Profiting from Business Books: How to Read Books About Business
If you’ve been to a bookstore or library lately, you’re quite aware that there’s no shortage of business books. However, you probably have a shortage of time for reading them. As an avid reader and freelancer, I’m going to give you some tips on how to read books about business — everything from small business books to advice from Fortune 500 CEOs.
1. My first tip will probably seem like it’s brain-dead obvious, but here it is: Be Selective. There aren’t enough years in your career for reading all of the “important” business books. So, be ruthless about what you add to your shopping basket at the bookstore or online, or even as you browse through the shelves at your local library.
In addition to being ruthless, decide if you want to be a generalist or a specialist in your reading. You may decide, like I just did, that you need to get up to speed on finance in a hurry. Time to become a specialist.
However, this doesn’t rule out becoming a generalist at a later date. After all, there are only so many worthwhile books on any business topic.
2. Keep your book recommendation radar in top condition. One of the best things about the Internet is that it’s a hotbed of readers. That’s right, readers.
If you were around for the early years of the commercial Internet, there was great fear that the rise of the ‘Net would lead to the demise of reading in general and the book in particular. Didn’t happen. Turns out that one of the biggest online successes is Amazon.com, which started out as an online bookstore, but has since morphed into a company that sells just about everything.
It’s no secret that Amazon.com isn’t just a store – it’s a great place to find out if that hot new business book is really worth your time. Just read the customer reviews – I do! If the book seems interesting, I’ll head over to my local library’s site to see if they have it. If, after borrowing the book, I decide that it’s a worthy addition to my collection, then I’ll buy it. (Yes, I’m pretty fussy about the books I buy.)
In addition to Amazon.com, there a myriad other places where you can find book reviews online. For starters, direct your radar to the blog posts, book reviews, and discussion groups right here at Freelance Switch.
3. If you’ve snagged an interesting-looking business book from the store or your library, don’t just plop down on the couch and start marching your eyes through it. Instead, use this three-part approach:
a. Getting Acquainted. This is where you decide if you really can sit through the entire book. I like to use the 20-Page Rule: If the book hasn’t captured my attention in the first 20 pages, it’s going back to the library. If it has, then I just cruise on until I reach the end.
b. Noting the Key Points. Okay, cruise time’s over. Now it’s time to get down to business. This reading goes a lot more slowly than the first because I’m taking notes. These notes summarize the author’s best ideas – and how I plan to implement them in my freelancing practice. By the end of this reading, the book usually bristles with sticky notes full of ideas.
c. Planning Time! This is where those sticky notes get turned into a formal plan. I’ve found that organizing my plan in the order of how the author’s best ideas were introduced works best. For a book that I just finished reading, I created a 12-part action plan that followed the book’s dozen chapters. I’ll explore that plan in-depth in a future post. You could also develop a plan based on the key themes of the book, which may not follow a chapter order. Whatever works for you.
The goal of this three-part approach is to turn your reading from a passive exercise into one that will actually benefit your business. Which leads me to my final point: Don’t let your action plan turn into a doorstop. Implement it!