I just bought “The Personal MBA” by Josh Kaufman with the very best of intentions, but I was a tiny bit scared to buy it. I was afraid of the very real possibility that I might never finish it. But I came up with a plan! Behold…

How to read a self-help book and finish it diagram

You will need…

  • A self-help (or similar) book to read
  • A pencil or erasable pen (or a normal pen if you’re brave!)
  • A spare finger if you’re using an e-reader
  • A notebook
  • A coffee (or three)
  • An undistracting environment
  • Something like a ruler to underline with
  • Not your laptop or phone (or at least on flight mode, silent, or at the very least, out of sight)
  • A timer

What you need

Let’s get to the process!

Step 1: Repeat this mantra

Repeat this mantra: “I will finish this book as quickly as I possibly can!”

Step 2: Decide which chapters you will read

Scan through the table of contents (don’t take longer than 5 minutes) and note to yourself which chapters you really want to get to and which ones you’re not interested in.

Step 3: Set your timer for 40 minutes

Step 4: Commit to reading actively for the entire 40 minutes

Step 5: Start reading, fast

Read as fast as you can so that you won’t get stuck or bored, and actually get to the useful parts of the book.

Step 6: Skip ruthlessly

If at any moment you’re bored or uninterested in a section or chapter, skip it! Ain’t nobody got time for things that aren’t relevant to you. The purpose of reading this book is to get something out of it that’ll help you. You won’t break the author’s heart by skipping the parts that were meant for other people.

Step 7: Take a note when some idea really inspires you

Take notes about the things that inspire you or provoke your mind. If you own the book underline the sentences that you like. Jot down summaries of your favourite ideas, sentences or paragraphs in your own words in your notebook. Also note the page number where you found it on.

The purpose of this note-taking is not to summarise the entire book or to provide a single source of truth . It’s just there to serve as a way for you to remember and come back to the things that were relevant and important to you.

Step 8: If the timer goes off, finish the section you’re on

Try and finish the chapter you’re on so you can feel closure and a sense of accomplishment. This will also help reduce the time it takes for you to get into the book again the next time you start reading.

Step 9: Take a break! You deserve it!

Step away from your book! Your brain must be fried by now (if it’s not, you’re probably not doing this right!). Do whatever you feel like and congratulate yourself on your hard work. Come back for another round of ruthless reading once you feel rested (about 10-20 minutes to a day).

Step 10: Leave the book on a place where you can see it

When you’ve finished the book, leave it on your bedside table or another visible spot. Seeing the book will remind you of what you’ve read in it and provide an easy way to look something up you’re reminded of.