Skimming a book can change your life

Usually, if you think something’s important to learn, you’ll want to dedicate time and energy to do it. You want to do this very intentionally: to set aside an extended period of resources to learn something. Maybe the next time you take a vacation, or have a sabbatical, or are in between jobs. 

While this inclination comes from a very positive intention, in practice it ultimately leads to procrastination. You’re going to spend too much time waiting for the right time to learn.

The object or lesson has become far too precious for it to meet the realities of your schedule—often full of tired, short, fragments of time. You wish you had a better quality of time, because you know what you’re learning is worth it.

For example, I can’t tell you the number of books I’ve decided not to buy or read because I decided I wanted to very purposely read the whole thing. I felt like I didn’t have the time and energy to “properly” read the book. 

One solution is skimming the book, even just 10% of it. I skimmed a book on how to take notes and used what I learned in that brief session to write over 1,000 notecards. Another book I skimmed suggested an interesting technique to fall asleep faster (the prompt was to effectively imagine your own episode of your favorite TV show; I started mashing up my favorite TV shows, for example, imagining a movie star on The Simpsons, etc. This works really well for me and has saved me a lot of stressful nights awake). 

If you asked me about the textbook intricacies of taking notes or ingesting information, I probably wouldn’t be able to answer you. Similarly, I would not be able to tell you how sleep works. I just know that what I’ve applied from both of these books, in the very brief amounts of time I spent with them, really paid off in my personal and professional lives.

Don’t wait for the perfect time to learn something. Get started learning it today— cheaply, and possibly imperfectly. When in doubt, start with a book, recommended from a friend or an expert or highly rated on Goodreads, that costs less than $50. That way, you can start practicing, asking people on how to improve, and actually really learning. 

P.S., This is one of those posts I used second person (“you”), but I really wrote for me. I just started a book that I’ve been meaning to read for probably a decade (The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins). It’s been 25 pages, and I’ve already gotten a lot out of it. I wish I read it earlier!

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