Week 37, 2020: Weeds in your reading list

Your reading list is a natural extension of your mind garden, where your ambitious self plants more and more seeds. Like a garden, it needs tending to. Like a garden, you’ll need to pull up weeds.

Becoming overgrown

At TransferWise, we work in quarters. We plan the next quarter a few weeks before the current one finishes. It’s intense. A week period where you’re deep diving into your performance, analysing what’s happened so far and weighing up new opportunities for the next few months.

We finish with a bang by going for dinner. Drinking a little too much wine and letting our hair down. By this point, we're already exhausted, but relieved to have put the effort in and know our direction for the following three months.

This time was a little different. With our team distributed across Estonia and Budapest, but most of us in London, we had mixed appetite for meeting for dinner. At odds with what might be recommended for team morale, we split. Half of us had sushi together over zoom. The other half made their way to Coppa Club’s Igloos.

Me, still with covid anxiety, stayed at home and instead had a wonderful discussion about fiction, meditation, silent retreats, the many different types of Yoga and cooking to name a few things.

With 10s of book recommendations filling up Zoom’s chat, Loz, our designer, remarked that it was going to be a struggle to read them all. Our iOS engineer, Alline, rightly pointed out that we'll never learn everything, so why stress?

It reminded me of the change I had made with my reading list. I scrapped it.

Pulling up the weeds

How then, do I evaluate whether I should buy or read a book?

Easy. If it sounds interesting, buy it.

That way, I avoid decision paralysis and reduce the amount of thinking I have to do.

Should I read it? That's a little harder. However, if I have a clear goal in mind, it's also easy enough.

Does it help me achieve my goals? If yes, read it. If not, pop it on the shelf.

I'm not going to start reading The Power of Habit if I'm currently striving to become a better writer. Rather, I'd be better off reading something about writing, or something that's an example of great writing. Not that The Power of Habit isn't such an example.

Conversely, I'm not going to read Bird by Bird if I'm studying the psychology of design. Scott Riley's Mindful Design would be far better suited.

By looking at your goals, it makes it very easy to decide what to spend time on.

That's why, the majority of the books I've read in recent times have been on the art of writing. Before that, mindfulness and before that design and product development. You can probably reverse engineer my various goals from what I was reading at the time.

If your goal is to become an architect, you should surround yourself with materials that will help you become a better architect. At the beginning of said journey, that's probably architectural books, studies and materials close to the topic. And that'll develop and change as you learn about the topic and can start to draw inspiration from other places.

By reading without intention, you'd be solely reading for enjoyment. This is fine for as long as you're conscious of that fact. Though, if you are trying to learn something, you'd be far better off being deliberate in your choices. Always ask, "how does this help me make a step towards my goal?"

Remember, what you do today decides your tomorrow.

3 mins to read