Reading is not enough, learning & retaining is more important!
I love reading books, it gives me peace, calms down my nerves, takes me to another world, makes me feel power & humility at the same time. Powerful with the wisdom and humbled knowing that there is so little that we know. If you are a “books” person, you know that there are these challenges, people take on “how many books you would read in a year” and I make the same mistake of taking that challenge.
I had set a target of reading 50 books in that year, i.e. 4 books a month, not very difficult, I anyway read these many books, but with the challenge, I lost sight of what my actual goal was. I got distracted in counting the number and lost a year of books! I went back to my original style
So these are some of my learnings…These are a few things that worked for me.
How to read effectively
1. Ditch the one book concept and read 2–3 books at a time.
Most people I know, feel like they are betraying if they start reading another book before completing the current one, they just can’t pick up another book until the current one ends, they take as much time as it takes to complete the current book and then pick up next one. I don’t think this works for me and for that matter for most of the people. I have different moods at different times, and I might not want to read the book that I am currently reading in that day’s emotional and social set-up I am in. If I just have current read — say Management book, and I come home and don’t feel like in a mood of heavy dose? What do I do? I simply let it go and do something else- hence a waste of reading time. Instead, if I have multiple books, I can choose a book depending on my current mood. Someday I just want to have a light read, someday a murder mystery, someday a heavy astrophysics book. Hence I shuffle between 2–3 books, sometimes even 4.
2. Your dedication to the book should be directly proportionate to the depth of the book.
I have understood one thing, that there are innumerous amount of books out there, too many volumes. Sometimes I feel, I am way behind my goal and the reading wishlist keeps getting bigger. So here’s a fact that I have realized, one’s life is not enough to read everything that you wish to. In this fast-growing information world, we need to judge books by its cover or preface sometimes.
Not all books are meant to be read cover to cover.
We need to categorize books into
a) Key Takeaway Books|To be skimmed through for key takeaways: You do not have to read these books cover to cover, rather skim through for key takeaway. Books like “Subtle art of not giving a fuck”, “Secret”, “Who moved my Cheese”. With experience, you will learn the art of skimming through the important parts, but for now, you can also consider reading book reviews/Summary or watch a summary video of such books. You will get a gist of important concepts.
b) Wisdom Books| To be consumed for wisdom| Read the book to understand the concept, get exposed to new viewpoints, know the story! These are worth a complete read, books like Man’s search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Blink, Measure what Matters, Alibaba: the house that Jack built, Elon Musk, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Ikigai. These are great books, these stories teach us valuable lessons, hence to be consumed properly.
c) Life-Enhancing Books|To be swallowed completely and the concepts to be retained for future use |These are life-changing books, you can learn so much from them and implement them in your life. It might be dealing with social issues or life concepts or informational. We need to dedicate a good amount of time to read, make notes and internalize the concepts. Books like Good to Great by Jim Collins, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, The grand design by Stephen Hawkings, Habit by Charles Duhigg, etc.
Knowing beforehand which book is worth how much time can maximize your knowledge vis-a-vis the time you spend on reading.
3. It’s ok to leave a book midway or completely unread.
Sometimes we know that it is a great book, but we still can’t get ourselves to complete it, it’s ok. Go easy on yourself, don’t force yourself, you can leave it bookmarked on your shelf to read it at a later stage. Do not worry about the unread books in your library. In fact, they are the real treasures. The books you have already read and never going to read again does not make sense that much, but the ones you think are interesting and can be read later is a good thing to have.
The bigger the unread books collection in a library, the richer the library.
You have more options to pick from at any given point in time. So never shy away from building your library
4. Revisit the wisdom books:
Reading 50 books would not be that effective if we do not retain the knowledge gained. If you don’t take a break and contemplate what you read or go back to that book you read, somewhere the effort you had put in to read the book is wasted, as you no longer remember the learnings. So this is what I do, I make notes on the books I read, I use flags, I use a highlighter to mark important stuff and I revisit the book just once after a month or so to skim through the important part. Once revisited, this stays with me longer. This really helps!
5. Distribute the learning for better retention:
Even better is to teach someone what you learned, this is the best way to retain knowledge. I generally write a review with a summary of the book or maybe talk to someone on what the book is about, explain to them the major concepts, or do a book review discussion and in the process, my concepts become very clear and I remember them for a much longer time.