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How to Read Books You Aren’t Interested in but Are Useful for You

How to Read Books You Aren’t Interested in but Are Useful for You
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Successful people read a lot. But they don’t just read anything and everything. They read specifically for self-improvement, education and success.

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at these stats:[1]

  • Warren Buffett reads between 600 and 1,000 pages per day.
  • Bill Gates reads about 50 books per year.
  • Mark Cuban reads for more than three hours every day.
  • Mark Zuckerberg read a book every two weeks throughout 2015.

As I’ve already stated, these hugely-successful people don’t just read anything, instead they self-educate and self-motivate through reading high-quality content.[2]

Fiction Books Have Stolen the Spotlight

People like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are prolific readers of books that help them to improve their skills, knowledge and understanding. But the average person appears to have little interest in reading self-improvement books.

If you look back at decades of book sales, you’ll see that fiction books tend to be much more popular than self-improvement books. 70% of the Amazon Best Sellers in 2016 are fictions including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, Special Rehearsal Edition ScriptA Man Called Ove, and The Girl on the Train.[3]

Fiction books are designed and written in such a way as to impel you to continue reading them. There’s a hook or cliffhanger in every chapter that keeps you focused on reading until the last page, so that you can find out what happens next – and what happens at the end.

On the other hand, non-fiction books in the self-improvement field are intended to help you solve a problem or reach a specific goal. In most cases, these types of books are not written in story form (one exception is The Social Animal), rendering them less attractive to the majority of readers.

A lack of storytelling in self-improvement books leads many people to believe that the books are dull or difficult to read and understand.

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Do you recognize yourself in the last sentence?

If you do, then the good news is that you’ve most likely being picking the wrong type of self-improvement books for you. For example, if you’re fascinated by space exploration, but choose to read a technical-heavy, scientific book on the subject – you’ll quickly lose interest. However, if you chose a book that is easier to understand, say an autobiography of a NASA astronaut, you’ll probably love the book – and boost your interest in space exploration.

You could also think of it this way, you’ve just stated to learn piano, but someone’s given you an advanced piano music sheet. Not only will you struggle with the sheet but it may put you off piano playing for life.

It’s All About Picking the Right Self-Improvement Books

So, what’s the secret to choosing the right level of non-fiction book?

Firstly, you need to have some context. That could be a problem you want to solve – or a goal you want to achieve. For instance, if you’re not planning on being an entrepreneur, then you’re unlikely to understand or enjoy the context of a book like High Output Management – even though it’s a highly-recommended self-improvement book.

Get the context right, and you’ll find an ocean of self-improvement books to help you learn and grow. The best of these books will give you clear advice and recommendations for bettering your life.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Fiction books and novels can be enjoyable, and often encourage imagination and creativity. However, they’re a less direct way of improving your daily life.

It’s worth repeating. Failing to pick the most suitable non-fiction books can discourage you from becoming a regular non-fiction reader. This could directly impact your chances of developing and growing.

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Picking the Right Self-Improvement Books Starts with A Purpose

If you want to be highly-successful in life, then you must take advantage of the countless wisdom and knowledge available through self-improvement books.

The secret to choosing the most suitable self-improvement book for you is to understand your current situation – and to have a clear vision of what you hope to achieve in the future.

The ideal self-improvement book will be one that fits your current needs, and will be easy and enjoyable for you to read from start to finish.

Let’s say you’re interested in becoming a graphic designer. If the first book you read is aimed at qualified, professional graphic designers, then it’s unlikely to be the book for you. Instead, if you choose a book such as The Non-Designer’s Design Book, you’ll probably find the book a fun and fascinating read. And it’s likely to whet your appetite to read more books on graphic design. Perhaps this time, books that are slightly more advanced.

Picking the wrong book will instantly discourage you from reading and learning more. Picking the right book, however, will spark your interest – and help you find constant opportunities to grow and improve.

Good Self-Improvement Books Will Capture Your Attention – and Boost Your Knowledge

If you haven’t yet started and finished a self-improvement book, then ask yourself what is stopping you delving into the genre? Is it fear of the unknown, or a lack of understanding what self-improvement books can offer?

From my own experience, I can tell you that if you choose a non-fiction that meets a desire or need that you have, you’ll be hooked by the content. And you’ll likely finish the book in rapid time – even though the book doesn’t have a storyline like novels do.

If your purpose of reading is to look for an answer you want, then this will inspire sufficient curiosity to keep you avidly reading until the last word of the book.

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The right book will also be easy to understand, and will effortlessly keep your interest and attention.

Self-improvement books can open up all kinds of future opportunities for you. You’ll learn new things, be inspired, and develop a deep love of practical knowledge and wisdom. And the most exciting thing? You’ll be able to apply the ideas and advice that you learn to your daily life. And once you do this, you’ll be likely to see a trend towards positive results.

You and I are wired to seek progress and results, and when we achieve these things through the help of self-improvement books, then we’ll be naturally encouraged to explore more self-improvement content.

Choosing the Perfect Self-Improvement Book

Hopefully, I’ve boosted your interest in becoming a reader of self-improvement books. And I want to finish this article by giving you some specific advice on choosing the perfect book for you.

1. Begin your search by analyzing your problems

Take a good look at yourself and your life, and identify any problems you’re facing. Perhaps you’re unsatisfied with some areas of your life, such as health, relationship or work issues?

2. Picture the answer you seek

Once you’ve identified a problem (or problems), try to figure out the causes behind the problems. For example, if you suffer from a lack of self-confidence, was this caused by overly-dominant parents or teachers? If you believe that to be so, then keep the problem and cause in mind when you come to choose a book.

Here’s an effective way to help you find out the root cause of a problem: How To Make the Invisible Cause Visible

3. Keep the kind of answer you want in your mind as pick the book

A keyword search of an online bookseller’s listing (such as Amazon), will usually throw up dozens or even hundreds of results. However, you can narrow these results down by:

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  • Reading the foreword – but understanding that this is designed to hook you in to purchase the book.
  • Looking at comments, both the best and the worst reviews of the book. Here’s a smart way to read comments: The Ugly Truth About Comments and Reviews That No One Knows
  • Viewing a sample of the book’s content. (This will give you a feel for the style and substance.)
  • Considering whether the book can give you the answer(s) you need.

The whole process may take you some time but it will be worth it.

After picking the right book, keep your desired answer in mind as you read. Skim through the chapters to see if there’s anything important you should read first.

Some people find that they don’t need to follow the order set in the book, but in most cases, I suggest you try to stick to the original order. The majority of writers will build on their advice, and to jump out of the intended order, can lead to confusion and loss of context.

Having said that, if your problem is urgent, you might want to skip sections in order to quickly find your desired answer. However, if you do this, make sure you have a complete understanding of the answer, even though you haven’t read every single page or word of the book.

Perhaps after finishing your first self-improvement book, you’ll come up with a new problem and seek another answer. This is how you will keep reading (and finishing) self-improvement books – something you had zero interest in before.

Featured photo credit: Stock Snap via pixabay.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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