October 20


8 Top Tips For Productive Reading

By Alison

October 20, 2019

An open book - productive reading starts with opening the pages

Productive reading is all about learning how to get the most out of a book.

Reading is a favourite pastime. You could tell at a glance when you enter my office as I have two huge bookcases just filled with books. I can get lost in a good book for hours.

Quite frankly there is nothing I like more than the excitement of opening a new book. The opportunity to learn something new.

These days a lot of my reading is around the subject of productivity – no surprise to you there I hope.

Over time I have learnt how to get the most out of the books I read to make my reading time productive.

Here are my 8 top tips for productive reading.

Be Clear About Purpose

Knowing why you are reading a book may seem a bit obvious. But for productive reading it is vital.

Being clear on what you want to get out of the book is really valuable.

Consider what it is you are looking to learn. Creating this kind of focus helps keep your attention on what you are reading.

This means that your ability to focus and absorb the information will be easier.

Check Contents Page

The cover of a book provides an insight into what it contains.

There is usually a snappy little tagline to attract the attention of a potential purchaser.

Some of these can be quite broad. You only have to look at the number of books on productivity to know that there is fierce competition for your money.

All will promise something along the general theme of productivity.

But, take the time to check out the contents page and see what is covered in each chapter. You will want to ensure that the book is the right one for you.

Is it going to cover the specifics that you are looking for?

Schedule Productive reading time

Scheduling Time

As many of us know. Life is hectic. One of the things that we tend to sacrifice is reading.

We can sometimes pick up a book, read a fair bit and then life takes over.

Before you know it days, or even weeks can go by before you realise it. By this time, what you have read may have been forgotten.

I don’t know about you, but if I leave a book for any period of time, I get out of the rhythm of it. I lose track with what I was reading and it takes me a while to get back into.

Being prepared to put some time aside to read will ensure you have productive reading time.

Is there a certain time of the day when you are more receptive to reading? Scheduling your reading time for then would really help.

Make The Reading Bite-Size

For me this applies when I am reading non-fiction. Having a big book to read can be quite overwhelming. So to have productive reading time, I split the book into segments.

I set a recurring to-do on my task list where I commit to cover a certain amount of reading in each sitting.

For example, I might commit to read a chapter a day, or a segment at a time.

This will ensure that you are reading on a consistent basis. It also prevents fatigue setting in.

If you are reading something quite challenging, it can be exhausting taking it all in.

Breaking it into management bite-size chunks is more achievable.

Learn To Let It Go

Have you ever been in a situation where everyone is raving about a particular book and you decide to give it a go?

Only to find that you just can’t get to grips with it?

In fact, it is a struggle to understand what all the hype is about.

I certainly have. I’d persevere thinking that there was something wrong with the way that I was approaching it. Or I was being thick!

Well, I am here to tell you that it is okay not to like a book that others seem to think is the best thing since sliced bread.

There are times when it is best to let it go. Perhaps the book is not suited to your own style and way of learning, either way it is not worth trying to finish it.

If you want to do productive reading, then focus on the books that you do get something out of.

Variety Adds Value

Reading a book is an opportunity to form a view or to learn a new way of doing things.

For productive reading it is important to read a variety of books.

Reading the same subject from different authors means you can make comparisons.

Studying different approaches, or conflicting viewpoints, helps you to form your own opinion. This will make you more rounded on the subject matter.

Everyone has their own bias on the right way to do things. But reading a variety of books will help you find the solution that works for you.

Productive Reading is supported with productive notes

Making Productive Notes

Productive reading means that you are able to keep and recall the information.

Notes can be taken with pen and paper. Or, if you prefer, store your notes electronically. I have adopted both approaches.

Writing notes with pen and paper seems to help with my memory retention. I like to be able to summarise what I am reading so that I can refer to it at a later date.

The Electronic Advantage

Having notes electronically means that ideas can be easily searched for.

I use Evernote for this. I can type in a keyword and access all the relevant material that I have saved. This is particularly good when I am looking to make comparisons or find a different view.

Another tip to making productive notes.

Consider the reading in light of your own experiences. How does it relate to your life? Would you agree with what is written or would you challenge it and offer an alternative?

Taking time to do this as you read will help to make sense of the text.

Share The Learning

Talking about what you read is a great way to get to grips with what you are learning.

Practice sharing what you have learnt from the book to someone who has not read it. This helps bring the learning to life.

Alternatively, discuss it with someone who has read the book and share what you have both learnt.

You will be surprised at the number of different key points you have. This can help you to get to grips with the learning and cement your knowledge.

Write Reviews

Writing reviews is a great way to bring your productive reading together. Summarize the following:

  • different key points
  • lessons learnt
  • what you liked and
  • didn’t like helps

doing this means you will form an independent view.

When writing reviews I tend to take a critical view of what I have read. Did it provide me with the information or knowledge that I was looking for? Did I learn anything new? It also makes me think about who the book would be useful to. Who else would benefit from reading it?

Sharing knowledge in this way, helps us to grow. It strengthens our ability to provide an objective assessment. And it gives us the opportunity to reflect on what we have read.


Reading is a mind expanding exercise. If you look at the most successful people, most of them will say that they read. Even those who are really busy with hectic schedules manage to fit it in.

The secret is to embrace productive reading. Make it work for you so that you get the most out of your time.

I hope that my 8 tips have helped you to consider how you too could enjoy productive reading.

Other Relevant Articles

Are you stuck for something to read? Perhaps you want a quick insight into what a book can offer?

Then have a look at the book reviews I have written by clicking here.

About the author

For years, despite career success, I was plagued with inner doubt. I worried about what other people thought. I became anxious about doing things wrong, felt out of my depth, and struggled with imposter syndrome. Above all, I feared failing. So, I worked long hours to prove myself worthy. It was exhausting, and it took a toll. My relationships suffered - my husband and I were becoming virtual strangers - and I had no social life. When the ravages of my doubts began to affect my health, I knew something had to change. I know there is a better way to live. Let me show you how.

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