Virtually every client I've ever had in four decades has asked the question, "What should I do with all this reading?" As we often say about all aspects of getting organized, "Progress starts with the truth," and that means no matter how many speed reading courses you take, you'll probably never be able to read everything you need or want to!

Having said that, one of the best investments I ever made was an online speedreading course from Rev It Up Reading designed by my long-time friend and colleague and best-selling author, Abby Marks Beale! The course was short, fun, and highly productive! (Here's a link to an interview we did with her I know you will find helpful.)

I am an avid reader of books -- I usually have three to four going at one time, some paper and some audio. In a previous post, I discussed what to do when you have more books than you can handle. In this post, I want to focus on non-book reading, because I've observed that those "to read" piles generate buckets of guilt -- and missed opportunities.

Here are some techniques I find helpful:

Save the articles, not the entire publication. Instead of just putting a magazine or periodical on a pile, glance at the Table of Contents, and tear out the articles you want to read.

Unsubscribe from anything you don't read. Sounds logical, but I've never forgotten a situation in a company where there was a small room holding all the publications to which they subscribed. They were circulated in the office (and often passed on with guilt!), and an employee spent time organizing them. I created a checklist to pass among the employees (anonymously) with a request to mark the ones they wanted to keep. Out of a list of 30+, only four had checkmarks!

Implement "Just in Time Reading." If you invest in reading an article that doesn't apply to anything you are doing at the moment, you may forget what you read. Instead, put the article in a reference file (Productive Environment Institute recommends a "Finding SYSTEM™" where you can be sure to find it when you need it!)

Sort your reading according to where you will read it. Here are my categories:

Inspirational material goes in a container near my bathtub, where I read for 20-30 minutes almost every night.
Articles or documents I need to read go in a folder in my business handbag because I'm motivated to get them out of my bag, so it doesn't get too heavy!
Business education articles go in a tray on my desk. Whenever I take a trip, they go in a folder to take with me. (When the tray is full, it's time to read -- or toss!)
Catalogs go beside the chair where I watch TV with my husband when he's watching something which is of no interest to me!

Delegate reading. Often you can improve your productivity and provide employee education by delegating articles related to projects in which your organization is involved. Ask a team member to read and share what they learned or concluded that could be helpful to your project.

Consider the "Cost Factor." You can keep everything you want if you are willing to pay the price: time, space, money, and energy. Only you can decide.

Like everything in our lives, research shows we only use 20% of what we keep. The same is true of reading -- and I'm convinced that's a highly conservative guess! So when it comes to reading, keep asking The Art of Wastebasketry® question: "What's the worst possible thing that would happen if I didn't read this?" If you can live with your answer, recycle it and work happily ever after!

If you are overwhelmed with reading materials or any other piles in your home or office I can help. Our goal is to help you create a Productive Environment™, an intentional setting where you can accomplish your work and enjoy your life. Join us for our next Tame Your Paper Tiger Online Workshop - Check the registration link for the date and time. We'd love to help you develop a plan you can implement and sustain!

Author's Bio: 

In 1978, Barbara took out a $7 ad in a New York City newspaper to advertise her professional organizer business. For 20 years, she focused her business on organizing paper and physical clutter for home offices and organizations. Then the Internet Age came about, and she utilized her principles and expertise to help clients with digital clutter.

Over the past 40+ years Barbara has helped 1000's of companies, and became an icon and top expert in the industry. She has been featured on national media platforms such as Good Morning America, The Today Show and CNN Nightly News. She has also been showcased in publications including USA Today, New York Times, Fast Company, Reader’s Digest, Real Simple and Guideposts.

Barbara and her team teach business owners a 9-step system to go from overwhelmed to optimized. Step 1 is a free Assessment that can be found at