Maybe you are a voracious reader. Maybe reading has never been your favorite thing (though if that is the case, you’re probably not reading this!) Either way – whether you read a book a week or struggle to finish one a year – it would be helpful to gain more value from the time you do spend reading.
First, recognize that I’m not talking about reading novels or the classics. Reading those is purely for pleasure, and, for the most part, the suggestions below don’t apply.
But if you are reading to learn something and to make your life better in some way – to improve your professional results, lower your weight, or learn a hobby – these suggestions will make a real difference in the enjoyment and benefits you gain from reading.
Have a goal. When you pick up any nonfiction book you should know why you are going to dive into it. Maybe you are trying to broaden your knowledge, or improve in a very specific way, or solve a problem? You could have a wide variety of reasons for reading something – any any of them are valid. The key is having a goal and recognizing it. Once you set in your mind your purpose for reading, your subconscious mind will help you reach that goal. Keeping a clear goal will keep you from getting lost in a section or spending too much mental energy on the writing style, etc. Give yourself a clear picture of success and consider the book as a tool to reaching that success.
Do a scan. Once you know what you want to get from the book, spend a few minutes looking it over. Read the table of contents. Flip through the sections. Allow your mind to notice the sections or parts that seem to best help you reach your goal. Perhaps you’ll determine that the whole book isn’t ever relevant to your goal. Which leads me to the next point…
Read only what you need. If you’re like me, you grew up with the idea that once you start a book, you finish it. But guess what; sometimes one chapter is all you need. Sometimes the book loses steam and become repetitive after the first few chapters. Sometimes the writing doesn’t speak to you. If you aren’t enjoying it, or benefiting from it, stop reading it. You will become a more effective and efficient reader when you stop feeling the need to finish every book to the last page.
Be active. Reading, like learning, is an active process. And since in this context you are reading to learn, you will gain more by being an active participant in the book. Keep a journal with you. Write in the margins. Use a highlighter. Unless the book belongs to a friend or the library (and if you are reading for learning, I suggest you really do need your own copy) you should feel free to write in it! Ask yourself questions. Agree or disagree with a point. Jot down your own examples to support an idea. In short, when you become actively engaged with the book, you will glean more from it.
Make it yours. Until you begin to own the material and ideas, they still belong to the author. You must own the learning. The best ways to do that are to write about and/or talk about the ideas, concepts, lessons and examples. This may be as simple as sharing parts of what you read with a friend or colleague. It might be writing about it in your journal for private consumption only, or writing about it on a blog to share with the world. If you are sharing it with others, not only do you benefit, but so do they! But even if you are simply taking notes and writing your ideas on a scrap of paper that gets lost, the act of writing is an act of synthesis and learning.
Try it. Remember, the book is a tool to help you reach a goal. Once the book has aided you in that journey, you must take the most important step. You must take action! Try what you read. Apply it in some way. That could mean using that new technique, starting on the prescribed diet or buying the necessary items for the new hobby. To get the ultimate value from the book, you must write your own chapters with your actions.
These are all actions that I take as a reader. They have made a difference in my life and in my results. They can make a difference for you as well. Regardless of what, how much or how often you read try these suggestions and you will be pleased with the results.
Potential Pointer: Reading is an important life skill. No matter how often you read, you need strategies to gain the most from your reading experience. You must have a goal for your reading and engage yourself with the book to maximize the benefit you gain from the time spent reading.