Some of them are reference books that I'll want to keep. I have a special category I also tag this book with called "Reference Library." I keep it there but mark it finished, so if I ever wonder if I've completely finished the book, it will show up as finished.

Stopped Reading

When I have a book that I've been reading but just stopped for some reason but think I'll want to come back to it, I'll move it from @ctive into "Stopped Reading." There are several multipart books in here - I'll come back to them. Things like a series of short stories by Agatha Christie (ohhh she's awesome) or the Philo Vance series from the early 1900's. I"ll finish one of the books and then come back to it. I do enjoy Philo Vance but he's a bit of a tough read because of all of the classical book references and use of other languages, so I'll take a break and come back to him.

This trick also helps jumpstart me into realistically determining if I want to get back into reading a book. Sometimes if I know I do, I'll put it back in the "on deck" folder. Sometimes after a few months, I'll go ahead and face it that the book doesn't measure up.

A good life is too short to waste on a bad book. Sometimes the book isn't bad, it just doesn't match with my needs from the book or why I bought it in the first place.

Purpose for Reading

I have numbers for these types of readings based upon my priority. Here's my categories:

  • 1 - Sharpen Scissors [Follow God]
  • 1 - Sharpen Scissors [Healthy Body]
  • 1 - Sharpen Scissors [Be Productive]
  • 1 - Sharpen Scissors [Read Classics]
  • 1 - Sharpen Scissors [ Dream Team]
  • 2 - Show my family love
  • 3 - #love2teach
  • 4 - Be an inspiring author
  • 5 - Manage Wealth

What is sharpen scissors?

Stephen Covey talks about "Sharpening the Saw"in his classic productivity book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people." When I use illustrations to motivate myself, I want to use metaphors that mean something to me.

An old trick to sharpen scissors is to cut sandpaper. I do this quite a bit, particularly if I've been cutting something kind of thick. When I read "sharpen scissors" I picture how hard life can be and know that sometimes I need to read things to shake me up so I can take action. I've got 5 1's because all of these are part of taking care of myself - body, mind, soul, heart. If I don't take care of myself, I can't take care of my husband, children, or any of my students.

I write the parentheses in a way that gets me to act. "Follow God" "Be Productive" "Read Classics" "Healthy Body" are all examples of this.

The Dream Team: You Become like who you think about so think about great people

Then, there's my Dream Team. When Angela Maiers was at my school this past January, she shared some research that shows that we become like the 5 people we think about the most. She calls these 5 our "dream team" and says we should be intentional about selecting the members of our dream team. She has these people on a bulletin board in her office.

My "Dream Team" folder holds the auditions for my dream team. I've got a few already selected but have 3 slots open with quite a few candidates. So, I select biographies of those who I have admired in the past so I can learn more. Biographies keep us grounded. When you read a biography of a great person, it is striking to realize the struggles and normal-ness of most people's lives. When you strip away the accomplishments of great men and women of history you most often see people with purpose, persistence, and a plan (and very often, prayer.) If I will become who I think about, I wish to become a better person and must intentionally take time to read biographies. After reading books like Theodore Roosevelt and the "River of Doubt" I'm forever changed and glad I do.

2 - Show My Family Love

There are great books about being a better Mom. If I'm not careful, I'll read so much about succeeding in my career that I'll forget about the most important thing. Reading about how to be a better member of my family helps me stay balanced and keep perspective. Some things need my most careful protection.

3 - #love2teach

This is the category for everything about teaching. I use this hashtag sometimes, I don't know that anyone follows it, but instead of "teaching" or "Be a great teacher" this is a simple reminder of 2 things for me. 1) That my teaching is a calling, a passion, and a love for my students and 2) The hashtag reminds me that I want to share this with other educators. It can't stop with me.

We need positive voices in this negative world and I am passionate about being one of those positive, constructive voices. I want to help any of you reading this post. I want to help you be a better teacher and a better person. I want to help others love2teach too. This hashtag reminds me of who I am.

4 - Be an inspiring author

I love writing and want to learn more. I am planning to self publish my third book, so right now, I'm reading a lot about it. I want to compare the different types of publishing and also have some things I want to write that I just need to get out. As much as I've appreciated my editors and publishers, I got some things to say unfiltered. This section helps me do this.

It also includes social media books and anything that helps me learn how to be more helpful and learn more about modern media and what works.

5 - Manage wealth

This is a hard one. I'm a teacher after all. I used to have this category as "manage money" but it is more than about that to me. For example, in my belief system, my husband and I believe in tithing and storing up for ourselves "treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not corrupt or decay." When I use the word wealth it helps me focus on that attitude.

There are people who don't have a fortune in money but are wealthy beyond measure. Money is also supposed to be a blessing to others. Helping others is a joy and tithing often unleashes the divine providence of God in ways that cannot be explained. Money is not why I tithe, but I am often curious how God provides a way when there seems to be no way in the months I tithe and when I hoard, I not only am more impoverished in my bank account but am a more impoverished person spiritually. Money is hard because I have one child in college and there never seems to be enough but there are choices to make. Unmanaged money has wings. It flies away and you can't hold it. I study this area intentionally so that I can learn to live beneath my means and manage money well to accumulate wealth of all kinds.

Are you intentional about organizing your books?

This one system of categorizing collections of books is a powerful motivational tool. I will give you one word of caution. I will only let myself have 2 pages of collections - no more. More and you feel like a failure and don't focus.

Also, when you buy a book, immediately categorize the book so it will be in your system.

Finally, books do you no good if you don't take time to read them. I make an appointment with myself daily to read. Morning and night, I am usually reading by lamplight. If you're not a big reader with your eyes, you can listen with your ears. You can do something to take in the world and shake up your thinking.

Leaders are readers. Successful readers are intentional about what they read and make time to make it a habit.

If you want to change your life look to the people you meet and the books you read. Sometimes you can't help who you meet, but you have a lot of choice when it comes to picking up a book. Be purposefully about what book it is you want to read next and which ones you keep reading.

Remember your noble calling teacher. When we inspire a love of reading, we are inspiring leadership. Let's read!

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