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“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” – Mortimer J. Adler

Do you read or skim?

Sure, skimming helps, only if you are planning to clear an exam with a grace. Right?

Reading, on the other hand, pertains to specifically being attentive to the written words. 

You may read (skim) books to pamper your ego that’s on the path to personal growth or some learning, but you won’t be able to make far with the strategy. 

While we are at it, we repeatedly learn about the top performers or most influential people and their primary trait; Reading books. If you are on a mission to read and read a lot, just read. People read 50 books a year or a few geniuses, even book a day. It all trickles down to the effort you are willing to put into this. 

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

However, and I say this with absolute certainty, it isn’t about how many books you have read, but how well did you read those books.

Sadly, we read in an unproductive way, while being ignorant about it. Retaining only the essence while being oblivious to valuable lessons is a recipe for disaster. Focusing on the numbers rather than the real-time knowledge and execution is bound to fail and leave you crippled.

Not retaining critical lessons equals wasting time and energy the book consumed. You would rather watch some series on Netflix hogging on popcorn.

Catastrophe, isn’t it? Why read when there is nothing to apply?

Leaving the antics and wisdom behind, let’s check out the tips that can considerably improve your overall book reading experience with maximum gains.

Don’t skim on me now. Read to know it.

The Purpose: Why you read what you read?

Do you have a definite purpose in mind while picking up a new book? Any goal, learning, or the key takeaways you plan to extract out of the book. If not, save yourself the pain of reading, and give your eyes a break. Let me set the context here: If you are reading fiction, you are in it for the sheer fun of fantasy and imaginative narratives. You know it didn’t happen, yet you suck on it. 

The idea is to give yourself a break from the monotony of regular life and events and delve into something where you can run your imagination free.

Back to it, know why do you read, what you read, and retention won’t be a problem.

Clear purpose sets your mind straight onto the goal. It’s like reading someone’s autobiography. There is a definite idea behind it, and that’s to know about someone’s life. 

Give your mind a reason for reading what you read, and you make things easy.

Notes: Yes, take notes of everything valuable

Now that you know your reading intent: take notes of the valuable sentences and paragraphs. What this does is triggers your brain to the critical information. You are probably reading a book consisting of more than fifty thousand words. To keep track of what is vital is a fair practice.

Do not just rush through the book as if you need to take off for something else. You could as well be watching Netflix if the only task is to finish the book. Don’t bother- the book doesn’t.

Try highlighting sentences and paragraphs that are important, or lines that are stuck with you. Any quote that you find worth your while. Write down things you resonate with and the message conveyed by the author.

Moreover, write sentences in your own words to grasp the exact meaning and a firm grip on the recitation. Self-written tend to stick better than printed literature. 

Since the world also reads e-books these days, make sure you take notes on a word pad, google docs, or anything that you can access later to go through.

One chapter at a time: Break it down

Once you read a chapter, don’t just instantly rush to the following one or put the book away. Instead, take a few minutes to recap (in your head) what you just read.

Imagine yourself in the situation as described in the book. It is a powerful exercise aligning you with the lesson you just read. It ensures you process the information much more productively. 

Give your head some time to process everything. Do not pick up any other activity, you won’t likely remember a lot about what you read. Take a few minutes to theorize the learnings acquired. Imagine different scenarios where this can be applied. 

Do this as a practice, and you are good to go.

Synopsis: Write one

You have the notes, highlighted texts, and quotes. What else?

Follow the practice of writing a synopsis with the gathered material, in addition to your comprehension of the reading. Once you summarize the book in your own words, you can easily link to the situations and learnings and resonate better with it. 

It gives you a handy guide that can be accessed anytime without looking into the book that may or may not be available with you 24*7. It acts as your mini-book that acts as a reference as and when required. 

This approach is beneficial in the long run, although you might debate the time-consuming part here. I’d say you are better off putting an extra 30 minutes while you are at it. It ensures the proper download of the lessons in addition to creating a ready referencer.

Execution: Action on your read

You read a thick book, and you are all excited to change the world kinda attitude. And then the fizz goes off. Days pass by, and you are- well, just you again. The world did change, but without you being party to it.

The trick is to apply and execute the learnings from the book you just read. Consumption was the first step, complement it with action.

I have been guilty of reading various books, only to ensure they got added to my read kitty. When it came to implementation, either I was too scared or too lazy to act. 

Imagine writing 2000 words long blog only to hear someone telling you they finished it reading in 20 seconds. What kind of action do you expect in this scenario?

It is critical to appreciate the pain author took to curate the book. More importantly, think of this as a bargain. Some good fellow did the hard part. You have the wisdom and the pointers for your perusal. 

Even if this is too much of an asking, ask yourself, what journey are you treading on.

Do this now

Pick up any book you intend to read, execute the mentioned tips, and watch the difference. 

Practically speaking, you are committing hours to a read, why not a few more minutes to help get aligned with the teachings.

Important that you make your read complete or else the purpose gets lost, while there would be numbers to show, sadly nonexistent value.

Since you didn’t take notes, here is the summary:

  • The Purpose: Why you read what you read?
  • Notes: Yes, take notes of everything valuable
  • One Chapter at a time: Break it down
  • Synopsis: Write one
  • Execution: Action on your read

“Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.” – Louis L’Amour

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