Why Most of Your Self-Help Reading is a Waste of Time: A Simple Two-Step Plan for Getting the Most Out of Your Reading

How many self-help articles or books have you read in the last 2 weeks?

Whether the article is about how to be happier, how to get more clients, or how to manage your employees, you’ve probably been wasting your time.

What this comes down to is your reason for reading.

Most reading is for entertainment. But when you’re reading self-help, even if it’s enjoyable, you are probably also hoping for some kind of pay-off.

When you read an article or book, you want to learn something that will make your life better or easier.
For example:

– A wake-up call or inspiring message
– A handy tip
– A new way of thinking about a problem

When you read an article or book that gives you one of these things, it feels great. And many times it’s easy to read something useful, feel good about it and leave it at that.

But the fact is:

Unless what you’ve read leads to a change in your life, you’ve just wasted your time.

There are two reasons why these insights don’t turn into results.

First of all, the issue is with the articles or books themselves.

I’m sure you’ve read articles that are profoundly insightful but at the end of it, you’re not really sure how to apply the new idea to your life.

What’s missing here is practical advice about how to take action.

The second problem is with the reader themselves. That’s you!

You may mistake having your mind opened as being the same thing as taking action and getting the result.

I see this in my work day-to-day. It’s not enough for a client to have an insight, we actually need to make a firm plan for how to turn it into regular action.

If a client ever says things like “I should try this” or “That would be good to try” and leaves it at that, then it’s a guarantee of no progress.

We need specifics.

When you learn something new, you need to take two extra steps.

1. Make a plan

You need to make a plan for trying it out. Without the plan, you can read 100 books with 100 amazing insights, but be no better off at the end of it.

What you need to do at the end of reading something is decide “What’s the one thing I can take action on”. I say one thing, because often an article or book may have many actionable points, and you can end up overwhelming yourself.

Just stick with the one action that will have the biggest effect.

2. Schedule it in

Imagine you read James Altucher’s article “How to become an idea machine” about the value of coming up with 10 new ideas a day (a great article and a great idea by the way). And you decide, YES, you definitely want to do this.

The article is very practically oriented (the one clear action to take is to write 10 ideas), and yet you could easily read it, feel motivated and inspired, and then NOT write a single idea.

Because immediately upon reading the article, you need to take an extra step.

You need to decide when and where will you do it?

The simplest thing to do is to open your calendar, and schedule in a time you can do it.

That’s all. It’s simple, but it makes a HUGE difference for how likely you will take action.

So Let’s Review

If you find a useful idea, even if it feels good to learn about it, that’s not enough on it’s own. To get value out of it, you need to take action.

This means:

1. If it’s not explicitly covered in the content, you need to think about how to translate it into one action.

2. You need to schedule it in on your calendar. This is crucial. Without a time commitment to take action, you will be highly likely to forget.

We read self-help to improve our lives. But unless you translate insights into action, you’re wasting your time.