Personal DevelopmentProductivity

How to Make Your Non-Fiction Reading More Productive

Record These 8 Elements to Maximize Your Reading

I’m a serious reader and have been most of my life. Most leaders I know are. We realize there’s a major ROI on time dedicated to reading.

As I’ve blogged about before, reading makes us better thinkers, improves our people skills, and helps us master communication—not to mention the rest and rejuvenation it offers.

We can gain a lot of rewards from reading, especially if we’re intentional about how we read and record our takeaways.

Keeping Score

Years ago, I summarized the books I read using a “net out” form. Unfortunately, I gradually fell out of the habit.

However, based on one of my goals for this year, I have reinstituted this practice—but in a new and improved form.

I’m launching a new live show soon and plan to build each episode around a specific book and author interview. To prepare for that, I will read the book, of course. But I also want to capture my thoughts about it, so I can be better prepared for the interview.

I thought my process might be helpful for you as well. You can make your reading more productive by using my Book InSIGHTS form. It enables you to record eight specific kinds of information. This will not only engrain key elements, but it will also make them easy to access in the future.

We created this free, downloadable Book InSIGHTS Template for you to use as you read. Evernote and Workflowy versions are also included.


  • INformation. What’s the basic bibliographic information about the book?
    • Title
    • Subtitle
    • Author(s)
    • Publisher
    • Publication date
    • Pages
    • Your personal rating
  • Summary. How would you briefly summarize the author's premise and main argument? Think of this section like an elevator pitch. If you had to tell someone what the book is about in less than a minute, what would you say?

  • Insights. What were the key insights you gleaned from the book? I highlight as I read and then distill in my own words whatever stands out as important to me. I also note the page number, so I can go back later and review the insight in more detail.

  • Glitches. What were your main disagreements with the author (if any)? Reading is an active exercise, and disagreement is part of what stimulates our own growth and development.

  • Holes. What did you feel was missing from the book? No book is perfect. Noticing deficiencies helps you evaluate a book, weigh its contribution, and decide on additional research of your own.

  • Takeaways. What were your key takeaways? This is the key if you want your reading to spark growth and personal change. I try to list two or three things I learned and which I’ll leverage for new ways of thinking or acting.

  • Snippet. What are the quotes worth remembering? While I’m reading, I identify quotes worth remembering. I store my Book InSIGHTS in Evernote, which makes these quotes easy to find at a later date.

The key idea with using Book InSIGHTS is to distill your reading to a short document that you can easily access down the road. It pays dividends in new ideas, personal growth, and life application. And I find just the practice of getting it down makes it sink in. I retain more of what I read when I take the additional time to record what I discovered.

We created this free, downloadable Book InSIGHTS Template for you to use as you read. Evernote and Workflowy versions are also included.
What element do you find most important to retain in your reading?

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