Focus on books which can help you grow, says Cosmos and Avalon Waterways chief executive Giles Hawke

Let’s start with the fairly safe assumption that we are all busy and have limited time to do frivolous things outside of work, family life, activities and commuting.

Everyone I speak to seems to be rushed off their feet, short of time and often a bit stressed. So suggesting that you sit down with a good book might seem unrealistic and even a bit decadent.

But how about seeing reading as a way to become better at your job, and maybe better at your life? How about ignoring the latest bestselling murder mystery or romance novel and instead spending some time finding out what makes successful people tick, learning the seven habits of highly effective people, or working on interpersonal skills and relationships?

Some people might view that as all a bit new age. Fine, carry on with your denial that we can all learn something, all be better versions of ourselves and all create the time for things that are important.

Page turner

My eldest son recently lent me The Fear Bubble, the latest book by Ant Middleton. Famous for his SAS programme on TV, he was a guest speaker at last year’s Advantage Conference. It was a great read, with life stories interspersed with the author’s philosophy about how to overcome the fear of doing new things. There were some interesting points around victimhood and owning our lives and actions.

I’ve also recently read Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. It’s a cracking read that challenges what you may think about strategy and how to create and pursue one.

And in the sporting sphere, I found Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run really inspiring.

I don’t often make time to read and improve myself, but with the limited spare time I make to do this – often five minutes between getting into bed and falling asleep with my book on my face – I try to read books which might help make me a better version of myself. True, I might read four or five pages and then need to read two of them again the next night. But gradually I can plough through a book and get something out of it – and they are as equally gripping as any crime thriller.

New chapter

One of the most inspiring reads of the last couple of years has been Clive Woodward’s Winning.

Whether you like rugby or not, and whether you support England or not, this is a fantastic book about management. It is all about creating the optimum conditions for success and minimising issues caused by leaving things to chance. Making sure people have the right tools for the job; removing unnecessary distractions; and preparing for things not to go how you planned – these are all key takeaways I have tried to adopt since reading it.

So if you were to change one thing this year, I would suggest you start making the time to read and focus on books which can help you grow and become the best version of yourself that you can be – including at work.

I’d be happy to share a reading list that has inspired me, and would love recommendations on books I’ve not yet got to.