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The System for How to Read a Book to Change Your Life

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Do you love picking up a new book because you want to change your life for the better? Me too! I couldn’t wait for Crushing It or The 5 Second Rule. But, you have to know how to read a book effectively if you really want to make progress. Statistically, we forget 90% of what we read. That’s ok though because a lot of it is not needed, like emails, advertising, etc.

When you read a book you want to remember the important parts, so you have to figure out how to get the takeaways and implement them. Keep these things in mind as we dig into how to read a book:

  1. More time with the material means you’ll remember it more.
  2. Taking action is the most effective way to see an impact.
  3. Mastering a topic requires focus and study.
  4. Learning requires repetition.

A System For How To Read A Book To Change Your Life

To start you will need a book, a pen, a notepad or sticky notes and a planner. You will benefit from reading the book multiple times, but if you know you won’t do that, marking the book and taking notes can be highly effective.

When I mark in a book I use a series of symbols to mark different points in the book.

For example:

  • ✷ –  An asterisk to mark important points for implementing
  • ★ –  A star anywhere that resonates with me
  • “ –  A quotation mark for a quote I want to remember
  • S –  A big S for a story or excerpt on the topic

And I underline all of these as well, including summaries, high points, basically anything I like. I have hundreds of highlights per book and the symbols help me differentiate them. Of course, what you choose for symbols and highlighting is up to you but I’ve found that a pen is best, as I can also circle and write in margins.

Note: You can do this on a kindle, with different colors and it looks pretty nice. I even did different colors on my Mac in Preview on a PDF. But again, you’ll learn more with the book in hand, and it’s better on your eyes.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin

Why Do It This Way?

I’ve been reading a lot of books and this kind of highlighting has made it very easy to skim back through and find the important pieces for memorization. This basically makes it so I can reread a book in less than an hour and get all of the good stuff.

Take Notes When Reading

I recently bought lined, colored, sticky notes with tabs for taking notes when reading, they are called Redi-tag Divider sticky notes. As I read, I look for calls to action such as questions at the end of a chapter, exercises to do to implement the material, etc. I’ll take a sticky note and leave it sticking out at important benchmarks in the book. On the sticky note itself I’ll write down my answers to the exercises, write a note about how I can implement what is suggested or how to make it easier or more successful.

You Need to Apply What You Learn To Make an Impact

Most people want to pick up as much as possible and see change in their lives from a book they read. That’s where applying what you learn is important, because if you don’t use it, you lose it. Implementing takes more work, and that’s why I suggest having a notepad and calendar around to help. While taking notes you’ll want to write down any ideas you have on taking action.

For instance, in The 5 Second Rule I really liked the chapter on health and the motivation I found in it. One of the quotes was “…is this really what I want? Am I really fine being the size I am?” I wrote this down as a motivation quote to use in my calendar.

In Crushing It, Gary Vaynerchuk wrote about wanting to change your life, to live a life that makes you happy, so I wrote this down and included it in my calendar. You can do this while you are reading or once you are done. You’ll want to go to your planner and write in something motivational or challenging from the book, every day for a month. This gives you enough time to take action on a couple of concepts, and it will encourage you to go back and read through your highlights as you strive to change more.

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo da Vinci

If You Really Want to Learn & Change, It Takes Time

A lot of modern authors offer courses in addition to their books. Book clubs are also a great way to take a book to the next level.

Here are a few reasons it’s better to take a guided course or join a book club:

  • You can’t speed through the material and you spend more time thinking about it and trying to apply each principle to your life.
  • Daily course work encourages you to build habits.
  • Guided courses often have support for overcoming obstacles, getting encouragement, and answering questions.
  • Group discussions give you insights you probably wouldn’t have picked up anywhere else.

There are a lot of ways you can use the concepts in a book to change your life, lately I’ve been reading Think & Grow Rich, The 5 Second Rule, Crushing It, and You Are A Badass At Making Money, and they’ve all contributed to my own life improvements. I just keep referring back to the content to make sure I use what I’ve learned.

How do you read a book to most effectively take action on it in your life? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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