Getting Most Out of Reading


Reading is one of the productive actions of a  man.  While some are still struggling with making it a habit, many have mastered the art of reading already.  Reading cannot be ruled out of one’s daily schedule because of its benefit to human development.

“Reading is one thing, but getting the most out of reading is another thing.”

The essence of reading is to improve your life or to facilitate your growth in an area of endeavour by getting actionable ideas on a particular subject. Cultivating reading habits is a starting point to what reading can contribute to your growth, but it is not all there is.

Reading alone does not guarantee success.

It is the application of what you read in your life that determines success. People like Bill gates, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk and other successful people attributes their success to reading. This is because they took action according to the ideas they got from the books.  Jim Rohn said:

“Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge, let your learning lead to Action”

If you have knowledge on a subject without translating it into action, then you are more like a person without the knowledge.

“Knowledge is only a potential power, it takes a kinetic energy when you retain and apply it” – Anonymous 

The following guidelines will help you get the most out of reading.

1. Determine the purpose for reading a book:

Purpose is everything when it comes to learning. Before determining to read a particular book, you should have an anticipated outcome that you intend to achieve or an anticipated result that guides your planned action of reading. This should be determined by you before embarking on the journey of reading. It is this purpose that will determine how committed you will be when reading and how you are going to open your heart to the ideas and instructions in the book.

2. Preview the book:

This is called skimming. It is done by glancing through the preface, table of contents, back note, headings and sub-headings by flipping through the book before reading. It is an act of reading on its own, but not a thorough/deep reading. It is being done just to get a good idea of what the book is about and what the book have to offer you.

Doing this will give you an open mind and you will want to read with maximum concentration.

3. Check for Review:

if you are not so sure of what a particular book have to offer you, then you can ask people that have read it before to tell you the main idea of the book. You can also find reviews of books by searching the internet for a book review (Google is always your friend). Goodread is another online portal to get reader reviews on a particular book. Getting the review will open your mind while reading the book.

4. Find a quite/isolated area:

This will prevent you from any form of distraction that may prevent you from assimilation.

Look for a quiet environment and get rid of anything that can distract you such as phones, friends, mp3 player etc.

5. Don’t Speed Read:

Getting most out of reading is not in the amount of pages/books you are able to cover in a day/week, it is about knowing how the ideas in a book will be applied and transform your life. While reading, there will be a need for you to ponder on some important point by reading maybe just a single line/paragraph over and over again, meditating on it, and how you can take action on it. A lot of people get it wrong in this aspect, they see the numbers of books they are able to read in a week/month as an achievement rather than how the book has improved their lives. The point is, take your time to read and digest every single point in a book, you are not in a competition with anyone, don’t speed read.

6. Highlight important points/ideas:

while reading, you will come across lots of points and ideas listed in a particular book by the author, the best way to capture them is to highlight them with your pen, highlighter or marker. This will help you to:

• Stay focused while reading

• Make your review easier

• Pay attention to keywords

• It creates a history of sentences that resonated with you

• Remember important points

This can be done in hardcopy, and softcopy books. While this is important, it should not replace note taking.

7. Annotation/Margin Note:

This is another reading strategy that enables the reader to get the most out of his reading. It is the act of writing margin note, it works best when there is a margin space available in the book you are reading.

It is done just to summarize a particular paragraph or an idea that captures your attention. It performs the same function with highlighting. See picture below for an example.

8. Taking notes on paper:

This is an effective way of reading to understand. It is done to by taking down note of important point and ideas on a paper (your jotting note).

• By rewriting a point in your own word, you will be forced to think about the ideas and points you discovered while reading, this therefore helps you to analyse and retain the idea.

• Rewriting a point or an idea helps to retain it in your memory

Note taking is applicable while reading hardcopy or soft copy. Notes and Pen are necessary for hardcopy, while some mobile and Pc apps such as Evernote, Google keeps, fili-write and others can also be used to take important notes.

“Jot down what you learn and be a buyer of empty books. It’s the small disciplines that lead to great accomplishments.” – Jim Rohn

9. Meditation:

This is an important aspect of reading that cannot be neglected if at all one is determined on getting the best out of reading. It involves reflecting on a particular point or idea, give it a deep thought to understand what the author is talking about. While doing this, think about how you can apply the idea into your life, picture yourself in the scene. This will help you to understand and relate with any idea and also know how to apply any idea into your life.

10. Pick the right format for your reading:

While some people prefer soft copy books, others prefer hard copy. Although soft copy books make reading easier and readiness on the go anywhere anytime, studies show that soft copy books makes it difficult to comprehend reading. The best thing is that the reader should know the right format he can use best in order to get the most out of the book.

11. Ask questions:

Reading is like having a direct conversation with the author. As you read you will come across some ideas or point that seems confusing or intrigued. When this happens, ask yourself some certain question about them. Questions like “How does the author arrived at this conclusion?” “Why did the author include this example?” 


Doing this will help you to ponder on important points and understand better.

12. Always know when to stop

This goes with being observed while reading. After a long time of reading, there is a particular stage you will reach that you will no longer comprehend the information again, though you are still reading, but you will notice that the information just floats through your head without sticking to your brain. Any other reading done after this time is just a waste of time, don’t force yourself.

13. Reread passages/paragraphs you do not understand:

There is every tendencies that you come across passages/paragraphs that you do not understand, when this happen, don’t jump/skip them, read them over and over again until you digest the points. Remember you are reading to learn, take your time to understand everything.

14. Revisit the book again after dropping it for a while:

Learning happens through repetition, you don’t expect to read a book once and grasp everything in it. After one or two weeks of dropping the book, pick it up again and read. When reading it over again, you may not read all the content, you just read your highlights, annotation/margin notes and the actionable ideas. This will remind you of important points/ideas you come across while reading it the first time.

15. Sticky note strategy:

This involves the use of sticky note to tab specific points of interest, ideas or point of strategic applications. This helps to remind you of important action points and ideas suggested by the author.

Always place the sticky note where you will always see it, and make the writings on it small and concise.

16.  Teach/Share the ideas with someone:

Teaching is one of the ways to retain knowledge. It is an effective way you can use to retain whatever idea you got from reading.

Find someone to teach/share the idea with, if you are able to do it well it shows you understood and have retained the knowledge, but if you find out you couldn’t do it well, you will need to read the book again. You may also consider blogging or writing online article.

17.  Design an Action point:

Most personal development books always contain action points which suggest actions to be taken on each idea. This is to guide the reader on the actions to take. You may also design one for yourself based on the ideas you got from the book. Write your action points down, place it where you will always see it and be disciplined enough to take action.

Materials Needed for Effective Reading

1. Hardcover Jotting Note

2. Pen

3. Highlighters or Marker

4. Digital writing Apps. Example: Evernote, Google Keeps, Filiwrite, Pocket etc. They are available for smartphones and Pc

5. Sticky Notes (Its is also available on Phones and Pc)

Article written by Kehinde Omotayo 

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