Deep Habits: Read Less, But Better

Reading is an integral part of my daily life.

As a homeschooling parent, I often have to read ahead with lessons to ensure I'm prepared to discuss the materials with our daughters.

My personal finance work also requires me to review books or articles when interviewing someone.

On the data analysis side, I'm reading about design and code to build my projects.

I enjoy reading- whether it's on my Kindle, from the library, or from my personal collection.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading is that it connects me to amazing stories, ideas, and lessons that I can carry with me throughout my life.

It also is incredibly useful way for me to learn and prepare for whatever goals I’m trying to tackle. It’s a habit, hobby, and joy of mine.

Why Reading Faster Isn’t Enough

There are plenty of videos and articles available online and in print about how to read faster. From a practical perspective, yes, learning to read at a certain speed can enable you to get through pages more quickly, but is that the ultimate goal?

Has the productivity culture made us focus on the quantity over quality?

It's great if you can read a book a week. With work and family commitments, I've managed to achieve this. However, I'm not only aiming to read more; I'm striving to read better.

For me that means absorbing what I’m reading.

If it’s fiction, appreciating the story. When I’m reading history or the classics for homeschooling, I want to walk away with things I can use an apply in my life besides a lesson plan.

4 Ways to Read Deeply and Remember More

If you’re in the same boat – wanting to become a better reader and get more out of what you read, here are four simple, yet really effective ways you can read deeply and remember more.

You can watch the video below or read the article – it's your choice!

I’m also going to thrown in some bonus tips if you don’t consider yourself a natural reader.

Just a heads up, while I’m going through as a list, you’ll quickly see that’s really a web, every piece is connected.

#1: Different Books Require Different Approaches

Not all books are equal and not all are the same. Think of it like food, some meals you can grab and enjoy, and others you to plan ahead, invite your friends, and have an evening of conversation.

Likewise depending on what you’re reading, how you go into will be different.

Here let me show you an example:

With history, you’re probably focused on finding out:

  • Who were the key people involved? What were the catalysts for the events? How are they connected?

With poetry, hopefully, you’re getting swept away in it, and so your attention could be on:

  • Appreciating and lingering on the words themselves and finding beautiful snippets you want to save for later.

If you’re reviewing a productive book, your mind will likely hone in on:

  • Pulling a few actionable takeaways you can incorporate this year to knock out a goal.

If you’re going over a math or science text, because that’s my life now, I’m looking at the principles demonstrated and I’m practicing them myself.

You get the idea.

You’ll get so much more, by varying your approach.

This tip also includes an additional suggestion: read widely, not just within a narrow niche.

I’ve been guilty of this. With work and now homeschooling the girls, I slipped into this rut of simply reading for articles or a lesson.

On the one hand, I became very adept at reading quickly and it helped me sharpen my note-taking skills for those books and articles. However, it also took some of the enjoyment out of it, and I began to select books based on their usefulness.

As part of my reading plan for this year, I'm exploring various genres, such as poetry, graphic novels, and audiobooks.

One of the benefits is that it’s jolted me out of my rut and I’m working through how to capture this in my notes.

Speaking of notes…..

#2: Read, Then Take Notes

Annotating or jotting down notes as you read is an effective way to absorb the material. It's a great way to create a simple legend for yourself, too – if you come across quotes you like, ideas you want to explore further or things you want to try, you can easily mark them for further reference.

Once you have finished, you should have a better understanding of the overall message and be in a better position to identify the major takeaways, lessons, and ideas. It's likely that you'll also notice recurring themes, ideas, and phrases, which can be distilled into some key notes.

By breaking it down into what you want to remember and what you want to use to inspire you, you can better incorporate the material into your own work.

#3: Use a Commonplace Book

Now where do you put these notes? Several options, but something I believe everyone should have as a foundation is a commonplace book.

A commonplace book is where you capture snippets, thoughts, quotes, or ideas from what you read.

This is not a journal where you’re dissecting a piece or baring your deep thoughts. It’s simply a way for you to snatch some timeless wisdom to reflect on later.

One way I like to use it is to see if there is a theme or idea that I’m unconsciously thinking about or want to explore more.

Try limiting yourself to how many takeaways/quotes you grab from your books. This helps you to grapple with what’s really the most profound/useful/interesting/beautiful.

#4: Revisit What You Read

Finally, my last tip for reading more deeply is read the book again.

It doesn’t have to be right away, but if you’ve read something good, go back to it.

I love this analogy from Elizabeth Filips, who compared it to listening to a fantastic song once and then never hearing it again.

No one I know does that.

Most people save it on their playlist and listen to it again and again.

You’re also nudging yourself a bit with accountability by looking at it again.

Bonus Tip: Read What You Love

By the way, if you don’t consider yourself a natural reader (whatever that is!), but you do want to develop the habit of reading, here’s a tip from Janis and Alex that I think hit the nail on the head.

Read what you love until you love to read.

Whether you’re starting out with becoming a regular reader, or you’ve been doing it for years, please keep in mind that this is supposed to enrich your life, not feel like a burden.

Resources to Read Better

Here are some extra videos and articles I enjoyed reading and watching to prepare.

Photo by Vincenzo Malagoli

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