How To Get the Most Out of Every Book and Article You Read

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If I’d ask you to summarize the last three books or articles you’ve read, how much would you be able to recall?

If you’re honest, your answer will be not much.

That’s among others because we’re experiencing a massive information overflow.

This flood of information in the 21st century is a curse and a blessing at the same time: It enables us to learn anything quickly and at low costs, but at the same time, it often overwhelms us.

According to Jim Kwik, our capacity to learn is limitless; we simply need to be shown how to access it.

Kwik is a brain coach who’s been working on figuring out how our brains work for decades. In his book Limitless, he presents three simple yet powerful questions that might help you get the most out of every book or article you read.

Answering these three questions while reading might seem like unnecessary additional work. However, the truth is they will help you retain what you read and ensure the knowledge gets transferred out of the book into your mind.

“No skill is as powerful as learning how to learn. It’s the superpower from which all others grow.”
— Eric Schurenberg

How can I use this?

Whenever you read non-fiction content, you aim to make use of what you learn.

No matter if it’s self-improvement, business, tech, or anything else — your ultimate goal is to become better at what you’re reading.

And while great books and articles often tell you how to use the information you consume, the bad news is that these are a rarity.

In most cases, you’ll learn something but don’t know how to use the information. That’s why it’s so important to ask yourself, how can I use this?

This question helps you figure out how the advice can actually impact your life or business instead of just inspiring you.

If you’re reading to get inspired, you might not need that question anyway. But if you’re reading to make a change and become a better version of yourself, you’ll need to figure out how to put the knowledge into practice.

How to do it:

What if you’d ask yourself, How can I use this?” while reading this article right now?

If you’d do that, the answer would be pretty simple: As this is a post about getting the most out of everything you read, you can use this information whenever you read non-fiction content.

You could, for instance, write these three questions on a sticky note and place it on the first page of the book you’re currently reading. This would be a little reminder and could help you get the most out of the information.

However, you can also create a digital note on your desktop so that you’re reminded of them when you’re browsing online.

Once you ensured you get reminded of the questions, using them will be much easier.

Why must I use this?

The second question is about relevance.

Why is the information relevant to you? Why should you care about it at all? How could it possibly change your business, relationships, or even life?

However, the real question here is a different one: What’s your ultimate goal? Why do you read books? To get inspired? To be able to say that you read a lot? Or to learn?

If you’re reading for inspiration or to show off your long list of finished books, you might not care about relevance. But if you’re reading because you want more, you’ll need to go the extra mile.

This might slow down your reading process, but it’ll ensure you get the very most out of every text.

How to do it:

If you’d ask yourself why you should use what you learn in this article, the answer would be straightforward: Because it’ll enable you to make more out of the content you consume.

Using these three questions is relevant because they’ll ensure you not only get inspired but understand how to put information into practice.

If something doesn’t feel relevant, we’re not tempted to remember it. However, the problem is that most of the time, it’s hard to say what is truly relevant and what isn’t if we’re just skimming over books and articles.

That’s why you should consciously ask yourself, Why must I use this?”. This will help you differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information.

“Learning how to filter all the data, to develop new methods and skills for thriving in a distracted world drowning in a flood of information, is what is needed to thrive in the 21st century.”
— Mark Hyman

When will I use this?

The last question is about timing. When exactly will you use what you learn?

Similar to the relevance of the content, timing helps us figure out how to use information.

You might come across tons of great tips that might be important and valuable, but if you can’t put them into practice, they’re worthless.

Let’s say you just started your business and read books on leadership to learn how to manage employees. However, the problem is that you’re a solopreneur and can’t even afford to pay someone to work for you.

In that case, it’s nice to learn more about leadership, but it’s not applicable.

Instead, you should be focusing on learning more about topics that can have an actual influence on the status quo.

How to do it:

After figuring out how you could use a specific piece of information and why you should use it, try to come up with a particular use case.

In which specific situation could you apply what you learned?

If you’d ask yourself this question right now, the answer would be obvious: You can use these three questions next time you read a book or article.

Final thoughts

Quite often, questions can be the most enlightening answer.

According to brain coach Jim Kwik, questions direct our focus and play an important role in our lives:

“Because people typically don’t ask enough questions when they read, they compromise their focus, understanding, and retention.”

Next time you’re into a long reading session, set a timer, and stop your reading experience after a certain period (e.g., 20 minutes). Take a short break, ask yourself what you learned, and look for answers to the three questions:

How can I use this?
Why must I use this?
When will I use this?

Whenever you sit down to read non-fiction content, keep a notebook, some sticky notes, or your digital note-keeping system handy, so you can instantly take notes on how to apply what you learn.

Don’t be afraid to highlight, inscribe, and use your books. After all, your goal is to be well-educated and able to speak about the books you’ve read, not having an untouched bookshelf.

Remembering more of what you read won’t only help you put knowledge into practice, but it will also help you make meaningful book recommendations to your friends and family, which is pretty cool too.

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