Revisiting Professional Books

How do you use what you read in professional books to make an impact in your work? 

I am an avid reader. I read fast and I read a lot. I do not, however, have a great memory. Once of the reason I blog about my reading each month is to keep a record of my reading for my own bad memory. That clearly does’t always help, as last month I read a book I had read 10 years ago, with no memory of it! Right now I’m reflecting on my reading of non-fiction, professional books. I like to read educational books to stay current on new research, innovations, and ideas.

When I’m reading a professional book, I prefer to have a paper copy, where I write marginalia, put post-it notes all over, underline, highlight, and generally just mark my thinking all throughout the book as I read. These notes are great to track my thinking while I’m reading, but I rarely go back and look over my notes again. Which means that if I happen to have a great idea that could apply to my work while I’m reading, it often gets lost in the pages of the book, never to be seen again. I’ve thought about ways to capture these ideas and I’ve tried a few of them, but none have stuck as a useful habit.

  • Keep a specific journal (I’ve tried written and electronic) for professional book notes/ ideas – I have set these up and haven’t bee successful. The problem with a written journal is that it might not be with me when I’m reading, since I read in multiple locations.
  • Write specific ideas on post-it notes and stick them on my computer – this work for immediate follow-up situations, but not long-term planning
  • Dedicate an area of my current notebook to these ideas – Even though I prefer electronic for just about everything, I do keep a small notebook for day-to-day written notes and things I need to follow-up on at work. One problem with this idea is the same as the first idea; I don’t always have this notebook with me when I’m reading.
  • Take picture of key pages/ notes in books to save – I have done this, but again, they sit in the photo area of my phone, not being used again.
  • Tweet out the ideas – I have done this occasionally, but they get lost and ever seen again. one idea I’ve seen recently that I haven’t tried, is to tweet ideas to a specific hashtag with my name in it, such as #IllingworthNotes (which is too long!) or #CoachADV (which is related to my book, The Coach ADVenture). Then I can search my own hahtag for my own ideas. I can even schedule in reminders to look back through my hashtag for ideas and reflections every few months. This might be where I start!

I often say that I use journaling and blogging for my own reflection. Sometimes my best thoughts come when I just sit down and let myself write until I answer my own question, solve my own problem, or come up with a new idea. Thanks for reading along! If you have other ideas that work for you, I’d love to hear them.

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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