I do a lot of non-fiction reading mainly for self educational purposes. I'm interested in linking different fields together and developing a better understanding of how the mind works.
One of my big frustrations with reading is that often a lot of what you read just isn't useful. Also, I find that a lot of what I read I simply forget.
I was just wondering if any of you guys have some hacks for improving the probability that what you are reading will be useful.
Here are the thoughts that I've had so far.
1) Make sure you have a goal in mind before you start reading something. This helps to make the reading more targeted.
2) Skip the introduction. Usually they say nothing at all.
3) Limit the amount of time you spend dabbling in disperse fields. I have a tendency to read too broadly, and as a result I don't get a good understanding of anything. I think that in general it's good to read broadly, but it can certainly be a hindrance too.
Thanks for your thoughts. Given the amount of time I spend reading this is a big concern for me at the moment. I want to know how to maximize my efficiency.
Reading can be like a type of intellectual pornography, entertaining for the brain but not actually helping in ways that you think. I've been struggling with this myself, but some habits I'm trying to adopt:
- Write notes while reading. Chances are you'll forget most of what you read, but a 1-3 page summary of notes will last forever. Probably one of the only reasons I hate my Kindle actually is it's tough to write notes. Thinking of getting a tablet just for this.
- If you think the book was particularly good, write a review. Whether it's Amazon, to your friends, or just for yourself.
I also just skip entire paragraphs or chapters of books if I'm not interested or don't think it's relevant to me.
Read a summary instead. I've tried to read GTD twice and both times got bored midway through. Read the summary instead and using it now.
Audiobooks are great for dense books that can be extremely boring at times. If you have long commutes or travel a lot, it's also really great. Almost like adding twice as much reading time to your day.
I couldn't get through GTD either. It was just so boring and dry. I recently read Zen To Done and found it an easy read and simple enough to implement.
Thanks Peter, these are some great thoughts. I've been thinking along similar lines when it comes to using a table for writing notes. I just got a Nexus 7 from Google. My advice: don't get a table! The problem is that the typing is still very, very slow when compared to a laptop. My current solution is to just leave my laptop open whenever I'm reading and type my notes directly into evernote.
The idea of writing a review is a great thought. I think that anything you can do to turn yourself from a producer into a consumer is great.
To get rid of forgetting what you read and engaging in mental masturbation, I've started trying to condense each major part of the book into a 1-2 page summary of the key bits.
Then I summarize all those into a 1-2 page summery of the whole book.
This is awesomely useful because, not only can I come back and essentially re-read the book in 5 minutes, but I can share this with friends and mentors. It's a great gift because you're giving them knowledge you think they should have (like when you recommend they read a book), and you are also saving them hours of reading time.
Also, trying to stick to only books that high level mentors or a lot of your valuable friends have been recommending to you cut's down on how much low quality you have to sift through.
Whenever you learn something new and want to avoid that you forget it, you should put the knowledg into SRS-learning software like Anki ( http://ankisrs.net/ ).
Interesting topic. Here are some thoughts off the top of my head:
1. Read stuff that is contrary to your biases. I read a book about marriage (I won't ever be married), George W.'s biography (didn't think he was very good), a book about becoming a good Christian (I'm athiest). It's interesting to understand subjects you dislike.
2. Read every single day. I think reading is mostly a quantity game... you never really know what will be interesting/useful (of course, you try... but the more you read, the better chance you have)
3. If you're not getting anything out of the book, stop reading. I tortured myself for a week trying to read this really dense dull book about John D Rockefeller. Finally I admitted that I hated it and moved on.
I appreciate the thoughts Tynan. For some reason reading contrary to my biases is something I've never really done before, but it makes a lot of sense.
I'm very happy at the quality of the responses I've received from you and Peter. Further evidence that the discussion section is a good addition to the site!