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Last Updated on February 25, 2018

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

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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Published on July 17, 2018

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

I’ve never believed people are born productive or organized. Being organized and productive is a choice.

You choose to keep your stuff organized or you don’t. You choose to get on with your work and ignore distractions or you don’t.

But one skill very productive people appear to have that is not a choice is the ability to compartmentalize. And that takes skill and practice.

What is compartmentalization

To compartmentalize means you have the ability to shut out all distractions and other work except for the work in front of you. Nothing gets past your barriers.

In psychology, compartmentalization is a defence mechanism our brains use to shut out traumatic events. We close down all thoughts about the traumatic event. This can lead to serious mental-health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if not dealt with properly.

However, compartmentalization can be used in positive ways to help us become more productive and allow us to focus on the things that are important to us.

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Robin Sharma, the renowned leadership coach, calls it his Tight Bubble of Total Focus Strategy. This is where he shuts out all distractions, turns off his phone and goes to a quiet place where no one will disturb him and does the work he wants to focus on. He allows nothing to come between himself and the work he is working on and prides himself on being almost uncontactable.

Others call it deep work. When I want to focus on a specific piece of work, I turn everything off, turn on my favourite music podcast The Anjunadeep Edition (soft, eclectic electronic music) and focus on the content I intend to work on. It works, and it allows me to get massive amounts of content produced every week.

The main point about compartmentalization is that no matter what else is going on in your life — you could be going through a difficult time in your relationships, your business could be sinking into bankruptcy or you just had a fight with your colleague; you can shut those things out of your mind and focus totally on the work that needs doing.

Your mind sees things as separate rooms with closable doors, so you can enter a mental room, close the door and have complete focus on whatever it is you want to focus on. Your mind does not wander.

Being able to achieve this state can seriously boost your productivity. You get a lot more quality work done and you find you have a lot more time to do the things you want to do. It is a skill worth mastering for the benefits it will bring you.

How to develop the skill of compartmentalization

The simplest way to develop this skill is to use your calendar.

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Your calendar is the most powerful tool you have in your productivity toolbox. It allows you to block time out, and it can focus you on the work that needs doing.

My calendar allows me to block time out so I can remove everything else out of my mind to focus on one thing. When I have scheduled time for writing, I know what I want to write about and I sit down and my mind completely focuses on the writing.

Nothing comes between me, my thoughts and the keyboard. I am in my writing compartment and that is where I want to be. Anything going on around me, such as a problem with a student, a difficulty with an area of my business or an argument with my wife is blocked out.

Understand that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about an issue

One of the ways to do this is to understand there are times when there is nothing you can do about an issue or an area of your life. For example, if I have a student with a problem, unless I am able to communicate with that student at that specific time, there is nothing I can do about it.

If I can help the student, I would schedule a meeting with the student to help them. But between now and the scheduled meeting there is nothing I can do. So, I block it out.

The meeting is scheduled on my calendar and I will be there. Until then, there is nothing I can do about it.

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Ask yourself the question “Is there anything I can do about it right now?”

This is a very powerful way to help you compartmentalize these issues.

If there is, focus all your attention on it to the exclusion of everything else until you have a workable solution. If not, then block it out, schedule time when you can do something about it and move on to the next piece of work you need to work on.

Being able to compartmentalize helps with productivity in another way. It reduces the amount of time you spend worrying.

Worrying about something is a huge waste of energy that never solves anything. Being able to block out issues you cannot deal with stops you from worrying about things and allows you to focus on the things you can do something about.

Reframe the problem as a question

Reframing the problem as a question such as “what do I have to do to solve this problem?” takes your mind away from a worried state into a solution state, where you begin searching for solutions.

One of the reasons David Allen’s Getting Things Done book has endured is because it focuses on contexts. This is a form of compartmentalization where you only do work you can work on.

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For instance, if a piece of work needs a computer, you would only look at the work when you were in front of a computer. If you were driving, you cannot do that work, so you would not be looking at it.

Choose one thing to focus on

To get better at compartmentalizing, look around your environment and seek out places where you can do specific types of work.

Taking your dog for a walk could be the time you focus solely on solving project problems, commuting to and from work could be the time you spend reading and developing your skills and the time between 10 am and 12 pm could be the time you spend on the phone sorting out client issues.

Once you make the decision about when and where you will do the different types of work, make it stick. Schedule it. Once it becomes a habit, you are well on your way to using the power of compartmentalization to become more productive.

Comparmentalization saves you stress

Compartmentalization is a skill that gives you time to deal with issues and work to the exclusion of all other distractions.

This means you get more work done in less time and this allows you to spend more time with the people you want to spend more time with, doing the things you want to spend more time doing.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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