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Read the Damn Book!

I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a girls’ weekend in the mountains with a dear friend. We were unexpectedly able to sneak away on a Thursday afternoon which enabled us to work remotely on Friday before leisurely enjoying the rest of the weekend. So naturally, in addition to packing a bag with clothes and toiletries, I brought my work bag filled with my laptop, Remarkable 2, journal, 3-4 books, and some magazines. Seriously, Whitney?!


I have a habit of going on trips, especially when I’m kid-free, and being overly ambitious about what I’m going to “accomplish” with all of my free time. I often view my adult-only trips as an opportunity to fit in things I haven’t gotten around to doing at home. That stack of books that’s been sitting in a pretty pile on my nightstand for the past six months? The journaling I’ve wanted to do, but have instead chosen more important things like scrolling on Instagram? Those Southern Living magazines my mom sweetly dropped off months ago still sitting in the on the coffee table? Of course, I can tackle all of it with this upcoming span of free time! Do you know how much I can normally accomplish in a day?

As a mom, wife, coach, and solopreneur who constantly feels stretched, I get excited about having uninterrupted time when I'm out of town. I tend to pack lots of options just in case more time magically gets added to the day. Or maybe it’s just that I'm always rushing to pack so I throw it all in my bag and hope for the best! But regardless, how in the heck did I honestly think that in less than 72 hours I would be able to do half the things I brought with me in addition to the hikes, meals, naps, and conversations I wanted to enjoy during the weekend?! And why couldn’t I let those other things be enough?


Ironically, one of the books in my bag was Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price, Ph.D. (Thanks to fellow coach Jenn Deal for the book recommendation!) While reading the introduction, I found my thoughts, beliefs, and definitions of work, productivity, self-worth, and laziness under attack in what I was doing at that exact moment - reading a book. But not just reading, reading a book during the workday.


It turns out that completing tasks on my to-do list (or even just writing a to-list), responding to emails, and coaching clients are examples of things I value as “more important” work. This is primarily rooted in my twenty years working for a large law firm where clear lines were drawn about what types of work were considered most valuable. The kiss of death? Being viewed as inefficient or unproductive.


So, instead of permitting myself to do work-related reading that I couldn't do on my computer during the workday, I would take it all home to read after hours or on the weekends and mostly use my in-office time to apply what I’d learned. I mean, heaven forbid a colleague would walk past my office and - gasp! - see me reading a book. What if they thought I was slacking off? Or not committed? Or unsure of what I was doing? No, the narrative I told myself was that if I was busy doing/producing/advancing I had more value. Not my work, me.

In her book, You Are Only Just Beginning: Lessons for the Journey Ahead, Morgan Harper Nichols shares this poem:

Embrace

new ways of thinking.

Be gentle with yourself

as you learn to let go

of the frames that used to shape

all of the thoughts

buzzing wild in your mind.


Replace old structures

with stronger ways of thinking.


I still have some old structures that need to be replaced related to how I connect productivity and my sense of self-worth. To initiate an internal renovation related to reading for professional growth during the workday, there are three simple things I'm going to experiment with to see if they help me begin to adjust my mindset. When I notice those old, judgy thoughts creeping in telling me it isn’t “real" or valuable work to read a book during the workday?

  • Step #1 - I’m going to practice swapping my judgy thoughts for something different to get my attention like, “Whit, read the damn book if you want to and stop feeling guilty about it!”

  • Step #2- Smile and give thanks for the privilege I have to make this choice.

  • Step #3- Start reading the damn book.

It’s that simple.


Just because it's simple doesn't mean it's easy.


Admitting that it will be difficult to complete the simple task of reading a work-related book during the workday (even though I'm now the boss!) makes me feel weak, a bit silly, and vulnerable. Throughout my career and life, I've done many challenging things so my inner critic is judging the heck out of the fact this experiment is even a problem for me. Which then makes me want to avoid tackling this challenge. My inner judge can be so mean so why would I want to put myself through all that? Better to just avoid her altogether by bagging this idea. And so the cycle begins...


The reality is it's so much easier to stay the same. But I know that also comes at a cost. I also know when I read more I’ll be a much better coach and business owner who is living in integrity with her values. I know increasing the amount of time I'm devoting to personal growth and learning will enable me to serve my clients much more powerfully. I know this change will also give me more time to read for pleasure because my evenings won't be tied up with work-related reading. And these are just some of the things I gain if I'm willing to read the damn book. What if I could also have some fun?


Yes! Fun would be good. I am hereby starting the Read the Damn Book Challenge! The rules are simple: read one book for professional development per month and only read during the workday. The reward? If I do it for the next six months I will purchase the new bookshelf I've wanted for my office. Boom! Now I'm motivated. I'm going to start by finishing Laziness Does Not Exist. Let's go!


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Guest
Sep 17, 2023

What a great post!!!

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