What a brilliant question and one that says a lot about the person asking it. If you’re going to invest in reading (or listening to audio books), you should expect a return on the investment of your precious time.
It can be tempting to lazily scan through books or speed read with minimal absorption. But unless you’re reading the latest mystery novel as a way to unplug, then you’re better off reading productively and purposefully.
Here are my keys to keep you reading productively:
- Know why you go. Whether you picked it up at a bookstore (those still exist, right?) or a mentor sent you the Kindle version as a gift, scan the summary and back cover and decide: What’s in it for me? I usually write a desired outcome before I start reading a nonfiction book. Here’s a recent outcome I wrote: “Read The Synergist and deepened my understanding of leadership styles and helping teams grow productively.”
- Information vs. Transformation, know the difference. All the information in the world won’t get you where you want to go. It is only when you actively transform yourself that your investment pays off. Coach Steve Chandler has a wonderful audio on how to use transformational education, rather than stock-piling useless information.
- See yourself in the picture. Find aspects of the book you can relate to. Even if the author isn’t someone you personally relate to, the best writers weave in a variety of stories. Take those stories as opportunities to look in the mirror. How are you like that person? When do you behave similarly?
- Give yourself time to integrate. While it might boost your ego to whip through 2 books a week, I guarantee your journey will be more fruitful when you slow down. Pause for a day between chapters. Do the exercises at the end of the chapter and re-read the chapter summary. Then relax and take a breather. Your unconscious mind is doing some of its best work while you “ignore” the subject matter.
- Become an amateur psychologist. If you’re reading books on productivity, human performance or business/financial success, put on your psychologist hat and start watching the world around you. How do you see these principles playing out amongst your friends, family, colleagues? Do you? You have countless opportunities to test out what you read through observation.
- Have a conversation. Take your book out to dinner. Have a salon evening with your partner or friends and talk about your creative projects. Talk about what you’re reading and how it’s changing the way you see life. Give generously of the knowledge you’re accumulating, and you’ll find that it transforms in the act of sharing. Think of the late 90′s movie Pleasantville when the characters start turning from black and white to color. That’s the moment when we take information and turn it into a conversation, a two-way dance.
- Get personal. So now that you’ve taken it out into the world, take it inside. Write in your journal – in a place of the utmost privacy and safety – what does this mean for you?
- What did you learn about yourself?
- How will you apply this information so it becomes transformation?
- What’s currently holding you back?
- What support do you need to unleash what you’ve learned?
Above all, have fun and enjoy all the ways a good book can stretch your mind and heart. On that note, I wish you a very joyful and productive week ahead.
P.S. If your bookshelf needs a refresh, check out my new and improved Recommended Reading page for ideas.