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Books and Goals

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Let’s say you have a goal for yourself and you know that in order to achieve your goal – you need to study something new. Books are one of the best resources available that can help you progress towards your goal. You might have never looked into money management but if you want to get out of debt, this is something you want to study. The same goes for getting organized – you need new knowledge in order to achieve your goal of becoming someone who has his or her life in order. This article is here to provide you a shortcut to achieve those goals by using newly acquired knowledge through books in an efficient manner.

Let’s go over the different phases to utilize books for goal getting. In this case I’ll use the example of the book Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy to showcase how you can study up on time management.

Phase 1 – Set the Outcome

The obvious first step is reading the book. Now here is a little brain hack I want you to start using: before you read any book, set a clear outcome you would like to get out of your book. A simple outcome can look like:

After reading this book I want to be able to …..

And you fill in the blank. For example, before I would read Eat That Frog, you could set this outcome:

After reading this book I want to be able to control my schedule and feel like I can manage my life.

This outcome should be in direct alignment with your goal. If your goal is to master time management, the desired outcome of the book should be somewhat similar or at least in alignment with your goal.

When you clearly set this outcome for yourself – as you read the book your brain will automatically scan for information that will help you facilitate this outcome. This allows you to read a book a lot faster (almost like speed reading) and you will get the information that you need to progress towards your outcome. If on the other hand you set the outcome to “after reading this book I want to be able to have the knowledge to organize my office” your book highlights and the information you absorb will be totally different. So be very careful but clear on your desired outcome. It will affect how you read and study a book.

For you neuroscience geeks, this little trick is manipulating your reticular activation system (RAS) so it filters information that only applies to your desired outcome.

You and I can read the same book but if each of us have a different desired outcome – we both get different value out of the same book. One is not better than the other – it’s just different.

This is a really simple trick but I cannot stress enough how powerful it is. This is really great for goal getting. If you just want to read a book then I wouldn’t recommend this (and this doesn’t work on fiction at all). However, if you want to use books to help you facility achieving a goal this is a really powerful trick to use. But this is only the first step!

Phase 2 – Organize Your Notes

After you have set a clear outcome – read the book! Take notes as you go and highlight passages you find important.

The transition from finishing a book and actually implementing what you have learned is one of the biggest challenges you will face in this process. While you are investing your time by reading, the real return on investment comes when you setup a plan of implementation and put it into practice. Aaron wrote about the Asian Efficiency goal framework which is a great way to do that. Here is how you can do it using that framework (simplified):

  • For each book you finish – summarize it either by writing out notes or using a mindmap.
  • If there are any exercises, setup a goal framework for each set of exercises (for example a framework for each exercise based on each chapter).
  • Use the goal framework to make a plan of implementation based on all your notes.

Let’s say one of the things you got out of Eat That Frog is the habit of planning your day the night before. You would setup a framework for that particular mini goal (creating that habit) which is in direct alignment with your goal of “becoming more organized”. And don’t be afraid to set aside a couple hours to implement all this. It will be worthwhile.

Aaron gave another great example of how to use that framework for reading a business book and making a plan of action so I won’t repeat that here. However, I’ll expand a little bit more on it with review cycles.

Phase 3 – Review Cycles

After you have done all the reading and you have completed the implementation, you might think you’re done. Well…you are almost done. There is one more step you need to do and that’s reviewing. Reviewing simply means taking time aside to go over your book notes and highlights again.

Oftentimes you will forget information but a review will remind you of this again. What also happens a lot is after a while when you review, you will get new insights into what certain things mean to you. If you have ever read the same book twice, you will know what I mean. But for those I also want to say….that was really inefficient. With a review cycle you won’t need to do that! :-)

As you review, also look for what you can use at the current stage of your life. A lot of times when you’re reading something, there will be lots of information that you will find important but you’re simply not ready for yet.

Reviewing also helps you realize if you actually completed your goal or not. One of the main reasons people never reach their goal is they either set a running target or they didn’t clearly define their goal. As you do your review, you will quickly realize if you actually completed it. As you do more reviews of the same material, like annual reviews, you don’t do it for goal getting but rather to refresh your knowledge and to ensure you keep improving your knowledge.

As far as when you should review – this is really up to you. The review cycle will also change over time and it’s dependent on how much you want to focus on a specific goal. For example, if you are completely new to Eat That Frog, you might want to review your notes every three months. However, after a year (four reviews) you might have grasped it a lot better so you just want to review it once a year. I did this exactly for Getting Things Done by David Allen and now I review it once a year just to stay sharp.

Our favorites

Here is a list of a couple of our favorite time management and personal productivity books.

Next Actions

  • Before you read any book for goal getting – make sure you define a clear outcome.
  • Use our AE goal framework to implement what you learned.
  • Review your notes as often as you need.

Photo by nSeika.

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Posted by Gryphin  | May 20, 2014 at 7:58PM | Reply

All 3 books were amazing thank you.

Eat That Frog
The Power of Full Engagement
Getting Things Done

Posted by Zachary Sexton  | May 20, 2014 at 10:37PM

What’s next on your reading list?

Posted by Anonymous  | February 18, 2012 at 8:16PM | Reply

For those of you who are interested in book notes, David Seah created a PDF called the FAST BOOK OUTLINER which will work complementary to taking notes in the AE fashion.

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