The 10% Rule: How To Read More Than 36+ Books A Year

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“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren [Buffett] reads – and how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”

– Charles T. Munger.

When asked his secret to success, Warren Buffett – the most successful investor of all time – held up a stack of papers and replied: “[You] read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest”. [1]

500 pages a day? That’s a lot to ask for. Truth be told, as valuable as that would be, most of us don’t have the time nor the patience to perform a daily feat like that.

However, if you’re an artist, an entrepreneur or any kind of a creative for that matter, you’ll understand how important reading is as a daily habit. Reading is learning and if you’re not learning, you’re not improving in your craft. Stephen King once commented: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that”. [2] 

Fortunately, it is possible to read more books, learn and improve in our craft, and it not feel like an effort or drain on our precious resources like our time.

With Amazon Kindles, Nooks, smart phone apps and tablets now available to us, books have never been more accessible; nor have they been easier to read. No longer do we have to lug a heavy hard/paperback book around with us or wait for a book order to arrive at our local book store.

Despite these advantages, we still find excuses not to read.

“I don’t have time”.

“I don’t like reading”.

“I don’t have a Kindle”.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Wouldn’t it be nice to learn how to read more?

Introducing The 10% Rule

Like most people, I used to excuse myself from reading. “I don’t have time” was my excuse. The truth is, I did have time to read, but like everyone else who uses that excuse, I simply mismanaged my time.

I would check my Facebook and Twitter accounts on my commute; I would stream movies in bed and I’d mindlessly browse online when I could’ve been reading.

Eventually, I invested in an Amazon Kindle in the hope it would encourage me to read more.

And it did.

Soon, I found myself reading more than ever before, not only because I’d bought a Kindle, but because I stumbled upon a new system for reading. That approach? A simple formula I committed to: Read 10% of a book every day.

That’s it.

A System for Reading More Books

Since obeying to this self-imposed rule, I’ve also developed a three step system for not only reading more, but recording what you learn as well.

The system is as follows:

Create an inventory of books you’d like to read

Choose a book to read (and Highlight what you find interesting)

Archive your notes for easy reference

Let’s look at each step in more detail now.

Step 01. Create an Inventory of Books you’d like to Read

This easiest way you can do this is to create an Amazon Wish List (if you don’t have an account with Amazon, you can create one here).

Amazon Wish List allows you to add books (or any product for that matter) to a list which you can return to periodically to review and update (especially if you’ve bought the book).

If you’re browsing online and you find a book you think you’d like, add it to your wish list (there’s even an Add to Amazon Wish List plugin available for Google Chrome). Similarly, if a friend recommends a book they think you’d like or you hear of a book that’s highly praised, write it down and add it to your Amazon Wish List later.

To follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done recommendation, have one (and only one) “capture device”. In other words, don’t have multiple lists because you’ll lose track.

I’ve found an Amazon Wish List is the best way to record the books you want to read, but what if you want to read a book that’s exclusive to an author’s website and isn’t available on Amazon?

If that happens, find an image of the book and pin it to your Pinterest account if you have one. I’d highly recommend it.

Step 02. Choose a Book to Read (and Highlight What You Find Interesting)

The next step is an obvious one: Choose a book and start reading. Commit to reading your new book in its entirety by using the 10% rule and reading 10% every day.

Now, there is one caveat to this: You’ll learn that reading 10% of a 200 page book is different to reading 10% of a 300 page book, so take into consideration when you’re going to read. In other words, when your energy is going to be at its highest.

If 10% is a lot because of the size of the book, split it in half and read 5% in the morning and 5% in the evening. (This is easy if you commute to work via public transport).

What you’ll also find is a lot of Kindle books aren’t even 100% long. Once you’ve excluded the acknowledgements, appendix, prefaces, recommendations and sources – in other words, the parts that aren’t as interesting to you – a book only ends up being between 70-80% in length.

That means that if you’re reading a book that’s 200-300 pages in length, you can read an average of one book a week. That’s 52+ books a year!

As Buffett argued, knowledge compounds, especially when you apply “The Daffodil Principle” to your daily reading habit.

Taking Notes

This is an essential part of the reading process (that is, if you really want to remember what you’re reading) and yet, it’s one that’s often overlooked entirely.

Making notes is crucial if you want to retain the information you’re reading and while highlighting what interests you can be effective in print books, it’s not effective in the long-term, unless you’re organised (more on that in Step 03.).

Thankfully, making notes has never been easier with an Amazon Kindle. Once your device is connected to Wi-Fi, it will synch your notes to your Amazon Kindle account and you’ll be able to complete Step 04.

Step 03. Archive Your Notes for Easy Reference

This is best done via Evernote. Evernote is free archiving and note taking software and is wonderful for archiving everything you’ve highlighted.

You can log into your Amazon Kindle account and view your highlights and either clip your highlights from the page using the Evernote Web Clipper plugin for Chrome, or copy and paste them onto an Evernote note and manually edit them yourself (my preferred method).

Now, all your Kindle highlights are archived and available at the click of a button. You can even download the Evernote App for your mobile phone, so you’ll be able to pull them up anyplace, anytime.

A Final Word

It’s important not to think of reading as a chore, but rather a privilege; it’s not an activity you should do, but one you get to do.

Or, as Ryan Holiday puts it:

The key to reading lots of book begins with stop thinking of it as some activity that you do. Reading must become as natural as eating and breathing to you. It’s not something you do because you feel like it, but because it’s a reflex, a default. [3]

10% a day. That’s all you need. And trust me, the results will speak for themselves. [4] TC mark

Sources:

[1] Parrish, S. “The Warren Buffett Formula: How You Can Get Smarter”. The Week.

[2] King, S. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner, 2000. Print.

[3] Holiday, R. “How to Read More — a Lot More”. Thought Catalog.

[4] For anyone who’s interested in my Kindle highlights, you can view them when you subscribe. I update my library regularly, so be sure to bookmark it and return to it as and when you please. You can subscribe here. 

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