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I have a habit of searching for good self-help/Technical book if I found one then I will start reading it until I find another good self-help/Technical book and this pattern goes on and on. The important thing is I can remember only very few things which still helps me. But I have a feeling that my cost-benefit ratio is poor, since the amount of effort that I am putting to read these books are very high compare to the knowledge that I have acquired permanently on my mind. While reading I do highlight the important texts, but I simply do not go back to any old books that I have either completed or half way done, since I am constantly finding new books to learn. How can I change my habit so that I have a better cost-benefit ratio?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Personally I find self-help books to be like religious texts. There are very good reasons why many Christians advocate daily Bible reading. The great things that you can take from a text will not stick forever and what you can get out of a text now will be different from what you can get from it later. If you find the reading of self-help texts to be useful, set aside some time for it. If you are concerned that you are not getting back to older and unfinished texts split up your "self-help" time into old and new.

This may seem like odd advice given that your question states concern for the benefit ratio but it is important to make time for the things that are important to you. You are getting a lot out of these self-help books even if it doesn't feel like it. It is something you psychologically crave and so it is probably something that can make you feel good about yourself.

Time-boxing your "self-help" time will allow you to get the most of it. Is the benefit you get worth getting up an hour earlier? Spend half an hour on an old book that you want to get back to and half an hour on the hot new thing. Whatever your budget for "self-help" time setting it and sticking to it will allow you to balance your desire for more advice with the value of the advice you are getting.

When you find a habit that you think will be especially helpful to your lifestyle find a way to gamify it. I'm currently using HabitRPG (a free online open source project) but you could even just have a sticker chart or checkmarks on a calendar.

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+1 for mentioning 'The great things that you can take from a text will not stick forever and what you can get out of a text now will be different from what you can get from it later.' – User11091981 Jan 6 '14 at 8:58

Mine was same story as yours.

Then I decided this:

  • Read one topic or one page
  • Close the book
  • Read next topic/next page ONLY when you have implemented what you have learned in previous topic

This way it helps to remember what you have read & by the time you finish the book, you have actually lived it.

That's the best way to get max value for what you spend.

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+1. Thanks for sharing. I ll try to apply it. – User11091981 Jan 15 '14 at 11:48

The most effective way to retain information after initially acquiring it is using a tool that makes use of spaced-repetition like Anki. While you read the book, create cards for the information that seems most important. Generally, books are written in a way that makes it easy to determine what the key idea of a chunk of text is, but it might take a little time to get comfortable with knowing what to put into a card. Then, at some time during your daily routine, simply take a few minutes to review the flashcards that Anki presents to you. Anki is available on several platforms, including some mobile platforms, so if you have an Android phone you could review cards while riding the bus, for example.

If you want to ensure that you are using the flashcards as effectively as possible, you should first read 20 Rules for Formulating Knowledge (which is also available as an Anki deck, but I can only post 2 links so just google it.)

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I usually take notes, then, with the help of the index page, I extrapolate a cheat sheet or a flow chart, or even a mind map. Lots of self-help books can be represented this way. The result is then organized in Evernote for future reference or mobile consultation.

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After reading many self help books, you have a wide set of psychological tools that you can use at any time period. You can try doing this now:

  1. Follow time-boxing as suggested by @Roseaboeit.

  2. Look around for people whose achievements and qualities are roughly same as yours or more. But, they should be the ones who don't read self help books! Try to study them, how do they work, what motivates them, etc. The intention here is to get the feel of that simplicity and intuition. Once you feel that, there will be a very small time frame in which you will get the feeling of awe and a desire to work.

At this moment you already have the required tools in your brain. Now don't leave this moment just and get along with the flow.
Continue with this till it becomes a habit.

Also a side note: When we have more knowledge, we try to process a lot of information. But sometimes it drains away more energy than needed. Before you dive into an array of complex thinking, make a check if its actually necessary to do so.

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