On Jan 1, 2018, we began reading one Blinkist book summary each day as a team. Here's what we learned about creating a new habit, the power of teams, and the fragility of introducing something new.
At Choose To Thinq, reading is a bit of a superpower. Everyone likes to read, and collectively, there's great depth and diversity of reading interests. Reading helps us bring wisdom & perspective to our clients, bring solidity to our events (like Incite), and helps us all personally grow. Could we get *any* better?
Since early 2017, we've had a subscription to Blinkist, a website that has summaries of non-fiction books. But we hardly used it. Most of us had our own reading lists and habits, and there was no need to make Blinkist a part of our life. So both a trigger as well as a motivation to use Blinkist was clearly missing.
While talking about this, it also emerged that while, we liked to read and were good at it, we weren't that consistent in reading regularly.
Putting two birds and a stone together, on Jan 1, 2018, we began an experiment, structured as follows:
- Each day, a designated curator points us to one Blinkist summary (why Blinkist? each summary typically takes about 15-20 mins to read, thus limiting the effort required)
- Everyone who's signed up for the experiment reads the summary the same day
- We maintain a 'streak' in the vein of the Seinfeld Method
- We celebrate when we together 'earn our tick' i.e. complete the day's quota
- In the words of Charlie Munger, we hopefully go to bed a little smarter than when we woke up
Is it worth it?
On the day of writing this post, we hit 52 days straight. While it didn't come as a surprise, it certainly felt good to achieve this. 6 people (occasionally 7) do this each day. There have been a couple of wobbles: on one day, we got the 'tick' at literally the 11th hour.
In the process, we gained the following benefits:
- Creating a collective team habit (we are a distributed team. Prior to this, we didn't have anything that we do together each day)
- Ensure some reading each day (most of us also read beyond this)
- Reading the same things (thus growing our common knowledge of concepts, stories, and mental models)
- Trigger conversation and comment (good for team engagement)
- Widens perspective (you are forced to read beyond your own interests)
- Comparative reading (you read different material on the same topic; it makes you compare and contrast arguments)
- ...all this while justifying the investment in the subscription
What did we learn about nurturing a growth habit?
- The power of groups: Some of us are working on creating other habit routines (as individuals). They are brittle and none has come as close to a 52/52 streak like this one. The best way to build a habit could be to join an engaged group that shares the same objective.
- Watch out for banana peel days: We know a fair bit about habit models and the role of your environment in supporting or snuffing out a habit. Our closest encounters with failure have come on non-weekend holidays. You wake up late or go out of town or find yourself doing a different routine, and bam, you've missed your usual slot.
- Tying new routines to old ones really does work: Some of us have successfully applied the classic approach of piggybacking on existing habits. One does her quota after the breakfast egg, while another finishes it after returning from a morning exercise routine. We all have our pet slots (especially on weekdays), and when someone doesn't report by that time, the curator for the week may start to get worried!
- It can get monotonous: The habit equivalent of the 7-day itch, things can seem a little forced over time. Especially on dull days when you don't feel like reading or when the book or topic doesn't look illuminating. We just need to find ways to weather these storms. So we've done a themed week (8 days of books about Food!), occasionally posted bonus articles, and asked quiz questions about books from previous weeks (also helps consolidate your memory). One person opted out recently to take a brief break, but the rest are still staunchly committed to seeing this through to the rest of the year.
- "It takes 21 days to build a habit. (Or not.)": Apparently, it takes 21 days to build any kind of habit. We are always sceptical of specific numbers, and we don't know if this has become a solid habit that we'd do automatically (we can't - there's a lot of deliberate action that goes into each day). 52 days or not, we can't afford to take this for granted.
Nothing, apart from chugging along, trying to make it to December 31 and 365, one book at a time. We don't want to overthink this. But we'll figure out an experiment or two. We may also have to face bigger storms: illnesses, a sudden loss of motivation, travel, and so on. That's when this growth routine will be tested.
On Twitter, we've posted one takeaway from each book that we've read - see below. (Apart from being useful for marketing, this public display serves as gentle yet tangible pressure for us to keep going.)
So the next step is the same as the previous one: keep reading. The team that reads together, grows smarter together!
At Choose To Thinq, we often help our clients build sustainable growth behaviours through offerings like 'Uplevel for X' and 'The Same Page' (which brings books to teams without making them read). If you'd like to grow habits around curiosity, perspective, and reading, or just want to pick our brains on the topic, get in touch.