What do you do when you finish a good book? Quite often, I take a deep breath and then I space out for a moment. When the sadness disappears because of me finishing the book, I allow my thoughts to wander. Let them bounce between the different topics the author discussed in the text and try to make sense of it all. I desperately want to talk to someone about the book, but I find nobody. After I come to my senses, I get to work…
Reading books is this super simple activity – or at least it looks like this.
After all, you’re just staring and understanding… paper.
Yes, some books tend to flex your brain with their complicated sentences and profound theories. Overall, though, the act of reading involves you sitting or lying comfortably and looking at words on a printed paper. Physical activities are not involved. Only mental gymnastics.
I love reading books. And for the most part of my life, that’s the only thing I was doing with books: I was reading them!
You could say that I used them the way they were supposed to be used – for reading. That’s not the full picture, however.
Books, especially nonfiction books, are meant to be applied.
Besides giving you a new perspective about how to approach problems. They prompt you to do some changes in the way you live and the way you handle adversity.
If after reading a good book you simply start a new one, in this post, I’m going to persuade you that this is not enough.
In this last post from the read better series, I’m going to share the things, the strategies, I follow after reading a good book.
Note: This post is part of a series on how to become a better reader. Here’s the overview:
- How to choose the right book
- What to do before reading
- What to do while you’re reading
- What to do after you’re done with a book (the current post)
What Is The Purpose of Having After-Reading Strategies?
If you search online, you’ll find a lot of articles that share post-reading strategies for students to increase comprehension and help them win in school. But what you won’t find is post-reading strategies for adults.
The goals students set when they read and the goals adults who want to expand their knowledge in a particular subject are, or at least should be, different.
While students usually read to past tests – not that this is a noble goal – adults read, or at least they should read, to make corrections in their lives.
Here, in this post, I want to help adults set post-reading activities – i.e., do things after reading a book.
Taking the time to do something after reading a book gives you this rare opportunity. A chance to reflect on the text and think about how the manuscript you just finished can be applied to your life.
Post-reading strategies are about reflecting on the text and creating a clear-cut plan that will help you perform the suggested changes mentioned by the author.
This is the most important part of reading a book.
Just as reading a recipe about a cake without baking the cake makes no sense. Reading a book without doing what the author is suggesting is equally unproductive.
If you don’t give yourself enough time to think about the text and to actually use it, it’s like you’ve just wasted your time.
For instance, you can read some of the best books on changing your habits – I’ve actually summarized them here, here, and here – but if you do apply the concepts. What’s the point?
Sure, you can say, “I’ve read the most important books on habit change!” You can post this on your social media profile so others can feel depressed by your titanic achievement. But if zero changes have been made in your real life, you’re just deluding yourself.
So, here are 7 after-reading activities that can quite literally save your life:
7 Post-Reading Strategies After Reading a Book
The post-reading examples below are listed chronologically.
Start from the first suggestion and work towards the last. Not all are required, but if you only have time for one of the mentioned. Focus on the doing part: Schedule Time To Take Action.
Summarize the Whole Book
In the previous article about what to do while reading a book, I mentioned that it’s a good idea to add notes based on the ideas you found in the chapters – adding a short summary of every concept you encounter.
Besides that, though, it’s equally important to summarize the whole book after you’re done.
You force yourself to think about the book as a whole.
Why did the author write the book? What was the main purpose of the book? What problems is the author trying to solve? Did the content provide adequate solutions?
These are just some of the questions you might pursue when writing the summary.
Distilling 300+ pages into a couple of sentences is harder than you think. But the benefits are clear: you actively think about the material, and you outline the main arguments of the book.
Think About How The Book Made You Feel
Some books truly are magical.
How do you know which ones?
Well, the moment you finish the last page, you feel dreadful. Not only that you want to keep reading, but you also want to keep experiencing the elusive feelings the book evoked in you.
It almost feels like a good friend is saying farewell.
You’re heartbroken. You want more. And, you want to reserve these feelings.
Put in writing the type of feelings the book created in you.
Reads like The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk can make you feel angry. Agitated by how some parents treat their kids.
Transform this anger into something more productive. Say what exactly made you feel this way. Promise yourself that you won’t be like the stories in the book.
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight can inspire you. Make you feel extra adventurous. Allow yourself to see that the creation of a widely recognized brand – the pursuit of a crazy idea – requires years of struggle but when you have a strong vision, success is inevitable.
Why Do You Have These Feelings?
Over the years, I’ve read many books, and I’ve experienced many feelings.
What I found out for me is that when a feeling gained from a book is something I can’t easily let go of, then it’s something probably missing in my life.
Neil Postman, in his book Amusing Ourselves To Death, talks about how we become brainwashed by modern media. How modern media provokes more aimlessly unproductive consumption.
The whole text made me feel annoyed. Hostile towards the whole entertainment industry. Not that I’m consuming a lot of TV shows, but reading how modern media can basically destroy people’s dreams by gluing them to the TV made me more focused on sharing these negative consequences. I want the content I create here on my site to help people stop obsessively wasting time by consuming and instead do something.
The Art of Being, provoked different sensations.
I was both excited and frustrated. Excited about what Erich Fromm suggests – living a calmer life focused on creating stuff. Conversely, agitated by my own impulsive desires that provoked me to want more physical things.
This inner annoyance after reading the text revealed that I have still work to do. Inner monsters to slay. But it also gave me clarity. Now I know exactly which inner cave is sabotaging my ascent and I also know what type of weapon I must use to slay the hidden monster.
Outline Action Items
When I read a book, I actively look for actionable strategies. Something you can do right now! Something that doesn’t require reading the whole text to understand and apply the idea.
All of my book summaries end with an Actionable Notes section where I list around 5 items – members find them quite useful.
The idea is to create an outline of the things that can be practiced.
Even books like Shoe Dog – a memoir – have a lot of those.
For example, one of the suggestions is to believe in what you’re selling and doing. If you don’t sincerely believe in what you’re doing, selling, even saying, others won’t either.
As you can imagine, these are not labeled as to-do items in the text. It’s up to you to identify what part of the book can be used and applied.
What helps is re-reading your notes. The ones you took during the reading phase.
The idea here is to sit, go through your notes from the book, and create an overview of what can be practiced. Something like a could-do list – things you can do from the book that will help in a different area.
It’s required for the next step.
Think About How You Can Use The Content
No one uses everything from the book.
To create a chair, a carpenter will do a lot of peeling, splitting, and shaving until a chair is born.
Similarly, as a carpenter won’t use the whole piece of wood, you won’t use the whole content.
I consider books as a resource. You can use them to shape your life. But it’s not only about what the book gives. It’s also based on what you want.
Just as we can use a piece of wood to create a chair. We can also use it to create a table. We use the same material to create something totally different.
Think the same way about books.
Ultralearning by Scott H. Young can help you learn about learning – a meta-skill. But it can also help you become more productive as a whole.
Of course, some books are tailored to give you a specific type of outcome – business books obviously give you material for making changes in your business. Still, it’s up to you to decide what precise part of the business you want to change.
Alchemy by Rory Sutherland offers a wide set of strategies.
Apart from using the book to make corrections to the message you use to communicate with your clients. You can also make adjustments to the type of problems you solve with your products.
Furthermore, I think that the book has even wider application. It also helps you understand how people operate. We focus on emotions, not on reason. Something everyone, even people who are not interested in business, can learn about.
Schedule Time To Take Action
Everything we’ve done so far will be wasted unless we do something with the content we’ve consumed.
This step is often skipped, though.
I know because I do it too. I read a great book and I do nothing with the text. I just mark the book as finished and I move on.
Even if I have a general idea of how the book can be applied, this eventually fades.
That’s why taking some time to think about how you can use the book and later scheduling time to implement the text in your real life is crucial.
One example I can give you is from the book Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows.
The book offers simple, yet amazing concept: Everything is a system.
When you think in systems, you can create automation. When you have these automations, you will make gradual improvements in your life and business.
For instance, I don’t simply write articles. I have a whole system about how I blog. Part of this system is how I update my site. I publish new content every week. The new information obviously helps my current readers because they read about new ideas. But it also helps me attract more new visitors.
What I do every morning is also a system. I get up, train, prepare a coffee, read something uplifting, and get to write. I do this every single day. No skipping.
When you think of systems, you create a set of tasks that are non-negotiable and also have a compounding effect. In my case, the articles I publish are my stock. The more I have, the more members I get. Plus, the quality of my articles improve.
Evaluate and Re-read
In this last section, I want to cover two things: First, the importance of evaluating and correcting your actions. Secondly, re-reading books.
Let’s talk briefly about evaluating:
Don’t expect to get good results after trying something from a book, once. Evaluate the outcome and make adjustments.
There are plenty of books that talk about productivity and about how you can get more done in seemingly less time. Does this mean that you will convert into a cyborg and never miss a deadline after reading these titles? Of course not.
Besides, no one is strictly following the instructions as they are presented in the books. Usually, what you want is to pick a couple of suggestions and try them out. Once you do, make adjustments to fit your life and your persona.
For instance, in the book The 5 AM Club, Robin Sharma talks about getting at 5 am and performing a short set of routines – exercising, journaling, and reading. Now, you don’t have to follow exactly what he’s saying. You can adjust this based on what you want. Not everyone wants to get at 5 am after all.
The second thing is re-reading good books.
How many times have you watched Harry Potter or Star Wars?
Probably more than once, right?
Exactly for this reason you should revisit your favorite books.
Our memory is horrible. We forget things all the time.
Re-reading a book will help you remember why you should have good habits, keep investing, etc. On top of this, re-reading great books is like reading a new book. Each time I read a book I’ve read before I get something new out of it.
Some Closing Thoughts
Reading is a journey. You don’t move physically, you move emotionally.
You dive deep into a different world and you adopt the feelings and the passions the main character is experiencing.
Even if it’s a nonfictional book. It’s still a transformational sensation. You disengage from your physical reality and enter the world shaped by the author. And always, you bring “home” something you found in this imaginary place. And that something, when used and cherished, will help you abandon the wavering self-confidence and move forward with pride towards the place you want to be.
Hopefully, this series of posts has helped you become a better reader. Because, when we read better, we can better understand the content and thus better apply the suggestions by the author into our lives.
This was my final post – part of a mini-series – on how to become a better reader. Read more about the sequence here.
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