As you are probably aware, the StrategiQ team attends strategy days every quarter where we are encouraged to set goals for the next three months of the year. The days that took place in January were possibly the best yet, leaving everyone feeling motivated to be their best possible selves.
During these days I noticed a recurring theme amongst the team: the desire to read more. Each year, our CEO Andy Smith shares a book that we should read ahead of the strategy days. Almost everyone enjoys it, but not many of us continue to read books after this.
In an age where digital technologies and the pressures of social media are taking over our lives, taking time out to engage in deeper thinking and cosying up with a good book is often overlooked.
Improves mental health
Research suggests that reading – even for as little as six minutes – can reduce stress by two thirds. This is because it harnesses focus and allows an escape from the stresses of daily life.
When you’re reading a book and get really attached to one of the characters, it’s not just because you’ve been led down that path by the author, it’s because reading actually makes you more empathetic. It’s suggested people who read more frequently are able to form stronger working and personal relationships with others because of their increased empathy.
Everyone knows when it comes to muscles, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Your brain is no different and absolutely benefits from a good workout. According to neuroscience, reading is more neurobiologically demanding than processing images or speech. A literate mind is a more complex one and can help to stop mental deterioration such as dementia in older age.
Improves sleep quality
Reading before bed can help your body wind down and relax, improving the quality of your sleep. However, this only applies if your reading material is paper-based. Reading from a screen – and that includes a Kindle – has been proven to decrease the quality of your sleep by 20%.
As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “the more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” In an attempt to understand intelligence, psychologists have divided it into two categories: fluid and crystallised intelligence. While fluid intelligence defines our problem-solving skills, crystallised intelligence is the ability to gather and retain new information – such as directions to your house or the name of a country’s capital – and the ability to read and process information. It improves with age, and reading skills and vocabulary are generally a measure of this kind of intelligence.
Reading can make you feel like you’ve achieved something, increasing motivation to go on and achieve other things throughout the day. Depending on the type of book you are reading, motivation can also be spurred by wanting to put new skills or learning into practice.
Develops strong analytical skills
Have you ever been reading a book and already have ideas on how the plot will end? That’s your analytical skills bringing all the pieces together to try and reach a well-considered conclusion. The more you read, the better you will get at practising your analytical skills and applying them to real-life scenarios.
The idea isn’t to sound smarter but to actually improve your cognitive and communication skills by expanding your knowledge of words. Better language skills can set you apart from those around you in many ways. Reading exposes us to more words and ideas within a context that provides meaning and proper usage. At the same time, those new words help us to better understand the root of similar words, thus further expanding our vocabulary and language usage.
By improving memory, concentration and your ability to process information, reading can help you avoid making impulsive and irrational judgements. In analysing and critiquing the plot of your latest novel, you’re unconsciously preparing yourself to deal with situations that demand critical thinking and balanced decision-making. Research shows adults make on average 35,000 decisions in a single day!
Increases success in career
A young Elon Musk read for ten hours each day before growing up to become Tesla CEO, claiming he acquired a lot of his knowledge of rockets by reading books. These days, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates reads a new book every week, primarily regarding the world he inhabits and the industry in which he works.
People who read often are more likely to be successful in their careers because of the points explained throughout this blog. Although these skills are best instilled at a young age, rekindling a love for reading is beneficial at any age and can be particularly impactful when trying to make a positive change in one’s life.
Introducing Power Up
With the above in mind, I have launched Power Up, a weekly reading club for StrategiQ team members. Unlike traditional book clubs or reading clubs, Power Up allows everyone to read any form of written material, whether it’s books, magazines or journals. Audiobooks and podcasts are allowed too. Not only does this ensure everyone is reading something they enjoy that will benefit them, but it also means that if they only wish to read one section of a book, they can!
At Power Up, members come together and share their key takeaways from that week’s reading. This means they share their learnings but “power up” by walking away with the reading knowledge of the entire group.
Join us each month as we share what we’ve been reading, how we would rate it and what we’ve learned from it.