I have always been an avid reader, but business and personal development books were never really at the top of my reading list until a few years ago when I realised that if I wanted to grow and develop as an entrepreneur I needed to invest in content and courses that would help me to do so. And I think this is something all entrepreneurs should be doing. Learning benefits our development as entrepreneurs, opening us up to new ideas, teaching us new skills to help us become better at managing our businesses and so much more. But with thousands of business and personal development books, as well as blogs, courses and other media content telling us to follow this method or that one, all promising to help us grow personally and professionally if we just do what they say, it can be overwhelming trying to sort through and make sense of it all. And this information overload can see us move from one source to the next, picking up and dropping ideas and not really giving ourselves time to get to grips with what we read or hear. But with a bit of strategic planning, we can get the most out of the business and personal development books we choose to help us on our entrepreneurial journey. First…
1. CHOOSE THE CONTENT YOU CONSUME WISELY
Your time is limited even more so if you are juggling a 9-5 and/or a family leaving precious little time to devote to reading and learning. So you want to choose your material wisely. This is easier said than done because you tend to find out if it’s worth your time when you actually start consuming the content. Keeping a running list of books to read, those that have been mentioned in the media, what you have come across in your own research, and personal recommendations from peers, mentors and your networks. The reading lists of prominent industry leaders tend to have must-read books in common, so can also inspire your selections. Your running list will save you a lot of time when it comes to figuring out what to read when you have the time to do so.
If you are not sure where to start in doing your research the Classics, books whose central principles are still relevant today as they were when first published 10, 20, 30 years ago and just given minor updates over the years are a good place to start. Goodreads or Amazon reviews can also be helpful when deciding what to read. I always try to look at these before I purchase a book, and I read somewhere that you should look at the average scores, the ones between two and four stars as these reviews tend to be a bit more considered. Sample chapters can also be useful in deciding whether the book in question is worth your time.
It is important to mention the accessible nature of online meaning that anyone can position themselves as an expert and publish a book or create a course. To navigate this get to know a bit about the author first, so for example if you come across a blogger who writes business books based on their experiences in your target industry, get a feel for their posts or the free e-books they may offer first, paying attention to things such as is their content well written, easy to follow and clear, do they bring fresh perspectives to common problems or are they just repeating what you have read a hundred times elsewhere, ask yourself these questions and more to help decide if you would happy to spend time and money on their books or courses. And once you have decided on the books you want to read, the next thing is to…
2. FINISH THE BOOK
This may seem like stating the obvious, but with attention spans getting shorter – as of writing stands at 7 secs, less than a goldfish, which is 9 secs – not finishing a book let alone a blog post is becoming more commonplace. It is estimated that 57% of books started are not finished*, (this includes fiction and non-fiction)- I guess this means that not all who start to read this post will get to the end! So if you do not finish your chosen book how do you expect to benefit and improve knowledge or skills, as by not doing so you will not get the complete picture of the information being presented, not to mention wasting your time and money spent purchasing the book or content. As noted in point 1. not everyone can commit the time, so if you are pressed for time there are techniques to help you skim read content taking in the important points, a technique that is used a lot by students and those in academic circles, you can read more about that here. While reading your book you should…
3. KEEP AN OPEN MIND
Question what you read – Just because the book you are reading is by an industry guru doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they are saying. Their advice, which has been successful for them, may not always be right for you. Not everything you read will be applicable to your situation or make sense to you, and that’s ok. So don’t just blindly follow, but don’t just outright dismiss their arguments either. Question what they are saying, do you agree with it if so why, and if you don’t then, why not.
Also, read several other books around the same topic – the more you read the more you will start to see overlaps in ideas and information, and the common themes which most will agree or disagree on. The differing viewpoints will help you with forming your own opinions to help you get the most out of what you read. As an example two books I read recently had offered up the same advice on forming a habit but differed quite significantly in the time it takes for habits stick, with one saying 30 days and the other 66. No question that the longer you stick to doing something over and over again the more likely it will become a habit, but as for when it does is not an exact science and depends on the individual. As you make your way through the book…
3. ENGAGE WITH THE CONTENT
Highlight the sentences, phrases, statements, and words that resonate with you. Leave notes for yourself in the margins. I used to hate writing in my books, preferring to preserve the nice, pristine pages. All well and good but not much help. Underlining what is important to you will help you find it quickly when you need to, which because I was not in the habit of doing I’d usually find myself re-reading half the book just to find a sentence. When you underline ask yourself why it is important to you. Make notes in margins. You can still do this with digital books on Kindle, other e-readers and on PDFs. This is useful for it comes to re-reading the book.
4. PUT WHAT YOU READ INTO PRACTICE / ACT ON WHAT YOU READ
Reading on its own is not enough; you actually have to act on the information to get any of the benefits. As soon as you can try things out for yourself, especially those suggestions that get you out of your comfort zone. See what works and what doesn’t. You will not be able to put everything into practice straight away, and it is good to pace yourself and not try to do too much as trying out new things all at once can get overwhelming and lead you to abandon the practice quickly.
These are just a few of the ways I have found useful to getting the best out of business and personal development books I read. Do you struggle to finish your business and personal development books, or have you found a system to fit reading, and learning in general into your schedule? Do share in the comments.
5. REREAD THE BOOK
The first time you read a book you are getting a feel for it, taking in all the information and discovering the ideas. The second/third time you read you know what to expect and will probably take it slower, concentrating on the ideas, sections or chapters that resonate with you, or that you struggled to get to grips with. A reread is giving yourself time to reflect on the bits you highlighted, to put information into practice, to discover insights you may have missed the first time around. A good book is the one that you will always dip into for advice, a trusty reference that sees you having to buy a replacement copy when it becomes old and tatty.
Do you struggle to finish your business and personal development books, or have you found a system to fit reading into your schedule? Do share in the comments
*Reading Statistics – www.statisticbrain.com/reading-statistics
**How to Read A Book: www.farnamstreetblog.com/how-to-read-a-book