A good self improvement book is a tool. It is not enough to simply give it the once over. It must be used. Using it means studying it. It takes an investment of effort and time – but the payback is much higher if you invest that time and effort.
Here are the steps to using a self improvement book in the most effective way – to wring the most out of that book and get every nickel’s worth of the purchase price out of the book. Follow these steps and you will get much more out of the book – sometimes you may get so much out of the book you will find it was worth ten times what you paid for it.
1. Look the book over. Read the back, the cover flaps and the information about the author. Think about the primary thrust or purpose of the book.
2. Review the Table of Contents. This is the author’s outline for the book. This gives you an over-view of what the book will discuss and provides a map of how it is organized.
3. Read the introduction. I know, most of us skip them. If it is long and wordy skim it, if it is well written give it some time. The introduction often contains gems that you miss if you sweep by it.
4. Read the book through once rather quickly. Underline or highlight things you want to revisit. Follow the author’s suggestions for exercises or practices.
5. Record the date you read the book on the blank page in the front of the book before the title page. You want to keep a record of how you are studying and using the book.
6. Now study the book — go through it chapter by chapter and review the most important parts of the book. Pay special attention to the parts you highlighted. Depending on your style of learning and studying you may want to write your own outline or notes summarizing the most important points from the book. This is not just make-work. The more you re-read it and write it down, especially in your own words, the more you internalize and learn the material.
7. Now jot down on a piece of paper or, on the fly leaf, your Action Plan for the book. Set some goals for how you will use or apply the most helpful ideas in the book in your life or business. Set specific goals and set dates to achieve them. If they are simple goals this may be enough, if they are more complex you may need to write out step by step how you will pursue them.
8. Enter reminders in your personal calendar or planner for when you will come back to the book or goal list to make sure you are implementing the goals and steps. Continue to set future dates for review. Follow up on those reminders, act on them!
9. Six months in the future review what steps you’ve taken to implement what you have learned from the book. Have you faithfully set goals and the steps to accomplish them, dates for implementing them and then followed through? If you have, congratulate yourself for having made the most out of the information you purchased. Your time has been well spent. Go on then to step 10. If you have not followed through do not get down on yourself. Rather, resolve to do better. Write those goals out, even if there are only two or three of them. Establish a time table and enter your reminders in your planner. Then Act on It! Follow through!
10. About one year after you read the book pull it out and review it. Review the goals you set, the steps you implemented, the extent of your follow through. Evaluate yourself. To the extent you did well reward yourself! To the extent you fell short simply resolve to do better and create your plan for using this book in Year 2 more effectively then you did in the first year. One more thing, be sure to write the date you re-read the book on the fly leaf each time you do so. You will be amazed how long it has been since you first read the book and you will learn a lot about your own capacity to retain information from the books you read.
Remember that self improvement and self learning books are tools to be used. Unlike a fiction book they are not intended for a single read through. To get the most from them you must discipline yourself to use a system such as the one discussed here to obtain as much information as possible from the book and put it to the best possible use.
Daniel R. Murphy
Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.