How to "Read" a Non-Fiction Book
Years ago I began this practice of approaching non-fiction books as a class to study rather than a passive way to spend some time. I’m not sure if this will be helpful to anyone else but I thought I’d share how I take notes as I read so that I can actually apply the knowledge... because remember, knowledge isn’t power— applied knowledge is power.
1️⃣ I don’t take notes for every non-fiction book because frankly, not all of them lend themselves to it. You know how it is... some of them get to the point in the first 25 pages and then repeat themselves for the rest. Those aren’t books to study. BUT, every once in awhile I start reading something and on page 3 I’m like “Oh shoot, I need my notebook!” This particular book is called Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze and it’s SPECTACULAR! I took 9 pages of notes!!
2️⃣ Make up symbols to represent the appropriate action to take. I start a sentence with ? if it’s a question I want to answer, like what are the surveys we're sending out after our RISE conference. If it’s just a quote I love it will start with “” If it’s an action item I want to take immediately I start the line with an empty box so I can check it off later. I also draw concepts (like that leaking cup) as a way to make something really stick in my brain.
3️⃣ Any book that’s worth notes gets set in a special place on my bookshelf and I reread them AT LEAST once a year. Some faves in the stack? 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, Hug Your Customers, High Performance Habits, Relentless, The Ultimate Sales Machine, Entreleadership and Big Magic just to name a few.
4️⃣ I don’t read these kinds of books while lounging in bed, I read them during my morning routine while sitting at a desk or on a plane when I’m awake and have total focus and no interruptions. I don’t ever feel like I get good work done or focus well when I’m in bed or lounging on the sofa so I have to be very intentional about my learning time.
I ❤️ self-education since everything I know about business I learned in books, podcasts, YouTube and at conferences. The answers are out there and they’re TOTALLY free. All they’ll cost you is time and effort. It’s time to MAKE THE EFFORT.