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5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Books

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Books

Whether you’re reading for school, pleasure, self-improvement, or to expand your knowledge base, there are “right” ways and “wrong” ways to delve into your material. If you’ve ever found yourself drooling onto the pages of a book after having read the same paragraph 50 times, you may not have been reading in an effective, productive manner. Here are a few ways in which you can ensure that you absorb as much as you can from the items that you read.

1. Don’t Read Important Materials When You’re Tired

This applies to school assignments, training manuals, or the permission slip for your kid’s field trip to Dan’s Hungry Dingo and Alligator Playland. If you’re overly tired when you try to read something of substance, you won’t absorb a damned thing and you’ll end up with neurotic nightmares that are fraught with failure, reprimands, and worries. If you’re the type of person who is most alert first thing in the morning, then make a point of waking up 20-30 minutes early so you have some time to read before tackling the day. If you tend to be hyper-focused in the later afternoon or evening, set aside a block of time when you can be left alone so you can devote all your attention to the task at hand. This leads into the next tip:

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2. Eliminate Distractions

When I was in college, I was once invited to a friend’s house so we could work on an assignment together. The girl I was working with had the radio on in the kitchen, the TV blaring in her bedroom (where we were trying to work), and she’d interrupt me every 5 minutes to ask my opinion about some outfit, or try to make plans for the following weekend.

Guess how much work we got done.

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It sounds like common sense to eliminate as many distractions as possible when you’re trying to concentrate, but many people don’t realise that having sensory input from all directions is incredibly detrimental. To really be able to draw in everything you’re reading, go to a place where you know that you can focus well. For some, this might be a perfectly quiet room where they can sit in solitude and read for hours. Other people might do best when sitting at the back of a cafe, as the white noise helps them focus and the human company keeps them from going mad. Trust in what’s best for you, but ensure that your surroundings enhance the experience, instead of detracting from it.

3. Take Notes

If this isn’t too much of a distraction for you, keep a notebook handy and jot down key points as you come across them. Was there a particularly poignant expression that you want to remember? Write it down, along with the chapter and page number. If you’re studying history, jot down key names, dates, and events related to whatever you’re focused on. Is this a novel you’re reading for a book club? Write down your reactions to certain scenes or phrases so you can discuss them with your group later. If, when revisiting this material in future, you find that your recollection of detail is a bit foggy, looking over your notes can be of great help for jogging your memory.

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Be sure to dedicate one notebook entirely to notes about your books, so you don’t have to flip through a 5-subject behemoth to find a few lines you’ve scrawled about something or other.

4. Only Read Books You’re Truly Interested In, If You Can

This may not be possible if you have a very strict curriculum to adhere to, or if you absolutely have to read some work-related materials that are vital for your continued employment, but if you’re given a few different options to choose from, read the first chapter of each and see which one you’re most drawn to. You’ll be able to retain a lot more information if the subject matter has captured your attention, and if you actually care enough to find out how it all ends.

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Don’t read novels merely for the sake of impressing others. If you don’t truly love Dostoyevsky’s work, you will undoubtedly slip into a coma halfway through Crime and Punishment, and you won’t be able to discuss the book with any clarity should anyone question you about it later. There are many books on those “omg you totally have to read this before you die” lists that are only there because somebody wanted to be a pretentious jackass and no-one called them on it. If you never manage to get through James Joyce’s Ulysses, there’s certainly no need to be ashamed: I don’t think anyone ever has.

Life is too short to waste time reading books that don’t fuel your soul and make you happy, so if you’re reading for pleasure, make it a sincerely pleasurable pastime. On that note, we come to the final tip:

5. Re-Read Books Every So Often

This may sound strange, considering that after you’ve read a book you’re already familiar with the subject and/or know how it ends, but consider this: you’re not the same person you were yesterday, nor the same one you were last week, a year ago, or a decade ago. Every experience we have changes us—our perspective on the world, our understanding of different situations—and in turn, we will process information differently depending on where we are in our lives. When you’re in your 20s, you might re-read a book you loved when you were 16 and discover a wealth of insight that you had totally glossed over at that age. You may read a design book today and come away with a strong understanding of the subject, but if you revisit that book after a couple of years in a graphic design program, you might understand subtle references in the text that you didn’t catch on to before, or have a sudden epiphany after reading about a particular technique.

Books can be dear friends if you cherish them as such, so be sure to give them the attention they deserve, secure in the knowledge that in turn, they’ll give you a wealth of inspiration, knowledge, and growth.

More by this author

Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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