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How To Read A Book… And Guarantee The “A-Ha” Moments Stick With You

A Simple 5 Step Process

Don’t you love a great book? It feels great when those “A-Ha” moments flash as you read. Light bulbs go off in your head. You know you’re on to something. When you finish you can’t wait to recommend it to your friends, peers and family.

A week later, you’ve forgotten everything and you’re now on to your next book.

If you neglect to reinforce those lessons and put them into practice, you lose all those benefits.

Most books, even great ones, give you a handful of useful bits hidden among its pages. It’s no secret. Most published books are padded with more info than needed.

How Do You Cut Through The Junk And Find The Real Gems?

Here’s my five step process to glean the most important teachings from books. Once you nail down those lessons, try them out. Then decide which ones to keep.

I read books on business, marketing, psychology, writing and creativity. It works with equal perfection on all subject matters.

Step 1 — While reading

As you read your book keep a pen handy. You’ll use this to make notations in the margins. If you’re reading on Kindle, use the highlight feature.

Whenever you come across one of those “A-Ha” moments make a small notation in the margin. I make a little “-“ by the important words. Sometimes I’ll use a large “<” symbol to denote an entire paragraph.

Be a bit judicious with your notations but don’t worry if you’re doing too much. You’ll filter later.

An example of my notations from Resonate by Nancy Duarte

Step 2 — From Book To Paper

After you finish the book, go back to the beginning. Flip (or scroll) through each page and stop where you see a notation. Read the surrounding sentences and determine if it’s worth keeping. If so, type the main point in a document in bullet form.

Do this for the entire book. I find that half the stuff I notate does not make it into the document. Many of the ideas presented are redundant. Other times, the information loses importance with the benefit of reflection.

For an average size non-fiction book, you’ll end up with two to five pages of bullets.

Step 3 — Edit Your Document

Take a second pass through your notes. You’ll find more redundancies. You’ll find bullets that lack real impact and others superseded by later examples. Filter out all that extra junk.

When you finish this process, you’ll end up with one to two pages of notes. For real in-depth books, you may end up with as much as five pages.

Tip: For each learning, I keep one example. Most non-fiction books pack several examples or stories for each lesson it teaches.

Step 4 — Put it into Action

Pick one lesson and put it into practice each day. If your book is on improving your writing, try out one lesson in your daily writing. If your book is about productivity, add in one lesson each day to improve your productivity.

Measure the results of your actions. If it works for you, then it’s a keeper. What if it fails? Maybe you need to practice it in order to see results. Also, make sure you followed the instructions.

Give yourself a few opportunities to keep or reject each lesson. When you reject a lesson, delete it from your document. This streamlines it even more.

Step 5 — Reinforcement

Each month I look over documents from a particular category. One month I look at productivity.

The next month I review my copywriting notes. Spend time reading through each document in a category and evaluate which lessons work. Eliminate the stuff that’s not working. Focus on the ones you have yet to try.

Bonus Tip: I also use this process with podcasts and interviews. It’s a great way to keep valuable teachings that otherwise disappear in the netherworld of your brain.

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