Reading gives you access to the smartest brains on earth. Learning from the greatest people is the fastest way to become healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Charlie Munger, self-made billionaire, and Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner, once said that he hadn’t known any wise person who didn’t read all the time. None, zero.
Yet, reading per se doesn’t make you a better person. You can read 52 books a year without changing at all.
It’s about what and how you read that will improve your life’s quality and enhance your mind.
Recently, I listened to Bill Gates his free, yet priceless lessons on how he reads books.
Here are his top three reading practices and how to apply them:
1. Take side notes
In our distracting world, it’s tempting to shift focus at light speed. When phones are within a hand reach, it’s easy to switch tasks without even realizing it.
Taking side notes in the margins is a simple yet effective way to stay present. With a pen in your hand, it’s your default option to engage with the book in front of you. You’ll find it easier to focus on the thoughts at hand.
Moreover, scribbling on the pages will make it easier for you to remember what you’ve read. You ensure you link the new knowledge to what you already know. This helps you to think hard about what’s in the book.
2. Finish every book you read
Gate’s second principle is simple: get to the end.
Read books cover to cover. He says:
“It’s my rule to get to the end.”
Huh? Seriously? It’s tempting to skip this principle since productivity coaches advise you not to complete bad books. We have to be careful here.
Bill doesn’t say you should complete a lousy book.
Instead, his rule indicates to decide what you read before you start. Consider whether a book is worth your time before you open it.
By doing so, you’ll become as intentional on reading as Bill Gates. Because it’s his rule always to finish what he starts, he’ll think twice before he starts a book.
Finishing every book you read doesn’t mean you should force yourself through a bad book. Instead, pick carefully and then commit to complete the book. Even if it turns out to be hard, contradicting, or daunting.
3. Read for at least one hour at a time
To get your mind around a book, Bill says, you should block an hour at a time every time you read. Here’s what he says:
“If you read books you want to sit down an hour at a time. Every night I’m reading, I’m reading a little bit over an hour so I can take my current book and make some progress.”
Make it non-negotiable to read before you sleep. To do so, replace your smartphone with an alarm clock and go to bed an hour earlier.
Following Bill’s principles isn’t complex, long, or exhausting.
On the contrary: These principles make reading fun and worthwhile.
- Take side notes to engage with what you read.
- Pick intentionally, and finish all the great books you read.
- Make reading a bedtime or a morning ritual to have an undistracted reading hour.
Instead of feeling discouraged by all the ideas about what you could do to improve your reading, enjoy experimenting at your own pace. Keep the principles that work for you and screw the rest.
Choose one or two new reading habits until you find a pattern that helps you on your journey to health, wealth, and wisdom.