Digging deeper into academia at the start of my bachelor’s studies was a tremendous learning curve since I never enjoyed reading in my adolescence. Therefore, up until my first year in college, the reading assigned to me was always done at the very last minute and not effectively. So, you can imagine my struggle to skim books to find a quote that emboldened my assignment ideas. Nevertheless, over time, I developed the necessary tools to propel me through my first two degrees.
Processing the reading from this week gave me helpful tools to track my development over the years and recognize the helpful systems I have built around my work. Here are a few examples.
In my role as a pastor, specifically, when it comes to a sermon/spiritual formation development, I function in an analytical style of reading. I tend to develop 8-week sermon series that requires a lot of research on the front end, centered on overarching themes, spiritual practices connections, clarity of the critical ideas, and bridging the connection between sermon, worship, and spiritual formation small groups. In this stage, I am studying biblical commentary, theological works, and psychological and physiological research. The goal is to allow this front ended work to create more space in weekly sermon writing to blend spiritual discernment and processed research.
In my role as a weekly podcast host, I have developed a syntopical style of reading. I read three to four books on a given week to prepare to interview an author, organizational leader, minister, or different practitioners. I heavily depend on the book’s summary, pulling the key ideas and quotes out of the beginning, middle, and end of chapters, to develop questions and talking points for the interview. Then, post-interview, I note key moments and quotes as a resource to help me develop a written story on each weekly episode.
I read a lot on organizational thought and psychology, leadership development, emotional intelligence, and coaching from an organizational leadership perspective. However, extensive reading does not always translate into the application or developmental opportunities to those entrusted to my leadership. I found that my best attempts to bestow newly found knowledge were not as effective as I would have liked. One of the ways I have pivoted to cultivate the ideas from a brilliant resource is by having my staff and leadership teams read the same material and hosting exploratory conversations around insight, pushback, takeaways, ah-ha moments, and tangible action steps.
In the first year of this program, it felt like getting back on a bike for the first time in a long time. However, this new bike has new resources to assist with my notetaking, research, and citations. What I would have given to have Zotero in undergrad and masters’ studies. One of the best practices I have developed is recording notes and cited quotes while reading. As a result, I can simply copy/paste the cited quote into my school document, which transfers the Turabian format citation.
I believe in smart work. Therefore, I continually evaluate my high energy and low distraction blocks throughout the workweek, leverage my researching, writing, and creative sessions around those key blocks. I also try to practice the art of moving on from a task when it is clear that quality work is not happening at present.
I think the best way to summarize where I stand on reading and writing is that I’m smart enough to recognize my many limitations.