The Best Way to Read a Book in 90 Minutes (and Still Learn Something)

How many books do you have on your reading list? If you’re like me, there are way more than you can ever read in your lifetime.

And the list always keeps growing, right? Every time I finish a good book, I look at similar ones. Or, I ask friends, colleagues, or clients for recommendations.

I know that I’ll never read all the books I want to; however, you can take in a lot more than you think. Especially if you, like me, read to learn new things.

Around 80% of my reading list is non-fiction. And I have a simple system that I use for non-fiction books: It doesn’t matter how many pages it has—you just have to skip through the fluff. Otherwise, it’s a waste of your time.

Here’s how you can read a book in 90 minutes.

1. Pick the Book Wisely

Time: Before you start

Why do you choose a book? Is it because someone raves about it? Or, because it’s a NYT bestseller?

Honestly, those are lousy reasons to pick it up and invest your time in reading it. I have only one question that helps me to decide if it’s worth it: Is this currently relevant to me?

In other words: Will this book help me now? If the answer is no, I don’t read it.

I’ve experienced that information only sticks if you:

  1. Read it
  2. Apply it

But if you read a book that’s not relevant to you, you can’t apply the knowledge you learn. Always pick something you can use.

Are you trying to negotiate a salary increase? Find books on negotiation. Do you want to improve your social skills? Find books that can help you with that. And so forth.

2. Study the Table of Contents and Structure of the Book

Time: 15 minutes

The goal is to get one or two valuable ideas that you can apply in your life. Ideas that will help you save time, money, or improve yourself, business, relationships.

A lot of people still think you should read a book cover to cover. Says who?

My skimming process looks like this:

  1. Look at the back cover: What does this book promise to teach you? What’s the background of the author? You want to get a clear picture of how this book can help you, and how trustworthy the advice is.
  2. Study the table of contents
  3. Skim through the book and figure out where the actionable advice is
  4. Skip the stuff you’re not interested in
  5. Read the stuff that’s relevant

The book nerd may say, “Yeah, but you’re missing a lot of information.” I say, “Studying is the art of skipping.”

That’s how I managed to read so many books: by skipping information. Do I risk missing valuable things? Yes. Do I save time so I can spend it with my family, girlfriend, or friends? Hell yes.

So study the content and determine what’s useful to you. Try to decipher the book. Then, get to the good stuff.

3. Set a Timer and Read

Time: 45 minutes

By now you know why you’re reading a book, and you know exactly which chapter and parts you’re going to read.

Now comes the most important part: read without interruptions. Turn off your notifications, close the door, don’t follow through on your thoughts. Just focus on the book. That takes practice, and it’s something that you’ll become better at.

But the key is to completely immerse yourself for 45 minutes. And what you’ll find is that you’ll retain more information from one 45-minute session than reading the book every day on your train ride to work.

While you’re reading, try to find a way to bookmark interesting things (this is important for the next step). I bookmark pages by folding the corners. If you’re renting or borrowing it, keep a pen and paper handy and write down the page numbers that contain valuable information on a sheet of paper or in your phone. Or, take pictures of the pages that contain stuff you want to remember. Then, store the pictures in a note-taking app so you can access it from other devices (I use Evernote for that).

A book is a tool, not a sacred piece of paper. Use it.

4. Write a Short Summary for Yourself

Time: 30 minutes

I never do this immediately after reading—I let my subconscious sit on it for a while. But a few days (no more than a week) later, I write a summary for myself.

This is easier than it sounds. Go through your bookmarks and notes for 10 minutes. Then, sit down and write what you’re going to do with your newfound information.

To be honest, sometimes I just write one sentence because the book wasn’t that useful. But that’s okay—not all books will help you equally.

Other times, I write a whole essay or article that I later publish. To me, that’s the best way to retain information—blogging. Even if no one reads it, you practice your writing, thinking, and analyzing skills. And that’s priceless.

Remember: It’s never about the number of books you read. More is not better. Instead, use this process to get actionable advice so you can immediately put your knowledge into practice.

Whether you use it or not, I challenge you to think consciously about why you read.

You have limited time. Use it wisely. For everything. Even reading books.

This article was originally published on Dariusforoux.com. It has been republished here with permission.

Photo of person reading courtesy of Tom Merton/Getty Images.

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