This morning, I read the entirety of Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone in 77 minutes and got more out of it than I have spending days reading equally informed books cover to cover. I did this using a really simple technique my Dad taught me but I never bothered to try until now.
I finished my master’s degree program last week and decided to tackle the mountain of books I accumulated over the last 2 years. The opportunity cost of carefully reading 50+ books is way too high, so the time came to experiment.
Here is the technique (order is important):
- Look through the table of contents to frame the book’s contents
- Skim the last chapter
- Skim the first chapter
- In reverse order, read the chapter title, the last paragraph followed by the first paragraph of each chapter, taking brief notes of important points (with page numbers), action items, and questions. Make note of chapters you want to cover in more detail.
- Skim chapters that you want to cover in more detail. Go through the chapter in reverse order, 1 page at a time, taking notes as appropriate.
When you are finished, you should end up with a page or two of critical points with references for you to go back to at a later date, action items and questions for you to follow up on. All this should take roughly one hour. This method works because most non-fiction books follow a prescribed format of state, describe, and restate. You miss some of the details, but you generally don’t retain these details anyways. This way, you only go back to read details that are important.
For a sample, check out the notes I took from Never Eat Alone (I took 3 pages, but it really should be shorter). Highlighted items are my action items or follow-up questions.
Let me know if you have other clever methods for getting all you can out of a non-fiction book in the shortest amount of time possible.