Reading Sprint Playbook
Written by Karthi Subbaraman
In a nutshell, Reading sprint is our way of making sure we read and review the chosen sprint book.
What is a Reading Sprint?
A sprint is 2 weeks long
That means, we have about 14 days to finish the chosen book and it is doable. A reading sprint typically starts on a Monday of W1 and ends on a Sunday of W2. We start reading the book on the Monday (W1) and we deliver a 10X30 review of the book on the Sunday (W2).
Develop multiple skills with one sprint.
A reading sprint enables you to develop multiple skills in that helps you to grow as a product leader. It is not a silver bullet. You tend to get better at some of the non-teachable skills when you practice the reading sprint. We promise you will be at-least 10% better than how you started.
What are the steps to make your own reading sprint?
How Long To Read
First thing first, figure out how long the chosen book takes you to read. You can do that by visiting the website: https://howlongtoread.com
This will give you an idea of the book you have chosen. For example, if the site tells you, it will take 4 hours at 300 WPM and it is 195 pages long, you know how to work backwards. If the site tells you, it will take you 10 hours at 300WPM and it is 370 pages long, that needs some calendaring and discipline.
A word of caution: Some books which are 400 pages are a breeze to read bit there are some books which are only 125 pages but super dense to read. So reading time is not one dimensional.
I spoke about it here and this will also help you to choose books in case you want to learn that ↓
Set the Habit
Now that you know how long it will take for the book in your hand, you can work on your calendars. Putting in the calendar sets the intention. It carves out time for you to do the activity without any other clashes. It is a contract by you for you and treat it like any other meeting.
In a day, try and set 2 pomodoris in your calendar. It means you are setting 2X25 mins of reading time. Setting time in calendar and going through a pomodoro (no distractions time) helps.
If you feel you are a slow reader then set 3 pomodoris in your daily calendar. Keep crushing it everyday. Don’t worry if you are unable to finish the book as planned. We have weekends and we can pull it off.
Focus on the habit. Don’t worry about outcomes.
Read during the day. Make sure before you close the day you share your takeaways in the group. A tribe lifts you. Doing it all by yourself is hard.
Day 1 is typically given for intros, getting the book, adjustments and calendaring. From Day 2, you will be asked for your accountability. First thing first in the morning, share your accountability by answering the three questions below
What did you read yesterday and when?
What are you planning to read today and when?
Any challenges/blockers/doubts that is stopping your progress?
Show up everyday even if you could not get things done one or two days.The intent is to participate and collaborate. Doing as a group is far better than alone.
Skimming & Priming
Here is how you can do skimming
Pick a book to skim.
Scan the table of contents. It helps you understand the structure of the book.
Read the preface by the author. They tell you what they want to share in the book with you.
Skim the chapters of the book. See how it connects in your head.
Close the book and recollect how the chapters are organised.
Read here and there and see if anything is intriguing.
As questions pop in your head jot them down.
Go through the big headings and side notes (if any) of the book.
Read the abstracts for big ideas or listen to the Ted talk of the author, if available. you will get a sense of what that book is all about.
Express your takeaways to your reading sprint. Discuss and share your questions
Notetaking and how to retain the learnings from a book (or videos or blogs or anything for that matter).
In the past 3 years a number of tools, techniques, concepts, models, courses and teachers in this area has exploded. I use to read, watch, buy courses, go through every single exercise given if it had the word note taking or productivity in it.
The past year I stopped taking internet information seriously and I started taking my brain super seriously.
It doesn’t matter how much water the river has. What matters is how much water I can drink (need). This mindset was pivotal in simplifying my everyday routines.
I moved away from all fancy tools & gadgets and started embracing what works for my brain (simple pen and paper).
That is when I came up with the 4C framework based on first principles of how information processing works.
Collect, Categorize, Connect and Create.
I truly live the 4C way.
I collect dots in all forms into an inbox/note box. It is both physical and digital in nature.
When a purpose arises (keynote/lecture/writing an article/post/thread/presentation at work), I take a look at the collection and categorise what I have. The gaps are evident at this point.
Now that all dots are in front of me, beautifully categorised, I spend time in connecting the dots by understanding the nuances. This is where knowledge becomes understanding.
Finally, I create new dots based on all the steps above.
All 4 stages happen in parallel. Each stage needs a different mindset and a skillset.
It is not enough if we just take notes. It is important to process the notes and turn it into an artefact till then it is just storage/waste.
That brings me to another dimension of note taking.
There are notes for processing and notes for later reference. Most notes (90%) is for processing. Once processed these notes can be discarded. Only the nuggets to be referred can become reference notes. Hoarding all notes is unnecessary.
It does feel good to hoard or put all links in a Notion page or one note and stash it all away. But that energy is waste anyways. I started treating waste like waste and not like gold (safely locked and kept).
This is how I developed my brain vault over years (aka zettlekasten) which keeps compounding and gets more useful as more notes get connected.
Tools are powerful. The question to ask is do you need them?
I have used every tool in this genre (Notion/roam research/Evernote/OneNote/Concepts/Muse and more). Honestly none of the tools stood the test of time for processing notes. Notion helps me in reference notes.
Collecting dots is different from connecting dots
When you take notes you are collecting dots but when you synthesise you are connecting dots. It need not be chapter by chapter. Dots can connect in many ways. The below synthesis is a best example. It has no reference to any chapters but each dot will make total sense to the listener.
Use this framework to rock your presentation story
Here are some micro lessons on storytelling
Here is a presentation master for reference
Constraints breed Creativity. The slides are made with a simple template. It has just black and white as colors. Sometimes highlight color is used. Just one typeface and that is all.
We have done some amazing presentations using this
If this is your first time, then script what you want to say and then just practice.
Your coach will help your presentation style so not to worry.
Just do it
On the D day, just do it. You will rock if you did all the steps above.
Consistency is hard and boring. With the help of tribe you can rise faster. A little nudge. A little pat. A little win. You go a long way.
If the above speaks to you, we do all of it in our Makers Club. It is free. Come join us. Belong and get better.
Join Club ↝