Category: Weekly Challenge


One day before the new year, I placed a $600 order of books at Barnes and Noble, after almost deciding to drop out of college last month and opting to take a leave of absence instead. Here’s the proof:

The Plan: I will attempt to burn through 1 book a day.

Why: In pursuit of starting my new business with “more confidence than an MBA”, I placed a $600 order of business-related books from Barnes and Noble. I selected the books from www.personalMBA.com, a community started by Josh Kaufman, who asserts that a full education in business may not require/call for/justify forking over the $250,000 typical for completing an MBA program. Even less useful is a bachelor’s in Biology, which I have chosen to pursue, mainly because it entails the lowest number of “major requirement” classes.

Rather, it may be as (relatively) cheap as reading these 77 books on business concepts such as marketing, productivity, leadership, and creativity. After careful inspection, it’s clear that not all of the books apply to each person’s interests. For example, books in the “Corporate Skills” category will be of little use for an aspiring entrepreneur like myself, while books under “Creativity and Innovation” will provide valuable insights on brainstorming novel business ideas.

Of the 77 books on PMBA, listed below are the 35 that (1) I have not already read and (2) directly address the particular areas that are my blindspots.

Here’s the catch: There’s no use sitting around for years reading books without applying the ideas.

So, I am setting a time limit of 50 days to spark through the learning phase. This means I have time for one book a day on weekdays, and free days on weekends in case I suffer through a few verbose authors or bad reading days. That’s 5 books per week.

As with my previous experiments, I anticipate some objections:
Isn’t one book a day too fast for you to absorb all the concepts in such high quality books?
Sure, but that’s not the point. Hopefully, after reading these books, I will have the confidence of knowing basic principles that form a solid foundation for my journey in the entreprenurial world. I may not remember the details, but I will know where to find them in my book collection when the time comes to refresh on, say, that website appication that does business expense tracking.

If all goes to plan…I shall read through each of these books and, to make it an even bigger ambition, I will also try to outline the key take-away points and write a review for each book. Time to watch Janet spectacularly crash and burn in “another one of her experiments, like that poly-something sleep stunt“, which is going quite successfully this time around, thank you very much.

This’ll be interesting.

1) Snag a copy of your school’s course catalog.

Depending on your school, course catalogs may be a) purchased at the campus bookstore, b) ordered online and shipped, and/or c) viewed online.

Since you’ll be making all sorts of circles, highlights, X’s, and other enthusiastic demarcations, I recommend using your roommate’s hard copy rather than your laptop screen.

2) Mark all of the classes that you want to take, ranging from “definitely!” to “maybe.”

If you have a general idea of which areas you like, start with those departments first.

A second option: If you have absolutely no idea as to which topics would interest you, then I highly encourage taking the time to read through the courses of every single academic department.

“Every single one!?” you say? By now you would have suddenly “remembered” your long-lost interest in Philosophy, Anthropology, or Geology, in hopes of avoiding the tedious process of taking the second option.

But, I was only half-joking. However much time it takes, a working familiarity with the classes-a-plenty available at your school will help during a mid-college crisis. It WILL happen. More about that here___.

3) Choose your potential majors.

There is a purpose for taking this step after, and not before, picking out the classes that interest you. Having already marked your potential classes in the catalog, it will now be easier to narrow down your school’s 500 majors to just a handful. So impressive that you’ll want to tell your friends.

You always want your major to fit the *specific* courses of your choice, not the other way around.

This is not, not not, the same thing as having your major fit your *general area* interests. A major that sounds appealing at first may require taking several undesirable classes. We don’t want to fall into the trap of conforming to a major program that doesn’t fit in the first place. More on choosing your major here___.

4) List the required courses for each potential major.

*Details to come…

“What is measured is managed.” Keep a log.

Dedicate a small notebook that can be carried with you anytime you may do reading, test review, or any other schoolwork outside of class.  Track entries of any and all work done daily, and tally up the hours at the end of each week.

Aim to lower your weekly total by 30-60 minutes every week. You can also indicate the class for which the work is being done, so you can look back later and see where most of your time is being spent (or wasted).

Here is an example entry from my log:

WEEK 2: 1/12 – 1/18/09 (5 hrs total)

Mon–45 min DISEASE ch 13 skim

Wed–60 min ENV STU wk1-2 make review questions

Thu–15 min BIOLOGY ch 22 skim

Fri–30  min DISEASE ch13 skim

Fri–45 min DISEASE ch 9 make review questions

Sun–30 min ENV STU ch1-3 skim

Sun–30 min EVOLUT wk1-2 handouts skim

The key to making this effective is to approach work with the mindset of “how can I get this done quickly?” instead of trying to act busy for as long as possible without making progress.

When your focus is on going in for the kill, you will no longer be stuck beating around the bush of procrastination.

As simple as this change in attitude may be, you can drastically reduce your work time by keeping a record of the time you spend on assignments.