How to get the most out of your reading

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If you’re reading this, chances are good that you’re a voracious reader of books. But with all of the great books we read, how do we retain the concepts that we want to make actionable in our own lives, especially when it seems as though these great ideas evaporate from our minds shortly after we put the book back on the shelf? Here are a few tips to make your reading more actionable.

  • Write in the margins! Scribbling your commentary the margins of a book is a great way to not only mark ideas that resonate with you, but also allows you to annotate the book with your own ideas. Edgar Allan Poe was a huge proponent of marginalia (isn’t that the best word?). “In getting my books,” he wrote, “I have always been solicitous of an ample margin; this is not so much through any love of the thing in itself, however agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of penciling in suggested thoughts, agreements, and differences of opinion, or brief critical comments in general.”
  • Reading notepad or journal. Okay, for many of us (myself included) writing or highlighting in our books is sacrilege. Instead, I like to have a notepad (or if you’re more fancy, a journal) strictly dedicated to my reading that I keep handy so I can jot down important quotes, page numbers, or impressions that pop into my head when I’m engrossed in a book. You can always type these up later in a Word document (and that’s probably a good idea of your handwriting is a little on the illegible side).
  • Post-Its or paper clips. Post-Its and paper clips are a great way to easily mark a favourite passage in a book. But, if you’re anything like me, you may find that your book is a rainbow of Post-Its by the time you’re finished. If you find yourself getting a little Post-It happy, go back after you’re done reading and keep only the Post-Its marking the most important concepts.
  • Digital highlighter. If you read books on Kindle (or another eBook reading device), this could be your new best friend. Use the highlighter function to capture a passage of text that resonates with you. It will not only highlight the passage in the eBook, but will save it to your ‘clippings’ file which is accessible not only on your device, but also online in your Kindle account.
  • Your favourite takeaway. Why not take inspiration from our Actionable Summaries and write out your favourite takeaway (the The Big Idea) and two different ways to make that idea actionable (the Insights)? Doing this leads to a much deeper understanding of the material, and helps it to stick in your mind.

What’s your favourite tip for making the most of your reading?

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