First, I think it's important to recognize my situation. Some of you will have more time available, and others will have less. I am married with two small children. I run my own company (TaoSecurity). I do not have a daily commute although I do travel out-of-state several times each month. I do not watch much TV, and the TV I do watch is recorded on my TiVo.
Second, the advice I give assumes you want to make the most of your reading time. You want to read as many books as possible while retaining as much as possible. You don't want to use any gimmicks like speed reading, etc. (I do not use any of those "techniques." I don't think tricks like reading down the center of a page work very well for tech books, especially.)
- Make a plan. Set some goals. Do you want to read one book per week, per month, per year? If you decided to just "read" you'll be less efficient. I try to read an average of one book on my reading list per week.
- Read good books that interest you. One of the emails I received said "I find it difficult to read through a lot of books (especially on security due to dryness/boring) and wish there was a way I can fight through it more easily." There is no way to quickly read through boring books. If you run into a book in your reading stack that bores you, move it aside, fast. I fell into that trap a few times last year. You'll see huge gaps in my reviews where I got stuck looking at a boring book. I was so demotivated I stopped reading rather than push the book aside.
- Read at least a few pages every day. Even if you only read two pages per day, you'll read two average size books per year. I sometimes fall into the trap of only wanting to read in "big chunks," where I won't read if I don't have a free 30 minutes or so. Too many days of waiting for big chunks of free time turn into a week, then a month, and then you've read nothing all year! Additionally, you may find it helpful to "surge" every once in a while. Sometimes I will read several books in a row over the course of a few days. Be careful with this approach -- it's easy to burn out fast and not want to start reading again.
- Make time to read. You'll have more success if you think about the time of day you hope to read. Sometimes I wake up much earlier than my family and read. Other times I stay up late after they are asleep. Since I work for myself, sometimes I use part of my work day to read. If you are a security or technology professional, reading should be part of your work day. I have no idea how management can expect tech operators to stay current and effective without expanding our knowledge. Every company should have a budget for a tech library for its IT staff and recognition that spending some portion of the work day reading (30 minutes would be good) is a cost-effective way to build a forward-thinking tech force. Managers who discourage reading are idiots.
- Read interactively. When I read a tech book, I use a template like the one pictured at right. It's basically a ruler, but I've had it since I studied architecture in high school. (That's correct -- back then we were just starting to use Apple computers for CAD, so most of the time we drew everything by hand!) When I read something interesting, I underline it. I haven't used highlighters since college; I think they are messy, they often fade, and they don't reproduce well if you want to photocopy or scan a page. I make notes in the margins. I draw small triangles next to the most important points, and triangles with check marks inside for especially significant ideas. When I finish a book I thumb through it and look at my triangles to refresh my memory. When possible I also read near my laptop so I can visit URLs mentioned in the book. I also take notes on a separate pad that I use to produce my book reviews.
If you have any thoughts, please share them as comments.