How to read on purpose to maximise your learning?

February 20, 2017

To get straight to the point, I believe we read for two key reasons one being for pleasure, the other being to learn. This post is solely concerned with the later reason, therefore, offers simple and effective ways for how to read on purpose to maximise your learning.

There’s many motivations that lead us to read for learning’s sake, these are a few key drivers of my own:

  • Refresh a professional craft
  • Cultivate a new skill
  • Broaden perspective on a topic matter
  • Understand tried and tested plans of attack
  • Gain valuable insights from best-in-breed leaders
  • Inspire new ways to think
  • Challenge long held assumptions and beliefs

Without further ado, here are five approaches I’ve implemented to read on purpose to maximise my learning that I’d encourage you to consider and adopt too:

Eliminate distractions

Create peace and space in your mind and surrounds to focus and absorb, once more think and reflect on what you are reading.

This all starts with being smart about where you read. Choose a spot attuned to sitting still comfortably for a good block of time, where background noise can be minimised and devices can be placed far from arm’s reach (on silent, of course).

To further help create a distraction free environment, find a time when others who you live with will be out or if it’s easier remove yourself from your home and earmark a go-to location such as the local park or library to fit your reading time in.

Don’t read books you want to learn from at bed time

Don’t know about you, but, once I start reading a book when I’ve jumped into bed I’m asleep within 20 minutes. In truth, I rarely remember the next morning what I read about before calling it a day.

The practicalities of life make bedtime the most convenient for most of us to read, however for learning far from optimal. As with all things we want to do in life, if reading to learn is a priority we will make the time.

That means, finding your ‘on’ time (best time to learn, when you are most focused) during the day and blocking this out for reading. This should increase the likelihood your mind will be sharp and your full undivided attention can be brought to the present moment.

Read for knowledge you need now, not in the distant future

In the past, I read books with no thought on their topic matter. Choices were made based on word of mouth recommendations, what was a new release and sometimes swayed by marketing tactics.

On reflection, when post book takeaways were abundant and information consumed was clearly understood, I realised the book’s content was aligned with my values or a real world opportunity existed to start putting into action subject matter I’d just read on.

Now, I only read against my personal pillars which broadly encompass my values and goals. All literature I typically consume can be aligned with two, but if a book only touches on one that’s ok if it holds specialist know-how.

Find your optimal reading block then document what you’ve learnt

There’s a set limit for how long any individual can sit-still undistracted and read for. This includes not getting up to grab a snack from the fridge or take a peek at their Instagram feed.

For me that’s about three to four chapters of a book.

Once you’ve identified your optimal reading block of time/chapters, read slightly less so there is still brain bandwidth to dedicate energy to reflective journaling. This is noting down key learnings that come to mind, things that inspire you or simply references to notable pages for you to revisit at a later date.

This is inessence creating mental notes, paraphrasing and summarising what you’ve found to be of most relevance and value to your self-education efforts.

Connect with others to discuss your learnings

To activate your reading into solidified knowledge having a go-to group of like-minded people to talk with is a valuable resource to further your learning but also gain perspective on your thoughts.

Chances are if you got stuck on a concept, someone else did too. Rather than gloss over that which you did not understand, perhaps this could be nutted out together with your “reading buddy” through a conversation through the reasoning deduction process.

In summary, to read on purpose to maximise your learning it’s key to identify and create the optimal time, approach, environment for you to do so. Also, seek to couple the passive learning activity of reading to a more active learning activity like forming a chat group or putting into practice that which you’ve learned in the real world.



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