If my house ever gets robbed, I’m betting the burglars will be sorely disappointed – unless they were librarians in a past life. It’s pretty much full of books and not much else. I love to read. (My Mom, Dad, and Nana are the same way, so perhaps it’s genetic.)

Recently, I realized that I wasn’t getting as much out of my books as I could be. I would complete one and move on to the next, without always taking the time to digest the primary lesson or apply the principles.

Going forward, I decided that I would trade quantity for quality. My goal for 2012 is to read only 50 books, but to ensure that each has an impact on my life. I also want to share what I’m learning so that you can apply it too if you’re interested. I believe that our world is experiencing major shifts that will create tremendous opportunities for anyone willing to seize it. (More on that here and here.)

Getting specific, I will complete a “Net-Out” for each significant book I read. For my template, I borrowed heavily from two leaders I admire: Michael Hyatt and Derek Sivers. Both are very gracious in sharing what they’ve learned and “how” they learn it.

In setting up my system, I created a simple Google Form to complete for each book. Click here to see what it looks like. (Also, here’s a quick tutorial on how to set up a form. It’s super easy.)

I also wanted to share my first example. I just finished Ikigai by Sebastian Marshall.

Quick Summary:

This book gripped me in the first few pages. In the introductory chapter, he describes people-watching at a train station in a Japanese suburb. He describes their ordinary, happy lives. And then two lines jump off the page. “I think, this is what I’m giving up. I don’t get to have this.” In that moment, I understood. I’ve felt that exact same way, but never found the words for it.

Written in a stream of consciousness style and organized by topic, the book has some repetitive sections. But they don’t distract from the power of the message and tactics found within. For those of us that often feel like aliens in a foreign land, the articulation of previously undescribed emotions is simply life-altering.

Key Insight #1:

You can have a “normal” life or a significant one, not both. This is a huge realization for me. As Marshall says, “If you keep taking all those edges that no one else will, pretty soon your neighbors [or Facebook friends] don’t understand you, can’t understand you.”

Key Insight #2:

Do things for reasons. Recognize how often I do things “because that’s the way it’s done” or based on my first impulse. For me, this realization dovetails nicely with the concept of automaticity. To direct our robot-selves, Marshall suggests two questions. 1) What is my objective here? 2) What course of action makes me most likely to reach that objective?

Key Insight #3:

Weekly reviews don’t have to be completed each week.  A “week” can include more or fewer days, depending on the circumstances. The key to this process is to be reviewing your goals and projects regularly and to gather feedback often enough to make adjustments proactively.

Key Insight #4:

Start your day in your planner as opposed to your email. I know this. We all know this. But we slip. Marshall shared a neat trick about how he’d turn off his laptop and then turn it upside down each night. It forced enough of a pause each morning for him to remember to review his planner first.

Key Insight #5:

Environment matters. Marshall shares, “You can get pretty big pushes from moving your environment around to suit your goals and life.” I get this. It’s why I switched to a standing desk. I need to do more in this area.

Personal Application:

Be at peace with being weird. Don’t hide it, and don’t judge others for being normal.

Make adjustments to my Weekly Review Form and Process. 1) Allow for natural breaks, as opposed to forcing 7 days. 2) Add fields to capture the begin and end dates for the “week” and the percent of days compliance for each tracked goal behavior (like flossing).

Create some barriers to checking email early in the day. Planning my day the night before is helping tremendously. If I get really gutsy, I’ll remove it from my phone completely.