Don’t Just Read a Business Book, Digest it.

Can you imagine how smart you would be if you could retain all the information from every business book you ever read? While that’s not realistic, most likely you can retain more than you currently do. You read business books to learn and get smarter. Maximize the material in those book by changing your approach. Think of business books as graduate level mini-courses. Instead of zipping through them, do a deep dive into advanced knowledge. Here’s how I assimilate the information from the books I read.

Business Book Reading Best Practices

  1. Read you book with a pen in hand – Someone recently told me he cannot bring himself to mark in his books. Why? Unless you are going to re-sell you books, mark away! Underline important passages, put asterisks next to cool quotes, add your own commentary. Some people prefer highlighters, I like pens so I can write notes to my self. Writing in your book helps you commit material to memory as you read and also help you save time when you later review the book. So grab a pen.
     
  2. Read only one chapter per day – This will significantly slow down your reading, but you’re not in a speed-reading contest. Reading just one chapter a day let’s your mind soak up the information and analyze it for 24 hours. It focuses you on one main idea per day. You’ll  gain deeper understanding by applying that chapter to your experience of the day. Reading several chapters a day muddles the information in your mind. Authors work hard to organize their chapters in a way that maximizes their impact, trust them by reading one chapter per day.
     
  3. Summarize each chapter in your own words – Before you read the next chapter on the next day, go back and review your underlines and notes of the previous chapter (See? It’s paying off already!). Now write a short summary in the white spaces at the end of the chapter. This gives your brain one more repetition of the material, further committing it to memory. Summarizing also forces you to take ownership of the material by restating the content in your own words. I like to read a chapter in the morning, then review and summarize the chapter before I go to bed.
     
  4. Summarize the book in one page or less – When you read the last paragraph of the final chapter, you’re not through with the book. Review all the chapter summaries you wrote and turn those into a comprehensive one page summary/review of the entire book. Use those blank pages at the beginning or end of the book. They are perfect for your summary page.
     
  5. Collect quotes – Remember all those little asterisks you put next to cool passages? Those are quotes that you can later use in presentations, proposals…or blog posts! But they’ll be tough to find later if you don’t collect them now. I like to put them all on one of the blank pages at the beginning or end of the book. When I need a quote to make my point, I pull a book off the shelf and within 60 seconds I have what I need.
     
  6. Index your takeaways – You’re almost done. Before you file that book on your bookshelf, review all your notes and summaries and select three big takeaways. Then decide how you can use those takeaways to make three changes in what you do. Just take a 3×5 index card, on one side write your takeaways, on the other side your changes/new practices. Stick that index card on your computer monitor for a while so that it sticks, then insert it back in the book.
     
  7. Save your books – The books you read are your reference library. Refer back to them often. Don’t know what to blog or tweet? Pull a book off the shelf. Need the proof to support your presentation? It’s right there in your library.

I took one marketing class in college. My marketing expertise is a combination of my experience plus the books I’ve read. Business books are your advanced college degree. So don’t just read a business book, digest it.

What are you reading best practices?


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2 comments
tiffanyharris976
tiffanyharris976

I love the idea of reading only a chapter per day. I'm a very quick reader by nature, which has its advantages, but it means I don't retain the information as long as people that read rather slowly. I have tried to limit myself to a chapter at a time and really digest what I read!

I just picked up a new business book that would be perfect for that type of reading -- "Finish What You Start" by Craig Copeland (http://www.finishwhatyoustartbook.com). It looks like the book contains a lot of exercises, which is great because after I do an exercise I'll force myself to stop reading for a bit.

JayEhret
JayEhret moderator

@tiffanyharris976 I like that approach in a book, Tiffany. Exercises at the end of a chapter to force you to stop, think, and apply your new knowledge. Thanks for sharing Craig's book.