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The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. - Mark Twain (attributed)
How many books are on your shelf collecting dust?
As a coach, educator and self professed life-long learner, I believe that books are one of the very best bargains around – with years of experience and best practice crammed into a $20 package.
However, that doesn’t mean you should read indiscriminately. A book may only cost you $20.00, but the cost of your time to read it may be significantly higher. If your time is worth $100+ dollars per hour, then reading a book must be worth thousands of dollars to make it worthwhile
Here are four suggestions to make the most of the current books on your bookshelf, and, the future books you plan to read:
- Choose the Right Books
By choosing books which are aligned with your professional and personal goals, you will be feeding your mind great thoughts that will fill you with the knowledge for greater achievement.
“The only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.” - E.M. Forster
- Underline or Highlight Key Points
Look for points that hit the mark with your specific interest or needs. This lets you filter through the different messages so you can narrow your focus to ideas that will be useful to you.
From Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, I took these key points:
- Autonomy – having the ability to influence our world
- Mastery – continuing to grow, evolve and learn
- Purpose – the importance of meaningful work and contributing to our world
- Put the Book Away – Then Review
Once you’ve finished reading, put the book away for at least a week and then go back over the items which you’ve underlined and place an asterisk (*) or other symbol next to the top ideas for future follow up.
Once a week has passed, review all the * items and then create a list of follow up actions you will take to execute on these ideas. There’s no point capturing these valuable ideas if you don’t have a follow up action plan. Capturing these valuable ideas without a follow up action plan is worthless.
Good action items involve the development of a specific project, with an end goal in mind – for instance, “become healthier and fitter.”
Your goal should:
- Be specific (e.g. “lose weight”)
- Be measurable (e.g. “lose 10 lbs”)
- Have a time frame (e.g. “lose 10lbs by summer vacation”)
- Open Up Your Calendar
Put these new, actionable items into your calendar. Make sure that you block out sufficient time to complete these priorities.
It takes time to establish a new behavior: you need to engage with it consistently until you’ve created a habit. Remember that it’s better to do a few things well than to do many things badly: if you were digging oil wells, you’d want to have a few deep ones rather than lots of shallow ones.
Look for actions which you can repeat on a daily or weekly basis. For daily actions, you might want to create an easy way to record your progress – e.g. by using a food log to monitor your portion sizes and your fruit and veg intake.