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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.

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on March 21, 2019

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

    You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

    But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

    To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

    It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

    “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

    The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

    In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

    Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

    1. Start Small

    The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

    Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

    Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

    Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

    Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

    Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

    It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

    Do less today to do more in a year.

    2. Stay Small

    There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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    But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

    If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

    When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

    I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

    Why?

    Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

    The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

    Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

    3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

    No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

    There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

    What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

    Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

    This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

    This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

    4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

    When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

    There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

    Peter Drucker said,

    “What you track is what you do.”

    So track it to do it — it really helps.

    But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

    5. Measure Once, Do Twice

    Peter Drucker also said,

    “What you measure is what you improve.”

    So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

    For reading, it’s 20 pages.
    For writing, it’s 500 words.
    For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
    For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

    Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

    6. All Days Make a Difference

    Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

    Will two? They won’t.

    Will three? They won’t.

    Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

    What happened? Which one made you fit?

    The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

    No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

    7. They Are Never Fully Automated

    Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

    But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

    What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

    It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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    The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

    It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

    It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

    8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

    Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

    Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

    When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

    The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

    Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

    9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

    The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

    Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

    You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

    But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

    So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

    If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

    This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

    The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

    Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

    10. Punish Yourself

    Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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    I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

    It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

    You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

    No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

    The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

    But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

    11. Reward Yourself

    When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

    Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

    The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

    After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

    If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

    Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

    If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

    In the End, It Matters

    What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

    When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

    And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

    “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

    Keep going.

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    More Resources to Help You Build Habits

    Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
    [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
    [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
    [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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