Reading business articles and books is one of the best ways to learn, keep up-to-date, and discover new ideas for growing a business. With all the resources available today, the options are endless; one can learn about any topic imaginable, and this is an opportunity for expansion.
However, reading is only half of the process. As one starts to absorb more information, there is a problem that arises: how to organize and sift through all the new ideas and information from the books and articles. It would be ideal to implement some of this new and acquired knowledge, but how can one best classify and organize all the ideas in the readings?
I have struggled with this problem myself, and have found the following steps helpful for managing and organizing the information I find within the articles and books I read.
Articles are easier to go through than books simply because they are shorter and more concise. Some ways to manage them are as follows:
Save it: If the article is something that is useful and you can see yourself referencing it again in the future, save it. I use Evernote, and I just clip the article and save it in the Notebook where I keep new ideas. Evernote allows you to create subfolders for each of your interests. If the article is in a physical newspaper, you can also save it, although sometimes it is easier to look it up online and save it digitally.
Make a list: Even though I always save the articles I want to reference, what is most useful to me is understanding how I can apply the articles I have read to my work. As I am reading through, I save the main ideas I would like to carry out.
Organize the ideas: Divide the main points into those you can implement immediately and those that need to be developed.
a. Immediate actions: put them on your to-do list.
b. For future ideas, develop actionable steps with timelines for implementation. Sometimes an article will have some great ideas that I can not implement at the moment, so in this case, I will create a task for myself and write down the things I want to work on for a future date.
Share the knowledge: Share the articles with people on your team, so they are on the same page as you.
Take action: If the article refers to something you can do immediately, try doing it while the inspiration is still present. For example, if the article recommends a book you want to read in the future, order it immediately. This makes it much more likely that you will read it; otherwise, it is easy to forget or put it on the backburner.
Books take longer to process simply due to their length but contain a wealth of information. One book can change your entire firm. I had that experience with How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg (read my book review Valuable Ideas from Google for Growth and Innovation: Part 1 and Valuable Ideas from Google for Growth and Innovation Part 2). As I was reading, I kept finding fantastic ideas that I wanted to implement that very second. Of course, I could not reorganize everything in an instant, so here are some of the ways I absorbed and documented the information in that book as well as others:
Take notes: Highlight important concepts and ideas and write notes as you go. If you are reading on an app, like Kindle, download the notes and highlighted passages once you are finished. I keep all my notes and highlighted passages in a Cloud storage account along with any additional insights. For physical books, I highlight the passages and transcribe any important notes in a Word document, so that I later have the ideas digitally saved. I then store those notes in the same account. It has become so easy to export notes and highlighted passages that now I prefer reading on Kindle.
Go through the notes: Schedule a time to sit down and digest the information thoroughly. I usually wait a week after reading the books because I have found that in this time frame, the information is still fresh, but my mind has had a chance to absorb the text.
Classify the actionable ideas and schedule them: If the book contains an idea to implement, classify it as either an immediate or long-term goal and follow the steps for execution previously outlined for articles.
Other types of information:
a. General concepts: Sometimes what comes out of a book is more of a general concept I want to keep in mind. For example, in How Google Works, the authors proposed implementing a culture of openness and transparency within the company/office. This is not necessarily an action I could take but rather an idea I would like to take into consideration as I design and improve the operations of the firm. For concepts such as these, I keep an ongoing document with ideas for the future and then consistently refer back to it, so I am reminded of these general ideas as I go about my work.
b. Skills: Other times, books will contain new practices that can be developed. If there is a skill you want to develop, such as prioritizing activities on a daily basis, you can try adding it to a task that reminds you to practice it daily.
As you read more and more, the knowledge will help you develop new ideas that apply to your current context. Great ideas that can have an impact on your firm will occasionally pop into your mind as your mind processes the information. Just be sure to write them down as soon as you can so as not to lose it.
Keep Growing through Reading
As a growing businessperson, reading and implementing ideas from articles and books becomes increasingly important for enhancement and growth. Developing a retention system that works for you will allow you and your firm to grow and keep up-to-date with any development. Happy reading!