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Last Updated on September 10, 2017

How I Pick the Right Books to Read to Learn 10X Faster

How I Pick the Right Books to Read to Learn 10X Faster

According to a study conducted in 2016 [1], it was found that most people read around 12 books a year. This may or may not sound like a lot to you depending on how much you like to read.

To the average person one book a month is pretty impressive. But unfortunately, many of these books aren’t exactly intellectually stimulating. Fan-fiction books such as 50 Shades of Grey might be entertaining, but they’re not going to improve your life or make you smarter.

To get the most out of books, you’ll need to choose them carefully

There are around 134,021,533 books in the world[2], and the number is only growing. So many genres, so many writing styles. It’s like any other external element that represents you. The clothes you wear, the car you drive, it’s all a matter of preference and taste.

With all of this nearly overwhelming choice, it makes sense that choosing the right book for you could be difficult.

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Best-sellers are not necessarily the best for you

Many people refer to the best sellers list to get an idea of what they should be reading. Or sometimes they’ll just choose something at random, pick up a book and hope for the best. That’s fine for entertainment purposes, but not so much for your development.

It would better benefit us if we took the time to consciously choose what to read based on the skills we want to improve, or the mindset that we want to hone. If we don’t make that choice for ourselves, then the best sellers list will make the choice for us.

The real issue here is that while we’re wasting our time reading mediocre books, we’re missing out on ones that could really benefit us or even change our lives.

Never judge a book by its cover

The book cover and the content hiding inside are two separate entities. An author could have created great content, but their book will get overlooked if the title & cover are not eye catching. On the other hand, a book might have a great cover, but the contents are just full of fillers and empty statements. The plot is weak and you might even feel drained from reading such an atrocious piece of garbage.

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I’ve read so many books that aren’t necessarily attractive at first glance, but have resonated with me and benefited me greatly such as Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt [3].

Make use of tools to help you decide what to read next

Your Next Read is a little bit like Pandora in a sense. You enter the title of a book that you enjoy and the generator will supply you with a list of relevant suggestions.

    Bookbub is very similar in the sense that it matches your profile to books that appeal to your interests. They will also alert you when books on your list are available free or at a discounted price.

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    Check out the three-star reviews on Amazon

    There are two types of people in this world who choose to leave reviews. Those who truly loved the product and those who loathed it. Some people have incredibly high standards and can never be pleased, so you should never take their word for it; their opinions aren’t objective enough.

    Like I said before, it’s all just a matter of taste. What may come across as nasty to one person might be barely mild to you. A book that is revered by your peers may come across to you as boring and poorly written. When you look at the medium reviews (three stars) they typically will give you an overview of the good and the bad, giving you a more objective opinion.

    Ask for recommendations from like-minded people and your role models

    Since they have similar taste, you can trust their review of a book without having to do much research yourself. They won’t try to sell you like the marketers who promote the books on the best sellers list. They have your best interests in mind and know your personality, so they’d have a good idea of what you like.

    Know when to switch it up

    The issue with asking for recommendations from like-minded people, is that you end up falling into a cycle of reading the same material. We tend to read a lot of similar books with a recurring theme, because we as humans are drawn to what feels familiar. But complacency will never lead to progress.

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    The more you continue to read on a subject, the less information your brain retains. To always keep your mind fresh, try to switch it up a bit and take your reading in a different direction.

    Ask yourself before reading: will I be able to apply the skills in the book soon?

    I always try to read books that I know will contribute to my growth. When I read the book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, I was double checking my organizational habits to see if there was room for improvement.

    As a writer, it is imperative that I read books on or above the level that I want to write at. The books that I read dictate the frame of mind in which I function and give me the inspiration I need to continue writing engaging material. If I feel that a book doesn’t match or inspire my writing style, I will move on to the next one.

    So the next time you go to pick up a book, consider how it will benefit you in the future. Don’t just pick up whatever is on the best sellers list. Find the authors that speak to you and help to shape you into who you want to be.

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    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

    Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

    “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

    In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

    New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

    There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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    So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

    What is the productivity paradox?

    There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

    In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

    He wrote in his conclusion:

    “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

    Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

    How do we measure productivity anyway?

    And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

    In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

    But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

    In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

    But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

    Possible causes of the productivity paradox

    Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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    • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
    • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
    • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
    • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

    There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

    According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

    Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

    The paradox and the recession

    The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

    “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

    This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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    According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

    Looking forward

    A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

    “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

    Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

    “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

    On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

    Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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