If You want to be a Leader, you need to be a reader: how I find time to read two books a week.

I set out to read 100 books by the end of the year.  You can check my progress here.  Some people have come to ask… Where I find the time to read.

The short answer is while everyone else is watching TV… I’m reading.  Actually most of the time that I’m watching TV, I’m also reading a book.  I picked up the habit while in college and I was assigned 30 pages of reading every night for a literature class.  No one ever told me that it was strange to read all the assigned reading and so I read and I also watched TV with my roommates.  Somewhere along the way, I actually became decent at being able to navigate two narratives at once.

I also take a 15 minute lunch break 2 or 3 days a week depending on my schedule and read a chapter in a book while I eat the soup that I have brought with me to work. I’ve found that this is a great way to add 45 minutes to my work day (Normally I’d take an hour out to meet someone) and get in 15 minutes of reading.  I also read while doing other activities that require a minimal amount of response like cooking and brushing my teeth.  When all is said and done I get in about 1 to 2 hours reading each day. Most of it at night after I have put the kids to bed.

Bottom line.  If I spent as many hours reading as the average person spends watching television each year I would be able to read well over 100 books. Sometimes it is all about perspective and time management.  On occasion I’ve been criticized for reading too much. Yet, not many people would think much of me spending 2-4 hours a night watching television or cruising the internet.  What matters more to you?  The complete season of CSI or NCIS or the half dozen books you could read while one of these shows is on this season? Since I’ve never found anything of lasting value from watching episodes of CSI* I choose to have the TV on in the background and read about 50 -100 pages of a good book.

Is It Time For A Media Diet?

As a  young boy growing up I thought my parents had some really strange rules.  One that I thought was completely weird and unnecessary was my mother’s rule that we were only allowed 10 hours of TV time a week.  Though I fought it tooth and nail at the time, the 10-hour-a-week rule had some really positive effects.  My brother and I played outside more.  We read books.  We became really good a negotiating when we figured out we could squeeze in one or two more shows a week by turning off the TV for commercials… We also became unaware of all the cool stuff that was marketed to kids and teens because we didn’t see the commercials.

I look back now and I’m kind of thankful that my mom imposed some limits on our TV consumption.  It helped round me out, I discovered my imagination and found out that I enjoyed reading, writing, sports and other things.  Her tenacity to stick to the 10 hours a week rule really shaped my character in a positive way.  At the time I argued against setting limits on Media consumption… Today as a Dad with children of my own and even more media influences than ever before I find myself echoing the wisdom of limiting the influence of media.

Please understand what I’m saying.  I’m not saying that media is bad. I’m saying too much media is not good and limits a child’s capacity and desire for other satisfying and healthy influences.  It’s like dessert, it’s a self-indulgence.  And like dessert, media is best balanced out by other influences like family time, reading, sports, church, etc.

So here is the question:  When it comes to you and your family how much time do you spend in virtual world activities (facebook, video games, television, etc.) versus real world activities (family time, reading, church, sports, etc.)? If you want a simple tool to help you calculate how much time you are your kids are spending in each world, check out the free Media-Diet-Calculator tool produced by ishinelive.com.

What is a healthy balance between virtual world activities and real world activities? We’re still working on an answer for our family, but I know this… after taking a glance at my personal numbers on the Media-Diet-Calculator I’ve determined that I need to spend even less time in the virtual world and more time engaging in the real world with my family and others.

What do you think?  How much time in the virtual world is healthy?  When does it become unhealthy to be engaged in video games, etc?  What do you and your family do to limit or be disciplined in how you use virtual world technologies?