How I Read a Book, in Three Simple Steps

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In this video, we are going to talk about how to get the most out of the 20, 30, 40, or 50 hours a year you spend reading articles or business books. It is a simple three-step process and parts of this are really important, but I have not met many people who actually do them.

The first step is always read a book with a pen or a pencil in hand. Circle the things that you love, put a star next to it, write little notes in the margins about how you think that could impact what you are doing. I’ll give you a quick example. In the book Influence, which I love, I had tabbed dozens of pages, and if you could see in here, you would see circles around things, stars, notes in the margins, underlining, everything I can do. When I get to step two, synthesizing what I have learned, I can go back and really quickly know what I was thinking about when I wrote that. I do not want to spend extra time searching for what was the point here or there. I want to go back and see that circle, look at the star and see the connection to my life or what I want to do differently very quickly.

So that was step one. Step two is to go back and look at those notes and generate to-dos. If you are not going to do anything with the business book, what is the point of reading it? At this step, we are going back to those circles and underlines and stars and notes to figure out what do we do in our life differently because now we know something different than we did before.

That leads us to step three, execution. I think a book you have read that you love but just goes back on its shelf is a shame. I want to think of what I am going to do differently because I have read this book. The first thing is just to-dos. Are there people that need to know something that I have learned? Somebody in our team, maybe our clients? Those are to-dos like I need to call Sue and tell her about this thing I learned.

Another thing that you might think about doing is tracking your own behaviors. Meaning, if you haveve learned something that you want to do differently in the future, you might track the number of hours you put forth to that new activity. You may choose to rate yourself on a one to five scale, how am I doing on this new thing that I have learned. Revisit it week after week until you have that new behavior established as a pattern, or what behavioral scientists call fluency. You can do it without thinking about it, and I found that rating of yourself on a one to five scale week after week can lead to the adoption of new behaviors.

The third thing you might think about in execution is having an accountability partner or accountability group. Is there someone else trying to learn or execute the thing you have learned? Can you pair with them and meet on a periodic basis and share data or stories or anything else to hold yourselves accountable so that you are doing the new thing. In my mind, that third step of actually executing on what you learned in the book is by far the most important one.

If you have taken your notes, if you have synthesized them and generated to-dos or new behaviors, and if you have a plan for execution, then I find that a business book is probably the best $20 you can spend in your life because you are able to change in a significant way for a very small investment of time and money.

I love using these three steps, so I hope you do too. As with all of our videos, we hope this one helps you help your clients succeed.