I love setting yearly goals. I talk about the process often and wrote a lot about my methods in my book UNFINISHED. One of my yearly goals for the past eight years has been to read a minimum of 20 books a year by different authors. Depending on how busy the year, I’ll typically read around 25-30 books by December. I’ve used a ‘4x4′ method of reading where I’ll read four books at a time in four different categories: Fiction, Self-Development, Spiritual, and Business/Craft Development. This was my routine for years until I realized there may be much more to gain by reading fewer books and working to retain, comprehend, implement and reread a handful of authors’ writings.
My realization came from reading Seneca: Letters from a Stoic when I came across this section that made me rethink my approach:
“…Be careful, however, lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady. You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works…”
This section made me ask four questions of myself:
Reading a broad spectrum of authors can be good if I’m retaining the knowledge from all the works. Am I? Not really.
If authors were mentors, would I have 20-30 different mentors with differing opinions/styles in my life YEARLY? Nope.
Can I give you a detailed synopsis of all the books I’ve read in the past year? Also no.
Have I exercised at least 10% of what I’ve found in all the books I’ve read? Again. Negative.
“Everywhere means nowhere. When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends. And the same thing must hold true of men who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author but visit them in a hasty and hurried manner.” -Seneca
There’s a trend I’m seeing a lot on social media of different personalities teaching you to read more books faster, but to what end? If you read 150 books a year, is it to any value except in the accomplishment itself? What are you retaining? Can you implement every principle or practice found in every book?
So here’s my solution for myself in 2018. I’m calling it the 6x3. I’m picking six books, by six different authors that I would already consider highly influential and masters of their craft, and I’m reading each book three times. I’ll be using Ryan Holiday’s Notecard system for retaining knowledge from the books found here: The Notecard System. I’ll also be building action steps after each read to implement what I’ve read into my life as sub-goals for the year.
The first pass of each book: Getting familiar with the content and subject.
The second pass of each book: Taking extensive notes, questioning content and researching the validity.
The third pass of each book: Retaining and implementing.
This is, of course, a personal experiment and may not be the best solution for everyone, but I would love to know your findings if you try it out.