Great leaders also tend to be great readers . That’s because books have the power to transform you. Books contain information; information contains ideas; ideas change you. Reading a book is one thing, having the ability to recall and use the information is entirely different. So, if you want to become a better leader, use this 3 step approach to help you read more effectively:
1. Pre-Read . Do a little “recon” of the book. Snoop around the pages and decide if this is a book worthy of your time. We are all busy and have limited time. Do not waste it reading a book that is not going to add value to your life. At a minimum, make sure you look at these items:
– Author : Check out the author’s bio. What are the author’s credentials, background, and purpose behind writing the book? This will provide added insight as you read.
– Table of Contents : This is the roadmap. It tells you where you are going and some of the landmarks you will see along the way. It also lays out the author’s thought progression, letting partner into the author’s mind.
– Size It Up . Briefly flip through the pages and survey the book. How long are the chapters? Apart from words, how does the author like to convey the information? Are there charts, diagrams, or lists? Your purpose is to get your mind in synch with the author’s. It helps you process the information easier.
2. Read Actively . Reading actively basically means engaging with the book as you read. You take note of ideas and concepts in a way that is easy to recall later. Here’s how I do it:
– Highlight . Some people randomly highlight portions as the mood strikes. Nothing wrong with that, but I need a more intentional approach. As I read a page, I highlight the portions that capture the main idea or ideas on the page. Put another way, I highlight the phrases that sum up the entire page. On average, I find there are about 2, maybe 3 main ideas per page. This sparing, but critical use of the highlighter will pay off when you get to the third step. Oh, yeah, and I like to use yellow.
– Mark Concepts . Sometimes there are concepts or examples that do not lend well to a highlighter. I’m thinking of stories or illustrative examples here. For these, I grab a pen or pencil and put a star or bracket around those ideas. I may even follow-up with some notes in the margins.
– Create an Index . I create an index in the blank pages at the back of the book for the main topics I encounter. Any topic I may revisit later for research or other purposes, I put in the back of the book. Just write the topic and the page number. It saves you loads of time by giving you quick access to the information. It is invaluable.
3. Review . When I finish the book I let it sit for a day or two. When I’m ready for my review, I will thumb through the pages from cover to cover, carefully reading the highlighted and marked portions only. This is where your disciplined use of the highlighter pays off. You have highlighted the main ideas which sum up each page (if you there is one on each page). You will be amazed as the material automatically jumps out at you. Basically, you have created a shortened, condensed summary of your book. It’s like reading through your own set of Cliff Notes. Meanwhile, your topical index is in the back of the book is waiting like a research assistant to help you access the information for any kind of writing or speaking project you have.
This is the only way I read a non-fiction now. I love it. It’s made a big difference in the way I read and process a book. As far as fiction goes, I would not bother. I just relax and let my mind meander through.