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Getting the most out of self-development books

Getting the most out of self-development books

This year I started to read more self-development books. What I noticed was that the experience and process of reading these books was very different from reading fiction books.

It takes me longer to read non-fictional books. They make me thinking and I take breaks to process the information I just read. I think how it applies to me, whether it’s true for me and what I’m going to do with this new-found awareness.

When I read a self-development book too quickly I easily forgot what was it about or what I liked about it. I realized I need to pay more attention to the book in front of me in order to get more from it.

I decided to share how I go through the self-improvement books now. I hope it will help you to get more from books you read. To remember their content longer and reference it more easily. These are three things I have been doing while reading self-improvement books.

1.      I read it slowly

I have a tendency to go through a book really quickly, especially a fiction book. I’m very curious what the next chapter is about. How the story will evolve. What plot twists there are. It may be ok to read a novel or a crime story at fast pace, but even then it’s a shame. If I read a book quickly I don’t remember much it. And I most certainly don’t remember the details.

The content of a self-development book is not meant to be consumed the same way we consume novels. It is not meant to be greedily read in one sitting.

I believe that the content of a self-development book is meant to be felt, thought about and digested properly. It should be savor, the mind should have time to think about it, understand it so I can realize how it applies to my life and situation. Otherwise the time spent reading the book was wasted. My time was wasted.

2.      I make notes

As I read a book there are often sentences or stories I fall in love with, I’m inspired by and want to remember. There are many insights and valuable lessons I would like to remember. I write them down. It makes all the difference if I spend few seconds to write a small note either in my own words or in exact words of the author. I write down also the page number to make it easier to go back to that chapter or paragraph.

The process is very similar to taking notes at school. For me, rephrasing what I just read, writing it in my own words, works best. What was the chapter about? What do I think about it? How do I understand what the author was saying?

I started to do this at the beginning of the year and it helped me to remember more details from the books and to explain it to anyone else more clearly. It is also nice to have these notes in case the book is borrowed.

3.      I do exercises and actionables

You know, these things authors usually ask you to do or think about throughout the book. Sometimes they are listed at the end of each chapter. To find your strengths, or what makes you the most happy in your life, or what are you willing to change/give up in order to accomplish something etc. It’s kind of an internal surveys or questionnaire to make sure you know where you are and where you are going.

I do these actionables, invest my time and attention to them. When I’m not sure what I want to change in my life or what my motivation is, there’s only a small chance I will grow, develop and improve.

Also, just reading the book often gives me an illusion of understanding. I have the impression I understand what needs to be done, but I later realize I don’t know who, or that maybe it wasn’t what I wanted.

At the end of the book when I did all the actionables, made some notes and decided where I’m going and how to get there, I don’t try to do it all at once. Big, overnight changes seem like a great idea but usually leave me overwhelmed and I’m more prone to giving up and quitting. So now, I give myself some time to adjust and change.

So that’s it, these are the three things I do when I read self-development book nowadays. Hope it helps you to improve, develop, learn and grow as well!


What do you do to get the most out of a book? And what are your favorite self-development books? Share in the comments!



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