Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting the Most Out of Reading

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is someone I respect a great deal. I first met him at Catalyst 2009 during a Backstage Pass luncheon hosted by Hyatt and Thomas Nelson. He is a great blogger and speaker, and has some great thoughts on how to get the most out of reading. Here are a few of these; for the complete version, I highly recommend you follow the links and read his entire post.

How to Read a Non-Fiction Book
  • Don’t feel that you need to finish-read till you lose interest; most books aren’t worth finishing
  • Start with the author bio-understanding more about the author helps you understand the book
  • Read the table of contents-leaning is often best when placed in context
  • Quickly scan the whole book-giving the book a quick glance, especially at illustrations, charts, etc. will help you understand what is ahead
  • Highlight important passages-mark anything that resonates with you for later action
  • Take notes in the front or margins-the act of committing your thoughts and reactions to what you are reading will help you recall it later
  • Use a set of note-taking symbols-see below
  • Dog-ear pages you want to revisit-bookmark the really, really important passages
  • Review the book and transfer actions to your to-do list-scan the book when finished for the key symbols mentioned above
  • Share the book’s message-if the message in the book resonates with you enough to read it, then share it with others
Recovering the Lost Art of Note Taking
  • Note-taking enables you to stay engaged with the book
  • Note-taking provides a mechanism for capturing your ideas, questions, and actions
  • Use symbols so you can quickly scan your notes later
  • If an item is particularly important or insightful, mark it with a star
  • If an item requires further research or resolution, mark it with a question mark
  • If an item requires follow-up, mark it with an open square
  • If an item requires action by someone else, mark it with an open circle
  • Schedule time to review your notes
How to Retain More of What You Read

Hyatt has developed a system of summarizing his reading. He is currently using it not only in his personal reading but in a mentoring group he started early in 2010. The exercise he uses forces him to distill key insights from the book and then determine what he is going to do differently as a result.

The format of his summary consists of:
  • Bibliographic heading-title, author, date
  • Quick summary-one paragraph, distilling the essence of the book
  • Key insights-Selected highlights from the book, with page numbers for further reference
  • Personal application-two or three things you will do differently as a result of the book
  • Meaningful quotes-any author worth reading is going to say things in a way that is worth remembering for later use
The key to the actions described above is to distill the entire book into one page (two if you add the section on Meaningful Quotes.)

The discipline of keeping it short makes the content easier to remember, thus retaining more of what you read.

And therefore more useful to your life.

Isn’t that what non-fiction reading is all about?

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