UI/UX Design: How to Read Design Books Fast | by Nick Lawrence | Sep, 2021

Let’s face it: as designers, our industry changes constantly.

To fully grasp the entire scope of the UI/UX field, while staying relevant and competitive, we are called to study as much as possible.

Today, I’m going to share with you a dirty hack that I’ve developed which can cut your study time with books (and possibly video courses too, weirdly) by well over half, while increasing your information retention, and giving you actionable items that you can incorporate into your daily practices.

Yeah, every book has nuances, so does this article, but that’s NOT why you’re here.

You’re here to learn:

How to read books fast, and actually retain what you read.

So without further ado, let’s get into it.

What you’ll need

To make this work for you, all it takes is some basic tools.

Pen, note paper, book, comfortable spot, decent lighting
  • Pen/pencil/writing utensil
  • Note paper
  • Book you want to read
  • Reasonably comfortable spot to read it
  • Good lighting so you don’t strain your eyes

Get your setup right

Crucially, you want to set yourself up as such:

  • Book in the middle.
  • Notes on left or right depending upon your handedness or hand favoring.

How to do this correctly

What you want to do here is mine the book for info.

At this point, the goal of your reading should not be comprehension or any time/page goal. No, you are here to do one thing, and one thing alone:

mine the book for valuable content.

This will include:

  • Core ideas
  • Methodologies
  • Processes
  • Functions
  • Considerations
  • Gotchas
  • Tools
  • Principles
  • Processes
  • and anything else you can actually use

You’re not reading just to read here, you are actively looking for valuable content, and skipping anything that is not valuable to/for your purposes.

Your notepad is your bucket

Transfer these nuggets of gold to your notes

As you are reading through, you’ll want to transfer any nuggets of gold that you find into your notes.

Again, do not feel the need to re-write the book here! You are mining for gold, and taking what is the best, most important ideas for your purposes.

These normally take the form of actionable items, processes, or considerations that you will want to put into practice later.

Structuring your notes

As you build out the structure of your notes, you will want to break out your notes into multiple sections, including

  • Main section
  • Sub-sections
  • Nuggets of gold
  • Questions & thoughts
  • Action items/important stuff

End product

By the end, you should have a collection of notes that are all-killer, no filler.

The goal of this exercise is to end up with actionable, usable notes that you can reference, re-work, and use to improve your processes.

This way, you’ll always have something to refer back to, to refresh your memory, point you in the right direction, and lead you to game-changing,
“Ah-ha!” moments.

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