I love reading. I read every morning, I listen to audio books in my car and check a few blogs at work. The trap I fall into is reading these fantastic, life changing books only to set them down and move onto to the next one. What good is it to read Think and Grow Rich if you aren’t integrating the concepts into your life? Knowledge alone will do nothing for your success. We need to read less and act more.
Why I Read
I read almost exclusively for the sake a gaining practical knowledge. Crazy, possibly sad fact, is I have never read a fiction book. It isn’t that I’m totally opposed to reading for entertainment, I just personally read slowly and I find watching movies to be more entertaining. I will listen to audio books that I would classify as interesting knowledge. Such as a book on basic economics, a book about the power of the brain or a lecture on the history of World War II.
However, the actual books that I sit down and read in the morning are almost all self-help type books. Or personal development as they now call them. These are the books that are spelling out to you how to be more productive, get in better shape, build better habits, use your time more efficiently, etc. So when I say “we need to read less and act more”, I’m talking about these books. The real game changers.
Change Your Mindset About Reading
When we are reading for the purpose of improving our lives we need to change the way we view the task. As humans, we enjoy completing our tasks. It feels good to mark items off the to-do list. So when we set a goal to read 20 books we are viewing the task as finish the book. We need to view the task as learn the book and more importantly figure out how to apply the book.
Start viewing these books more as textbooks instead of novels. If you were trying to learn calculus you wouldn’t just sit down and read the textbook for an hour and call it a day. You would slowly go through each chapter individually, taking notes, rereading sections, reviewing the examples and working the homework problems at the end.
I am just as guilty as anyone of wanting to read the latest greatest and it is an easy trap to fall into. There are always going to be hundreds of new books coming out every year about how to change your life. Not that there is anything wrong with new books as lots of them are fantastic. The problem is we have a dozen fantastic books sitting on our shelf that we have yet to integrate into our lives.
How to Get More Out of Books
First, you need to make sure the book is worth the dedicated effort. The easiest thing is to pick a great book that you already own but have never spent the necessary time with. For new books, I will qualify them by listening to the audio version of the book. If this isn’t an option, you can skim through the book in a weekend and get a feel for it. Once you get your book that you know is worth your time try the below steps.
- Read with a purpose. Before you pick up the book, imagine that you will be asked to do a lecture on all the information you just read. If you had to do a presentation for your boss and explain the chapter you are about to read I bet you would be more serious.
- Highlight or underline as you go. I like to underline sentences and quotes as I go. It kind of acts as a cue to my brain to be on the hunt for important stuff. It also assists with the other steps. However, please hold back on this step if you don’t own the book and are at the library or borrowing.
- Create your own action list. A lot of books come with a summary section at the end of every chapter with action items. These are great but I find it even more beneficial if I create my own list as I go. It becomes more personal when you pick out the items and put them in your words.
- Write chapter summaries. I like to jot down a few bullet points about each chapter. This allows me to easily review the book again and bring stuff back to the front of my mind. You are kind of creating your own cliff notes version of the book. Once I get to the end of the book I might write a paragraph or two summary. Or a quick blog post.
- Tackle your list. The most important part is the doing. Start implementing your action items from step 3. Every week try to pick out 1 or 2 things from each chapter that you could implement. This is where you can really change your life. Perhaps, you start working out, you break a bad habit, you talk to your boss about a raise, you start setting goals, or anything.
- Read it again. Once you find a killer book that is full of life changing information don’t be afraid to read it multiple times. I am always amazed when I go back and read some of these books by how much I get out of them the second and third time. I think that as we improve ourselves, different parts of the book will speak to you.
My Challenge To You (And Me)
Pick out one of your favorite personal development books and implement the steps above. Instead of zipping through the book, spend of few weeks on it. I am planning to reread either Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy or an old classic Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. If we fully integrate one book into our lives we are better off than if we simply read all the others.
Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret. – Jim Rohn
Any tips that I left out that help you when reading? What is your number one personal development book?