When I stopped drinking, I started smoking more pot.
When my friend asked me why, I just said, “Well, I couldn’t eliminate all of my vices,” and she laughed.
Here in Japan, I have limited access to the Internet in my current AirBnB, no social media, and spend very little time using Netflix.
So, the question I first started to ask myself when I started simply staring off into the distance during long breaks in my day to think, was, “what the f**k do I do with all of this free time?
Since crack isn’t really an option here in Japan, I read.
When I get that impulse to open up my phone and check notifications that I no longer have, I instead open up the Kindle app and I read.
When it’s late at night, and I so badly want to check my emails and my text messages I remind myself that, uh, actually my phone is downstairs, so I read some more.
In May alone, that amounted to about 11 books.
(Before that, my pace was sluggish and I typically only read on long flights or train-rides but rarely anywhere else.)
And I track all of my reading through a database in Notion, where I write out key learnings, action items, and interesting quotes for everything I’ve read over the years.
And there’s research that supports that creating lists actually helps you achieve more.
(So, in this case — reading.)
(Side note: Every week, I’m breaking down one tool that you can leverage to disconnect from the digital world, and focus on being more present IRL. This week, it’s creating a ‘Reading Database’ in Notion’)
Here’s an example of what that looks like:
Notion has become my go-to system for creating pretty looking databases like this that are easy to sort through.
This is effectively an Archive — an archive of all of the great books I’ve ready, and thoughts and musing on each and every one of them and key lessons I’ve learned.
Each individual entry looks a little something like this:
Included in each of them is a list of relevant quotes, ideas, thought experiments, ratings, and other pertinent information.
I try to be as meticulous as possible, but also focus on details and information that actually matter — i.e. Information that helps me sort, or memorable quotes that I might want to refer back to later.
Details like when the book was published, who co-authored it, what the chapter titles are and other crap like that simply aren’t relevant.
Even if you’re not particularly interested in some of the books I read, you might find the NOTION (see what I did there) of keeping an ongoing database of books that you’ve read quite interesting.
This has the added benefit of encouraging you to read more — since, at the end of reading your books you get to sit down and review them and reflect on them and slurp out all of the juicy information, you might find that you’ll read significantly more as a by-product of this.
I know I have.
Here’s how to create a reading database in any ‘Notes’ app:
You can use any app that you currently find useful — whether it be Notes in iOS, Evernote, Google Keep or, my preference, Notion — almost all of them will support this.
Step 1. Create a ‘Database’ note.
This is easy enough to setup in Notion, but for all others you’ll have to create a ‘Pinned’ note. Basically a note that you’ll use to link out to all of your other individual book reviews.
What you’ll do is create a note with the title, “My Reading List”, and then list out every book you’ve previously read over the last few months (or years), title by title.
Then, in whatever software you’re using, either ‘Pin’ or ‘Favorite’ this note so that it remains at the top most part of your notebook and is easy enough to find.
Step 2. Create a ‘Review’ template.
The next step is to create a template that you’ll end up duplicating across each of your notes. Things to consider including:
- Relevant tags for easily searching different genres or years.
- Favorite quotes.
- Ratings. (I do mine out of five — and three stars is considered ‘good’.)
- Action items — notes from the book that you might want to test out in real-life.
- Recommended reading — other similar books that were recommended at the end of the book.
And anything else you might find valuable or interesting.
Creating a line for each of these criteria that allows for you to easily fill-in this information will make the future replications of entries that much easier.
I like to include as many actionable items in this as possible and try to block some time in my calendar over the next week or two to do something with that information less I forget it.
Step 3. ‘Review’ your favorite books, and link to them in your database.
Then the fun part is duplicating a bunch of your ‘Review’ templates, and going through each of the books that you’ve recently read, and pulling out all of the interesting tidbits, quotes, and, finally, ratings from each of your favorite books.
Once you’ve created a bunch of separate notes, the next step will be to link to each of those notes in your database note so that you can easily pull up each of those notes.
You should have yourself a ‘Reading List’ — an ongoing list of all of the neat, interesting books that you’ve read over the years and your thoughts on them.
The next time somebody at a party asks you, “What are you reading?” in that snooty, pompous tone that anybody who asks that question almost always will, you can say, “One second.”
And in that one second, you’ll pull up your ‘Reading List’ database — and rifle off a few recent examples.
They’ll be so impressed.
So will your mom.
Here’s a link to my current database, for your own creative inspiration.
(You can duplicate it. too.)
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