How To Get The Most Out of Self-Help Books: 5 Tips

You know how some people treat their books like sacred beings that need to be protected at all times? Yeah, that’s not me.

I’ve been reading self-help books for a long time, and throughout the years I’ve perfected the way I’m reading them: because in the end, it’s not about reading the book, it’s about applying what you read. 

So I thought I would share five things I do with every self-help book I read, to help you get the most out of them!

Read actively

Don’t be afraid to highlight passages that you like and write notes on the pages. I do it all the time! I believe reading should be an active experience, not a passive experience. Doing this somehow helps me to take in the information better and it’s a nice point of reference if I ever want to go back to the book – something I often to with self-help books.

Stop reading shit books

Give it 50, maybe 75 pages. If the book is not for you, put it down. Seems really straightforward, but many people are so determined to finish a book when they start, and it’s a waste of time! We’re all individuals, and some self-help books are not for us. That’s totally okay. Life is short, read books that matter to you. Some books that I’ve been loving recently:

Read, apply, reread

Here’s a system I like to work with: If I read something that resonates with me, I highlight it, and then try to incorporate it in my life. Whether it’s a habit, way of thinking or something else. After a while, I come back to the book and reread the part that resonated with me. This is a really good way to reflect and question whether this is something you’ll want to incorporate in your life for a longer period of time.

Find a system that works for you

Some people make dog ears in all the books they read, other’s highlight, write on the pages (marginalia), use notebooks or post-it notes. You can also use this Notecard system, as explained by the wonderful Ryan Holiday. The point is: find something that works for you.

Ideally, the system you choose makes reading a more fun experience for you. It will also make it easier to understand and then apply the information, because you’re focusing more on the text and the meaning behind it.

As Ryan says in his post about the notecard system he uses: ”This isn’t the perfect system. It might not work for you. All I can say is that since learning it about 7 years ago, it has totally transformed my process and drastically increased my creative output.”

Don’t read to procrastinate

Reading lots of self-help books can actually be a feel-food way to procrastinate. I’ve done it myself. So, do you read in order to feel productive? To procrastinate on other things that (also) need your attention? And do you read self-help books without ever doing what the books recommend?

If you catch yourself doing this, don’t beat yourself up. In the end, you’re still reading a book, which is often a much more productive way to spend your time than watching some show or whatever. Be conscious about this behaviour and make an effort to apply information from the book using the method I described above.

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