Effective Reading Cheat Sheet
The cheat sheet below gives a snapshot of the process I use to read non-fiction books in general and also to write the book summaries over at JUSTGOGREAT. To get the most from it, and for a more in-depth guide to effective reading, I highly recommend this summary of Adler and Van Doren’s How to Read a Book.
ASK – What am I hoping to learn? Output: List of questions to answer.
1. Research – Find and triage books with reading lists, recommendations and reviews.
2. Scan – The cover, publisher’s blurb, title, contents and index.
ASK – How well does this book answer my questions? Decision: Skim / don’t skim.
3. Skim – Preface, chapters (titles, questions and recaps), and last pages of book.
4. Synthesise – What is the book about? (Use no more than 3 sentences)
ASK – Is reading this book worth my time? Decision: Read / don’t read.
5. Read (actively)
- Set up for success – appropriate energy, good lighting, note taking equipment.
- Take notes – liberally, in the book (paper) or in an app (digital).
- Connect ideas – within the book and to other authors.
6. Structure (bullet points)
- From memory – don’t look at your notes until you have to.
- Referring to notes – fill in any blanks you’ve missed.
7. Synthesise (long-form)
- Use your own words – change examples to check for understanding.
- Picture one person – make your imaginary audience specific.
- Imagine teaching it in person – keep it concise, interesting and relatable.
- Structure first – lists are more easily memorised.
- Use mnemonics – to get the information into short/mid-term memory.
- Use spaced repetition– to review the information until it’s in long-term memory.
- Re-visit your summary and/or the book as often as necessary.
- Vary topic and/or author depending on overall goals.
And that’s all there is to it!
See this article if you want to know how productive you are.
Or, you can read this article to learn how to make use of notebooks to lead a successful life.