How I Get The Most Out Of The Business Books I Read

The best business books help me to think, speak, and act clearly and consistently in my business.

To get the most out of my business reading, I document my progress with Notes, like Tim Ferriss writes about on his blog here.

Over time, my Notes have become more structured to include:

  • Date: The date I read the chapter and updated the Notes page.
  • General Thoughts: My thoughts to introduce the chapter in the Notes, giving the reader context into my frame of mind.
  • Quotations: My top quotation per chapter.
  • Associations: Other sources on the topic, or things about which I was reminded while reading.
  • Takeaway: A tangible thing or specific activity I can do to more fully “get” what the chapter has to offer.

Business Books – Date

I do my best to keep the reader informed of the date I read things so there’s more context as to what was going on while I was reading it. Much like a diary, keeping track of “when” I encounter things is helpful when I go back over the Notes in the future.

Business Books – General Thoughts

My process for reading books for Entreprising has changed over the years. At this time, the most effective way I’ve found is to listen to the Audible version of the book chapter while I’m walking (once or twice per day).

I only listen to one chapter at a time, and then I come home to read the Kindle version, grade it on The Rubric, and write my Notes.

My General Thoughts include the context of the walk and the day, and anything else worth noting.

They’re not labeled; but generally are the text leading into the Quotation.

Business Books – Quotations

As I’m walking, I’m focused on staying with the narrator. This is why I usually listen to chapters on 2x speed; I find it easier to stay focused that way.

But when I get home, and I read the chapter on Kindle, I’m looking to pick out the “top quotation” for the chapter.

Sometimes this is the main claim for the chapter, other times it’s the quotation that sticks out the most – either because I fully agree with it, or I fully disagree with it.

Whatever the reason for choosing the quotation, I go into it just below so you know why it’s my choice.

Business Books – Associations

While either walking and listening, or sitting down to read, I note associations I’m making as I’m listening.

These include other business books, or people, or ideas I’ve encountered that help put the new information into context for me.

I introduce the associations to you, along with helpful links you can follow in case they’re of interest.

Business Books – Takeaways

Perhaps my favorite, if there’s a checklist or other helpful bit from the text I can take out and use again, I note them here.

When I’m reading and there aren’t any readily used takeaways from the text, I turn the takeaway section into a giveaway section, and give the reader something else to help solidify the reading.

The point of reading business books is to make sure I’m current, and to help foster good decision-making as I create a business that works for me.

The idea of the takeaway is to document what I think a book will do to influence my life (if anything), and then to return to those Notes over time and see what stuck.

For instance, when reading Extreme Ownership two years ago, I started following one of the authors, Jocko Willink. I found it funny that he posted a picture of his watch at the time he woke up each morning, and then the “aftermath” of his workout (usually a mat on a floor with some exercise equipment).

At one point, he posted and noted it had been a couple days since he had last posted. He stated:

The best way to get back on the path is to get back on the path.

Jocko Willink

I might have gotten those words wrong, but the sentiment is spot on. So simple, and yet so effective for me this year as I’ve taken up walking every day.