Depth vs. Distraction – rediscovering the power of long-form reading


Has your attention span gotten shorter? I know mine has. The constant barrage of tweets, status updates, text messages, and bite-sized blurbs caters to a world that values immediacy over depth. This trend towards brevity, while convenient, has fostered a culture of superficial reading and fleeting focus. There’s a time and place for short-form reading, but not at the expense of longer works like books, novels, and essays.

Long-form reading is a necessary counterbalance to our impatience for oversimplified answers. It is a practice that not only fortifies our attention spans but also improves our cognitive abilities, deepens our understanding of complex subjects, and provides more enjoyment of fictional works. Recently, I’ve dusted off my Kindle e-reader and printed books in a deliberate effort to do more reading, like I did when I was younger.

Long-form reading can be a powerful tool for personal and professional growth, offering a much-needed reprieve from the shallowness of quick consumption. It allows good fictional stories to fully develop and non-fiction works to thoroughly explore a topic. Recently, I attended a business luncheon at the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, which featured some of our area’s finest writers and their books. Being around so many great local writers and leaders further validated my return to long-form reading.

Enjoying a book on my Kindle e-reader out at Sam's Lake Nature Area. Photo/Joe Domaleski
Enjoying a book by Professor Brian Cox on my Kindle e-reader out at Sam’s Lake Nature Area. Photo/Joe Domaleski

Here’s why I find long-form reading beneficial:

  1. Deepens Understanding and Knowledge – Long-form reading allows for a deeper dive into topics. This is crucial for understanding complex subjects, trends, and strategies. It’s not just about skimming the surface; it’s about truly comprehending the ins and outs of your industry, competitors, and market dynamics.
  2. Enhances Focus and Concentration – In a world filled with notifications and short-form content, our attention spans are shrinking. Dedicating time to long-form reading helps to rebuild that lost focus and concentration. This is vital for leaders who need to make well-considered decisions.
  3. Stimulates Creativity and Innovation – Reading a wide range of materials, including fiction, can spark creativity. It exposes you to different perspectives, ideas, and storytelling techniques that can inspire innovative thinking in your business practices and in your personal life.
  4. Improves Communication Skills – Long-form reading enhances vocabulary and comprehension, which in turn improves your communication skills. I love the Kindle’s ability to look up words and concepts as I’m reading. As a business owner, effective reading and communication are key to negotiations, sales, marketing, and team management.
  5. Offers a Break from the Digital World – Reading a physical book or even long-form content on an e-reader provides a necessary respite from screens. This break is not only good for your eyes but also for your mental health, offering a form of relaxation and stress relief.
  6. Keeps You Informed and Ahead of the Curve – In business, staying informed about the latest trends, case studies, and success stories is essential. Long-form content often provides detailed analyses that social media snippets simply cannot.
  7. Builds Empathy and Understanding – Reading about different cultures, experiences, and industries in long-form content helps build empathy. This is crucial for a small business owner, as it aids in understanding customers, employees, and business partners from diverse backgrounds. It’s difficult to convey nuanced ideas in short-form content.
  8. Promotes Continuous Learning and Personal Development – Long-form reading promotes continuous learning. As a business owner, the learning never stops. Books, in-depth articles, and case studies are invaluable for personal and professional growth. Not everything needs to be non-fiction. Reading fictional works helps to inspire creativity and expansive thought.

Consider adding long-form reading to your routine. In an era dominated by fleeting content, seek out opportunities for more depth and understanding. It stands as an antidote to the diminishing attention spans fostered by short-form media, offering a pathway to richer insights and sustained focus. For business owners like myself, this practice is invaluable. It equips me with the patience to delve into complex concepts, the wisdom to make well-informed decisions, and the creativity that stems from broad and deep knowledge.

By prioritizing depth over immediacy, long-form reading becomes a powerful tool, cultivating a mindset that values thoroughness and contemplation. In a world that often skims the surface, dedicating time to immersive reading is a commitment to going deeper. This holiday season is a perfect time to read a new book. Right now, I’m reading “Building a Second Brain” by Tiago Forte and “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin. What are you reading? Feel free to connect with me on Goodreads, and we can share book ideas.

[Joe Domaleski, a Fayette County resident for 25 years, is the owner of Country Fried Creative – an award-winning digital marketing agency located in Peachtree City. His company was the Fayette Chamber’s 2021 Small Business of the Year.  Joe is a husband, father of three grown children, and proud Army veteran.  He has an MBA from Georgia State University and enjoys sharing his perspectives drawing from thirty years of business leadership experience. Sign up for the Country Fried Creative newsletter to get marketing and business articles directly in your inbox. ]