STOP WASTING TIME READING BUSINESS BOOKS

In 1999 I was a sophomore at San Diego State University and decided alongside one of my best friends Todd that we would become Political Science Majors and Sociology Minors. Both of these were not impacted, we could get any class we wanted and so from the second semester of that year all the way through senior year we took every class but 3 together. Now besides having one of your best mates in all your classes we discovered quite a few other benefits that we had not planned on.

First off we decided to split the cost on all of our books, not sure how much we saved over three years but it was definitely enough to help aid our weekly surf trips to Mexico and our backyard halfpipe. Secondly, since we lived in the same house we had a study partner built in avoiding the awkward library meet up with people who always turned out to be too weird, or too bossy or too quiet. Thirdly, we had someone to alternate with in going to class and taking notes when the surf was really pumping.

It was in one such week, where I discovered a valuable lesson in time management and retention. Surf was overhead and glassy. I convinced Todd to go to class and take notes and we would trade the next day. That night as all our roommates were crammed around the couch watching PIMP my Ride (google it for all the 20 somethings reading out there #exhibit) Todd handed me the text book from the class he attended that day. He said something to the effect of, “I highlighted only the things you would actually need to know, so you should just read the highlights.” I didn’t think much of it, but as the semester went on Todd and I often traded who would read the text book and highlight the important parts and who would just read the highlights. I get that sounds sort of like cheating the system in some way, but for anyone who has attended college unfortunately there is so much content thrown at you, much of it, at least in my opinion overkill. I found out a way to make sure to remember the important stuff and came out with some pretty good grades.

Unfortunately, for me the downside was that some of the content that I skipped was important to set up the crucial parts. It would be like watching the 5 best scenes of a movie. They are great scenes and can be enjoyed, but without the context, or the struggle, or the circumstance they are not as powerful when viewed. This came to life as I began my first sales job and realized that I didn’t quite know what I was doing. I went to Barnes & Nobles and picked up a few sales rep books. As I was going through I was less than captivated but found a few nuggets that helped me in some way or form. A year into my job I received a promotion and moved my stuff into a little shared office space. I found a box with the sales books I had read the year before and put them up on the shelf. I remembered the covers and maaaaaaybe one or two main concepts from the books, but that’s it.

“That was the kindling that would start a new life hack years later I created to make sure I never waste time reading growth books again!”

At that moment looking at the books on the shelf, I had a split second thought that went, “Well…those were somewhat of a waste of time.” The reality was that in the moment they were a decent read but, the benefit only lasted in that moment. If there was no major call to action in the book but just some really great nuggets unfortunately to me the book became a WASTE OF TIME. So as time has gone on I have grown a lot in many different ways, but in one way I have not. I still hate wasting time, I still seek out ways to maximize my time and efficiency. However, I have grown to love books, podcasts, youtube videos, any type of content I can get my hands on to improve and ingest information.

So, knowing that I am trying to read books and actually retain information I figured out a way to hearken back to my college days for a life hack that has been killing it for me! I figured out an easy way to make sure that I never waste time again reading business, leadership or growth books of any kind.

I realized that most of what I read in the books mentioned above had takeaways that fell into one of three categories. These three topics are pretty broad but will save you a lot of time in the future.

1. JOB — This mark means that it will help me in my career — www.livingspaces.com/Revive

2. BLOG — This marker means that it will help me in my Presenting Blog — www.lbbop.com

3. LIFE — This marker means that it is a section that really blew me away and will help me in my life.

Depending on the book I am reading there are always takeaways that seem to help me in one of these three categories, and usually at some point in the book all three. So what I do is at the start of any book I get out my Post It page markers. They typically always come in a pack with three different colors. I’ll take each color and stick one of each inside the front cover of the book and label them with one of the categories listed above. As I go through the book I make it a point to always read with my post it notes handy. When I read something that I think I would want to either remember or reference in the future I underline or highlight it. Then I stick the correlating color of sticky note to the page. That’s it!!

You may be thinking to yourself that this doesn’t seem to be too big of a deal, or very helpful. Let me explain to you the difference for me in my life since I started this. Right now I can look to my book shelves and see all sorts of books. Some of them leadership, some of them presenting, some of them business but all of them filled with intrigue bombs pertaining to my life in some way. If I am looking for inspiration in leadership I can sort through my collection and grab a few books that I know have some great takeaways. However, this is where things get easy. Because I have already read these books and made my notes and left my post its, I can easily go to the main messages in the book that I have already identified as the parts that can help make my life better in that area.

I waste a grand total of zero seconds before I am diving into all the best content of a book I have read and quickly putting into action potentially some type of change or motivation I am looking for. Even better yet, I can be selective in what I am searching for. Since I have 3 different categories I can easily go straight to a tab that will help me in what I am searching for. What I am finding is that another benefit to this is that my retention goes through the roof after I have gone back a few times and re-read my highlighted material. For a few extra minutes upfront you can transform your library into a powerhouse of easy find nuggets of growth that are right there for the taking. Just like the movie I referenced, once you’ve seen it, and understand the entire context you can go back and enjoy just your favorite parts. I can pop in Step brothers and watch the sleep walking kitchen scene and pretty much laugh as hard as I did the first time, because I already know the premise.

I CHALLENGE YOU!!!

I travel quite a bit for work, even as I write this entry and shoot the video I am sitting here in my hotel room. I realized that I had a lot of great books that were unlabeled at the house. I wanted to update them with tabs so I could have them as part of my collection but if there is one thing I am short on its time. So I decided to bring an old book with me every time I travel for work, something I read in the past but haven’t labelled. I utilize all typical downtime while travelling to update the book and style it out. Since I have always underlined or highlighting it usually doesn’t take too long to go back through a book.

The only way to make a change in your life and stop wasting time by losing all the valuable information from your books is to dive in and try it. You can make up your own tabs and categories, maybe you have more, maybe less. At the end of the day this is something you can do to improve your life. I challenge you to pick up some post its and label a book! Let me know if it works for you or if you came up with another system that is even more amazing!

CLOSING STATEMENT

This blog post comes from my love for writing and vlogging about presenting, public speaking and leadership which you can read on my blog @ www.lbbop.com / or on www.medium.com/@brett.thornton. In my experience the best presenters are constantly reading and referencing quotes and learnings. If it seems like every article about successful CEO’s states that they are reading a million books per year it probably means that you should be reading too. And if you are going to read, make sure that time pay off as I have!