How to Stay Sharp and Effective in 2020

This week the blog is sponsored by AccelerateBooks.com. Used by 3000+ leaders, AccelerateBooks is a book summary tool that gives access to key insights so busy leaders can stay sharp and effective. For a limited time, they are offering 250 Lifetime Memberships, available for a one-time purchase. Afterward, memberships will return to the regular subscription pricing.

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You’re probably too busy to read this.

You probably have 5 other browser tabs currently open, a lineup of articles bookmarked for later, and a growing stack of books you’ll read “one day”.

You probably have a to-do list of all the other tasks you should be doing right now.

And that’s precisely why you should read this article.

How Many Books Should Leaders Read?

You likely opened this article because, as a leader, you already know how important reading is; you already know how essential continued learning is for staying sharp and effective.

As Albert Mohler, president of SBTS, says:

There is no substitute for effective learning when it comes to developing and maintaining the intelligence necessary to lead.

Your brain is a powerful tool that must be sharpened and stewarded, otherwise, it will waste away.

And while you’re well aware of this, too often the urgent demands of life and ministry keep your hands tied and your books untouched. But your inner critic reprimands you: wake up earlier, skip breakfast, drink more caffeine, read faster!

You feel guilty when others seem to read more than you; you’re both inspired and devastated when you consider that:

  • Timothy Keller reads 3 books a week
  • Charles Spurgeon read 6 books a week
  • D. A. Carson reads 9 books a week
  • Albert Mohler reads 7-10 books a week
  • (sources below)

At this point, you’re likely either inspired to try harder, set more ambitious goals, and eventually succumb to burnout. Or you’re left to wonder if it’s even possible to develop a sustainable habit of learning.

It is possible.

What if effective learning is not measured by how many books you read, but by how effectively you read?

In fact, with the right mindset and the right tools, it’s possible to learn more effectively in a single year than most do in a lifetime.

In this article, you’ll discover the two principles needed to cultivate the right mindset and you’ll discover a tool that can change your life and ministry forever. (And there’s a free gift at the end you don’t want to miss!)

The Insight Principle

The Insight Principle states that the goal for reading is not reading for its’ own sake, but acquiring insight.

When you fall into the trap of equating reading with learning, you hinder your growth; when you prize ingesting information more than internalizing insight, you do yourself a disservice.

It is possible to read many books but learn very little.

In fact, the truth is that “books don’t change people”, says John Piper. “Paragraphs change people and sometimes sentences. They may lodge themselves so powerfully in our mind that its effect is enormous when all else is forgotten.”

In other words, books don’t change people. Insights do.

Therefore, the goal of reading a book is never merely to finish it but to identify, chew on, and absorb its’ life-shaping insights. If a book is not providing any insights that are helpful or stirring, it’s better to put it aside and invest your time elsewhere.

The 20% Principle

The second principle effective leaders must grasp is the 20% principle, also known as the Pareto principle or 80/20 rule.

Effective leaders recognize that not all books are created equal. With thousands of Christian books being published each year, you must exercise discernment and guard your time. Not only must you be wise in deciding which books you will read, but you also which books you won’t — this will mean deliberately avoid good books, in order to make time for great books.

According to the 20% Principle, only 20% of the good books you come across will be worth your time given your particular calling and season in life.

Furthermore, the 20% Principle suggests that even within an individual book, only 20% of its’ pages hold the key insights, while the remaining 80% of the pages serve to illustrate and strengthen the author’s arguments.

As David Mathis states: “80% of a book’s main insights are found in 20% of the pages. So without apology, I ransack books for what I can get in the little time I have in this season of life.”

The Solution? The Book Brief Method

In light of these two principles, many leaders have discovered the advantage and effectiveness of using the Book Brief method for grasping, retaining, and implementing insights.

Book Briefs are strategic summaries designed to identify the key insights of a book, supported by key quotes and crystallized by reflection questions.


As illustrated above, the Book Brief method requires you to be incredibly intentional with your reading, keeping you focused on both identifying and applying the insights.

While you can absolutely use this method and create Book Briefs on your own, more than 3000 leaders currently use AccelerateBooks to access an entire library of existing Book Briefs, with 8 new Book Briefs added each month. Essentially, AccelerateBooks is an arsenal of Book Briefs, giving busy leaders (like you) access to important insights so you can stay sharp and effective in 2020. (You can download a free Book Brief at the end of this article!)
AccelerateBooks enables you to:

  • Save Money by stewarding your finances more wisely with informed book-buying choices
  • Stay Informed and dialed-in to ideas that are shaping the Church and culture
  • Read Widely through weekly exposure to different perspectives
  • Retain Insights with an accessible library of Book Briefs to reference
  • … and much more!

Here’s what some Accelerate members have to say:

250 Lifetime Memberships

For a very limited-time, AccelerateBooks is offering 250 Lifetime Memberships at a one-time purchase. This offer is available at AccelerateBooks.com/challies. Afterward, the spots are filled, memberships will return to the regular subscription pricing offered both monthly and annually.

With Accelerate being a relatively new ministry (est. Aug. 2018), we’ve been blessed to witness first-hand what God has done and is still doing for leaders, pastors, and churches worldwide. However, there are still so many things we have planned for Accelerate that we are working hard to create.

That’s why, to kick off this next chapter, we’ve decided to offer 250 Lifetime Memberships.

By becoming a Lifetime Member, you’ll secure unlimited access to our growing library of Book Briefs for life. All funds that are raised from Accelerate Lifetime membership will be used to continue to build AccelerateBooks so we can better serve you and the rest of the 3000+ leaders, pastors, teams, and churches that use AccelerateBooks to stay sharp and effective for ministry. And we’d love for you to join us on our journey!

Sign up for one of the 250 Lifetime Memberships at AccelerateBooks.com/challies.

P.S. – If you’re not quite convinced about the Book Brief method, feel free to check it out yourself with a Free Book Brief Download of Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges.

P.P.S. – Check out this video to see how AccelerateBooks works!

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