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How to Stop Reading and Start Doing

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent a fair bit of money on books, ebooks and course materials over the years.

Maybe you’re keen to learn something new – computer programming or website design.

Maybe you want to accomplish a big goal – losing weight or getting your finances sorted out.

You probably get a little surge of excitement whenever you pick up a new book or sign up for an online course. You’re sure that you’re going to finally achieve something great.

The problem is, reading isn’t going to get you anywhere. You need to put what you read into action.

And that, for most of us, is the tough bit.

Here’s how to put all that great advice into practice:

#1: Do the Exercises

You know how lots of books have exercises for you to try out?

How often do you do them?

Probably rarely – or never. And maybe you finish each book feeling a bit disappointed: you thought that this  time, you’d really get somewhere.

By simply doing the exercises – even just a few of them – you’ll massively increase the value that you get from the book (or course). Theoretical concepts will suddenly become clearer as you put them into practice. You’ll find yourself making real progress towards your goals.

#2: Keep a Reading Journal

When you finish a book, you probably put it straight back on the shelf. You might remember one or two key points, or recommend it to a friend – you might even re-read it in a few months or years. But you don’t necessarily use what you’ve learned.

A reading journal gives you a space to reflect on books, while you’re reading them and after you’ve finished. You can use your journal to:

  • Jot down ideas that were new to you
  • Copy out any key sentences – especially any inspiring ones
  • Describe what you thought or felt about the book
  • Record any “aha” moments that occurred while reading

#3: Decide on Action Items

Unless you’re engaged in academic study, you’re probably not reading for the sake of absorbing information. You’re reading because you want to do something.

Next time you finish a chapter of your book, or read a great blog post or magazine article, decide on one action that you could take as a result. Write it on your to-do list.

One small to-do item might not seem like anything worthwhile – but if you have one action per chapter, or one per article, then you’ll soon be making far faster progress than if you’d just read that material.


#4: Take a Real-Life Course

Online courses are great for many reasons: they’re often cheap, you can participate from anywhere with an internet connection, and lessons will normally be recorded so that you don’t even have to show up at a particular time.

The drawback to this is that you may well find yourself signing up for courses, attending one lesson, and then drifting away.

Real-life courses involve turning up at a specific time, often every week. They may well include assignments and deadlines. They’re also likely to be a bit more pricy. All of this means that you’ll be far more likely to take action on the course materials.


#5: Form a Mastermind Group

If you’ve got a couple of friends who’re working on a similar goal to you, get together with them and form a mastermind group. Get hold of copies of a good book/ebook/self-study course, and agree to read a certain amount each week.

Every week (or every couple of weeks), get together – face-to-face or on the phone – and discuss what you’ve read. Make sure that every member states a specific action that they’re going to take during the next week.

When you meet again, start off with a check-in so that members can report back on whether they achieved the goals that they set for themselves.

Having the support of like-minded friends – and a sense of accountability to them – will help you achieve your goals much faster.


Do you have stacks of dusty books and magazines (or ebooks clogging up your hard drive)? How are you going to start using the great material that you’ve collected?

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