• The Life We’re Looking For Sketchnote Book Summary

    What is our fundamental need? According to Andy Crouch, it’s to be recognized by God and each other. This need is so important that studies have shown when we are neglected of it, we don’t develop properly. In the Book, The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World, Andy Crouch starts by laying out this need before addressing how we’re failing to fulfil it and how we might address it in the future.

    As someone who loved The Tech Wise Family by Andy and who has become increasingly technologically wary, I was excited to read Andy’s book. It was both more than I expected, and very different than what I had expected.

    Important note: Andy is writing from a Christian perspective and this is one I hold. His worldview influences his writing heavily.

    The Life We’re Looking For Sketchnote

    A sketchnote summary of the book The Life We're Looking For by Andy Crouch.

    The main point

    Andy’s main point is that we’re increasingly trading real relationships, with each other and God, for the “magic” of technology. This isn’t completely new but recent changes in the world from the industrial, financial and telecommunication revolutions have made this view dominant in society.

    Andy contends that to be truly satisfied, we need to promote a society where we are fully human and in true relationships with God and each other. This means we need to engage our

    • Hearts
    • souls
    • minds
    • strengths

    and recognize each other as being of immense worth, no matter of our differences.

    The search for true relationships and a lesson from Gaius’s Table

    To give an example of true relationship, Andy highlights the community in the background of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

    This group of slaves and free people, men and women, Jews and gentiles met in the house of Giaus, a wealthy roman head of household. Here, although they were treated very differently by society, they were all equal.

    One of the shocking details Andy picks up on is that the person who writes Paul’s letter, Tertius, has a slave name for “3rd”.

    By society he was viewed of so little importance that he was merely denoted by the order of his birth. And yet Paul invited him to add his name to the letter, showing him of as equal importance as Giaus.

    This kind of relationships, where we see and value even the people neglected by society, is what Andy argues for.

    Devices vs instruments

    A core point Andy distinguishes is between devices and instruments. Andy defines them as

    A device is something with makes an activity so easy, that humans are no longer really required. An example is how a roomba can tidy up the house with no human effort.

    This seams like it’s an unqualified good; we no longer have to do a boring, time consuming or difficult task. However, there are usually unforeseen consequences of devices.

    We usually adapt for our devices.

    Using the Roomba examples, we might design our homes so they are more suitable for our robot friends to clean. Or the unlimited access we now have with the internet can lead to us watching endless entertainment rather than engaging deeply with what we watch.

    Instruments, on the other hand, still augment our skills or abilities but require skill (and usually focus) to use. The main example Andy gives is a bike which allows a person to travel further than by foot, but still engages the senses and requires strength. Going for a bike ride might leave you tired, but often it comes with a sense of achievement. Compare that to the experience of a long-haul flight; you can travel further than ever possible in a short time, but you sit passively the whole time.

    Does it give more than it takes?

    A key question to our evaluation of the tools around us is if they give more than they take.

    An instrument will allow us to do new things without imposing new requirements or constraints upon the user. A great instrument also empowers us to more fully use our hearts, souls, minds and strength and deepen relationships.

    In contrast, a device will impose more limits than benefits and reduce us as

    Impact vs influence

    Personal note: Using “impact” as a verb is one of my pet peeves and has been for a while. So I was delighted to see Andy has similar issues with it.

    He points out how recent this usage of the word is, and how there are many other options including influence. I’d go further and say that every other near synonym is more expressive than impact. Andy does, however, point out why impact has become a popular verb: it reflect quick, significant change.

    In our current society, the goal of “moving fast and break things” is lauded. Caution is a negative and so any negative side effects are seen as costs of innovation.

    But impact is short lived, and so another impact is required. And then another and another. All the while the shockwaves of these impacts can be causing colossal damage. Just look at the data around self-esteem and use of Instagram all the while the owners try to make it more addictive.

    The alternative is influence, which looks at long-term change and compounding effects. It’s not about making massive changes now, but about deliberate movement towards a goal.

    Influence isn’t as popular as it can often be missed in the moment. Contrast that with impact and it’s easy to see results. But in the long run, impact leads to burnout and influence leads to growth.

    Charmed vs blessed

    A final key difference is between charmed and blessed.

    Andy highlights how many of the examples we might tag on social media as #blessed are really examples of living a charmed existance.

    A charmed existence is one free of worry, pain and work.

    It’s the all inclusive holiday in the sun where we don’t lift a finger and all our needs are catered for. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it, but there are negatives.

    Charm is costly. It’s not just money, it can be costly in terms of personhood. To keep a charmed lifestyle for some, others have to live in servitude. Yes, tourism can help raise economic standards in some places (while making them dependent) but it isn’t always equal and costs still need to stay low to keep that servitude possible.

    Furthermore, the relationship between the charmed person and the server isn’t one of equals. It’s one of subjugation via economics.

    The contrast is a blessed existance, one which is rich in love but is costly too.

    Andy draws examples of Biblical figures such as Abraham, Jacob and Jospeh who are blessed but after suffering or through suffering. He even draws on his own story of his friend dying of cancer and how although it was immensely painful, it was also a blessing to be able to be so close with him.


    Andy isn’t against technology; he even owns a Roomba (something I surely would have thought to be a device he’d be cautious of). So this book isn’t a doom and gloom or quick easy practical tip book.

    At first I felt slightly disappointed by this fact. After all, I want help and guidance to help avoid the negatives of technology and devices. But I realised that this actually helps prove the point of the book.

    The real challenge isn’t just reducing our technology dependency, but replacing it with pursuing true relationships. That’s not something with easy prescriptions for every situation, instead it’s something we all need to workout on our own, for our contexts.

    Plus there are plenty of blogs and books on how to reduce our technological dependence.

    Grab your own copy of The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World

    If this review has whet your appetite, then you should pick up your own copy of Andy’s book to go into greater depth. And if you’d like some practical tips as a parent, I’d recommend his book The Tech Wise Family

  • The Alter Ego Effect Sketchnote Summary

    Last year I finally decided to do something about my imposter syndrome. I picked up the most recommended book I had heard of “The Alter Ego Effect”. Little did I know that once I had finished reading it, I would have come to the conclusion that I don’t really have imposter syndrome (though sometimes suffer from self doubt) and that this book would have helped me greatly.

    Table of Contents

      Sketchnote summary of the Alter Ego Effect

      Core Idea

      You should use a different persona or “Alter ego” for different areas of your life to help you perform at your best. This helps you have emotional distance and get over the hangups you might have with acting the way you need to be the best in this area.

      Key concepts

      • Fields of play
      • Ordinary world & Extra-ordinary world
      • The trapped and heroic selves
      • Alter egos
      • The enemy
      • totem or artefact

      Why do we fail to live up to our potential?

      There are always moments when we fail to perform at our best or don’t fully apply ourselves to a task. Sometimes it comes from an external source such as an incapacity but internal forces can also hold us back.
      These internal issues can be far more frustrating as they can be both more opaque and/or easily preventable. And yet, they have a nasty tendency of sticking around and become entrenched as part of our identity.
      This is how a sport person can become known as “skilled, but missing the killer instinct” or a employee

      Fields of play

      The athletes field of play is the arena where they test their skill. This is the time and place where their performance is measured. But all of us have different areas of our lives where our performance matters. It might be in how we relate at home with our families, or how we do our core jobs at work. We may even require very different skills for different tasks we have at work (such as leading a meeting vs creating a report).
      Each different arena of life is a field of play with its own criteria for success. What make us excel in one field may hold us back in another.
      This is where an alter ego can come into play. An alter ego allows us to apply the right traits in one area of life, and apply different traits in another without any conflict.

      The Ordinary vs the Extra-ordinary world

      There are two worlds, the ordinary and extra-ordinary world.
      The ordinary world is full of negative self-talk and a destructive place. It’s the place where most of live, listening to the internal monologs that say we shouldn’t, can’t and won’t do what we long to. That’s why Todd says our “Trapped self” live here. This is the version of us that fails to perform, that is held back.
      The Extra-ordinary world is a positive environment and is an enjoyable place to be. It’s a place of flow where we get lost in the task without conscious thought. This is where the “heroic self” lives: the version of ourselves that fully applies itself to the task.

      To create an alter ego, we need to define what our heroic selves look like from the deep levels of our beliefs up to our core actions. It can be helpful to both identify when things have gone well and how we acted differently then, as well as when they went badly and the negative beliefs, thoughts, feelings and actions we want to avoid.

      The Enemy and Negative Self-talk

      “The enemy” is the personification of our negative self talk. It is the dark voice that says we can’t, shouldn’t, won’t or don’t deserve to do something. It can appear in four common ways.

      • Imposter syndrome – the phenomena that makes experts feel worried they will be found out at fakes.
      • False narratives – stories we believe that prevent us from doing something. I.e. “[people like me] don’t/can’t do this.”
      • Past trauma – when past events cause us to worry about next events. For example, “last time I failed to… I bet it will happen again.”
      • Conflicting values – some of our values may hinder ourselves in other fields. For example, if we value justices, we may struggle to win in competitions.

      By identifying an enemy (giving it a name) and making it an external force, it provides us with something to fight again that is outside of us.

      Creating an alter ego

      This is an iterative process and may follow different paths usually refining as it goes along. However, the first steps are consistent.

      1. Define a field of play

      You need to pick an area of your life to build an alter ego in. The largest divisions are home and professional but you can narrow either of those down to a particular relationship or activity.

      2. Identify the goal and key actions

      What do you want to achieve in this field of play? What would success look like in this area? With that identified, break down the key actions that bring that success as well as the underlying thoughts, beliefs and values required to create those actions.

      Either 3a. Identify your desired traits

      With your goal and attributes identified, you can list out the traits you need and what they look like. You should describe them as vividly as possible. If you start with this step, move to the next one, if you start with the next one, come back to this step.

      or 3b. Identify an alter ego

      Sometimes it’s easier to jump to an alter ego straight away as your subconscious resonates with someone or something. If that’s the case, it’s worth going back to the previous step and identifying the attributes that make this alter ego a good choice.
      Some possible candidates for an alter ego include.

      • Real people
      • Fictional characters
      • Animals
      • Concepts
      • Images of a person
      • Combinations (merging aspects of two previous items)

      Activate with a totem or artefact

      A totem or artifact helps you to “activate” (put on the personality) of your alter ego. It should be a tactical item that you can touch and can even have a ritual associated with it to help “get in the right mind”.
      This works through “enclothed cognition” where we take on a trait due to associations with an object. An example is glasses which people perceive as for smart people, so we feel and act smarter with them. Or wearing a suit often causes people to be more confident.
      When our totem matches our alter ego, it helps enrich that association.

      Grab a copy of The Alter Ego effect

      If this summary has interested you and you’d like to learn more, use the button below to get your own copy so you can work through the whole process.

    1. Hello, My Name is Awesome Book Summary

      I’ve taken part in a few brand naming exercises over the last couple of years. Most of these were for products but the need for a good name was the same. While it’s easy to spot a good name in the wild, coming up with one is another matter.

      For years I had just assume that it was a matter of luck, thinking and waiting, but the action plan in the book Hello, my name is awesome makes this process more straight forward, even if it does still require a lot of time, energy and thought to come up with a good name.

      This books summary has my main takeaways and will provide you with a guideline that you can implement as well.

      Table of Contents

        How to create brand names that stick Actions steps to come up with a brand name

        There are really four steps to generate a brand or product name.

        1. Generate 12 words that describe or are related to your brand.
        2. Follow a nine step brainstorming (or expansion) of these words
        3. Synthesize your research into name ideas
        4. Use the SMILE and SCRATCH criteria to review the possible names you have

        Why this process works

        This process is based on the same mindset as that in A Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Webb Young.

        You immerse yourself in a topic till you gain mind fog, you distract your mind from the task and let your subconscious chew on it, you wait for eureka and then refine the idea from there.

        The process in Hello, My Name Is Awesome just helps you drown yourself in the topic of a product name.

        The additional aspect I recommend from “A Technique for Producing Ideas” is to engage in an emotionally stimulating distraction when you feel overwhelmed by a topic.

        The list of 12

        To start, you need a list of 12 words that describe or are related to the brand. Look for a diverse list and avoid just stating synonyms; that will come later.

        The brainstorming process

        The brainstorming process is about turning that list of 12 into a list of 1200!

        You want to dive into a wide variety of different stimuli to find alternative ways of saying a word or how others have used the name in the past.

        The nine steps are

        1. Using a thesaurus for synonyms
        2. Using image search to see visual associations
        3. Using a Glossary to find related industry words
        4. Using Dictionaries to see idioms and expressions
        5. Using to find Cliche’s related to the term
        6. Using Google suggestions and related searches
        7. Using movie titles
        8. Using book titles
        9. Using song titles

        Book titles are particularly useful as they aren’t subject to copyright and so can be reused.

        Once you have completed this process for every word, you will have a long list of ideas and inspiration to draw upon. You may be starting to feel mental and topical fatigue. That’s a good sign that you have fill your brain with the topic.


        The key part of synthesizing an idea is subconscious, but you should still start by consciously trying combinations of words and name ideas. You may find THE idea this way, but even if you do, let your subconscious have a go at crunching all the information you’ve filled it with and see if it can generate a better idea.

        Deliberately give your brain a break when you can’t think any more, but keep a note book with you. This break could be a shower, a long walk, a good film or a trip to an art gallery. relaxing and emotionally stimulating tasks work best.

        Once you’ve got a few idea down, it’s time to evaluate.

        The review process: Smile and scratch

        You’re review process has two steps.

        1. Smile – finding good names.
        2. Scratch – eliminating bad ones.

        SMILE: 5 Qualities of sticky names

        • Suggestive – It doesn’t describe, it evokes.
        • Meaningful – Something that will resonate with potential customers
        • Imagery – Something which is visually evocative
        • Legs – An idea which can be extended
        • Emotional – Something which moves people, reminds them of memories and associations.

        SCRATCH: Ideas to remove

        • Spelling – don’t use clever spellings, it confuses people
        • Copycat – don’t follow other companies, be original
        • Restrictive – It doesn’t allow for future growth
        • Annoying – Something that is forced or just doesn’t work.
        • Tame – Don’t go for a safe, boring and forgettable name
        • Curse of Knowledge – Don’t use a name that only makes sense to you and your inner group
        • Hard to pronounce – Make sure people can tell others what your name is

        Finding the domain

        Once you’ve gone through all this process, then you should look at domain names and usernames on social media platforms. This might seem like it’s too later and it might but the copycat step should help eliminate some problems by this point. If you find there’s another company with the same domain (and there’s a good chance of that now), you can either use a more unique TLD or add a verb to the start of your website domain, like which offers domain hosting.

        Grab a copy of Hello, My Name Is Awesome

        If you’d like to read the whole, short book, grab a copy bellow.

        Or you can check out other book summaries here.

      1. Marketing Made Simple Book Summary

        I was part of a marketing community where someone shared a confusing picture. Their diagram, representing their marketing funnel, was definitely not Marketing Made Simple. It sought to provide effective follow up to every action across every communication channel.

        I suspect that marketing campaign would probably be more effective than the one I will share from Donald Miller’s book, Marketing Made Simple. However, the marketing made simple book summary and marketing plan below is one that any business could implement AND it wouldn’t make a prospect feel herded down a path their don’t want to follow.

        Table of Contents

          Sketchnote summary of Marketing Made Simple

          A sketchnote summary of marketing made simple focusing on the five steps of a marketing plan.

          The No.1 problem with most marketing

          Most companies have messages like “Save time, save money”. The problem is, that could apply to ANYTHING.

          At my old job we literally used this as a test of a marketing message. Could we say it about some other computer software? If so, it was a bad message.

          The appeal of the “Save time, save money” message is from it appeal to our basic instincts – Time and money are limited and we need them to survive.

          While it is good to show how your product or service helps a person to survive, a message of “Save time, save money” blends in.
          When any company could say the same message, a customer can choose any company.

          You need to have a memorable message.

          Instead of a forgettable message, you need a clear message that sticks. It needs to be something that you everyone in your company can remember and say.
          Once you’ve got it, you use it everywhere and across your marketing to make sure it sticks.

          Three stages in a customer journey

          It’s obvious that not everyone is ready to buy from you when they first meet your company. Instead there are three stages in their journey (excluding when they don’t know you). (This is a simplified version of the classic “Stages of awareness“)


          When you first meet someone, there’s a lot you don’t know and a lot of questions that you’ll have. You want to learn the basics about them, get to know them a bit and find out more.

          Many prospects don’t go beyond this stage, they get confused or are distracted by the next curiosity. Have a clear, effective message helps.


          When a prospect has a moment of realization and discovery, they enter the enlightenment stage. This is where they know about you and have seen something valuable. They get how you are different and can help them with their issues.


          The final stage is when they agree to buy. To get to this point, they need to have passed through the previous two stages and be invited to go further.

          How the three stages related to marketing

          Curiosity – Explain who you are

          Once someone has encountered you, via ads or a social post, you need to explain who you are and what you do. You do this by inviting the prospect into a story where you position your company as the guide.

          This can happen in many places, but the main place is your website homepage.

          Enlightenment – give value / reveal insights

          The customer reaches enlightenment either by you explaining an insight or providing some value. This could be an understanding as to why they need your product or service, or how your product or service is unique and superior.

          This can happen through articles, podcast episodes and emails, but an easy way is with a lead generating PDF.

          Commitment – ask to buy

          To get a customer to agree to buy, we must ask them. This can happen on your website, in a social post and other places but the most effective is as part of an email marketing sequence.

          Execution – the key differentiator between successful and unsuccessful marketing

          The problem with many marketing plans isn’t the plans, but a failure to execute the plans. It is better to have a plan which you can execute rather than a brilliant plan which can’t be realized.

          The plan outlined in Marketing Made Simple may not be the most conclusive but when correctly implemented, it will be more effective than 90% of other companies marketing strategies.

          The Five-step Marketing plan to make sales

          A 5 step marketing plan that works

          A simple five step marketing plan is all you need. It should include …

          1. a one liner
          2. wireframe a website
          3. a lead generating pdf
          4. a nurturing email email campaign
          5. A sales email campaign

          A one liner

          This is the short summary or elevator pitch for your business. It should be the answer to the question “what do you do?”
          The simple formula is

          1. State the problem
          2. Define the solution
          3. Share the results.
            This may be a paragraph long at first, but later you can condense it.

          A website that converts

          Most websites make the mistake of telling the company story or just DUMPING information on the customer.

          marketing made simple website mistakes

          Typical website mistakes

          • using insider language
          • Long headlines
          • It tells the company story not the customers
          • And they have a confusing and unappealing offer.

          A ingredients of a good website

          marketing made simple outline for a website that converts

          Instead, you want a website that will

          • pique your prospects curiosity,
          • give them a reason to go further in your marketing funnel (your lead generator)
          • and provide an easy way for them to buy your product or service.

          A converting website should include

          • A header section – with your one-liner
          • The stakes – what happens if you don’t buy
          • The value proposition – what they will get
          • the guide – the evidence that you can deliver
          • The plan – what the customer needs to do
          • An explanatory paragraph – great for SEO
          • (optional) a video – helps build connection
          • Price choices – An option for every budget
          • the junk draw – for all the important legal stuff

          A lead generating PDF

          Okay, you don’t need to have a lead generating PDF, but you do need to have a lead generator, and a PDF is a low-budget, easy to produce option.
          This PDF should be

          • worth about $10-20
          • relevant to your customers and your products – you want to “qualify” customers.
          • Short – so your customer can gain value FAST.
            You can, and should, experiment with different lead generating PDFs to see what resonates the most with your customers. You can also repackage PDFs in a different format (video guide/series etc) to attract different customer types.

          Alternative lead gens to a PDF

          People don’t sign up “to get the next newsletter”, that’s why we offered something of value in exchange their email address. But you don’t have to stick with a PDF, and one of these alternatives can stand out more.

          • A short video series
          • A drip email campaign
          • A physical product or free sample
          • an in-person event where you collect email address
          • a short challenge

          Whatever option you choose, make sure you give something valuable and the customer discovers your unique benefit by the end.

          A nurturing email campaign that build relationships

          Most customers aren’t ready to buy straight away. They…

          • May need to know you are the right company for them
          • Might not NEED your product or service right now
          • May need to wait till they have the cash
            A nurturing sequence helps customers build stronger connections with your brand so they like, know, trust you and reminds them about your offerings for when they are ready to buy.

          This sequence should include

          • valuable tips and insights
          • customer success stories
          • website Articles
          • videos
          • podcast episodes and interviews

          It’s a good idea to email at least once a week so you stay top of mind.
          If you publish a blog, podcast or videos, you can include those which will also increase the visibility of that material.

          Good emails…

          1. Are short
          2. Solve a problem
          3. Are helpful
          4. Provide value
          5. Include a CTA (even in nurture emails)
          6. Include a post script – repeat the main message & summarize your content

          What can you include in a nurturing email campaign?

          A sales email campaign that brings in cash

          In addition to your nurturing emails, you need sales emails.

          Which comes first the nurturing or the sales?

          Don advises starting with a sales campaign after someone downloads your lead gen. This makes sense for the customers who are ready now and looking to solve their problems soon. You don’t want to keep them waiting for your offer. (In truth, this is a small nurturing campaign).
          Once a prospect has completed the sales campaign, even if they have bought, you should add them to your nurture campaign.

          What goes in a Sales email campaign?

          Don lays out a simple six part sales email campaign

          1. Deliver your lead gen – GIVE the client what you said you would.
          2. State the problem and the solution – This email shows you understand their issues and how you are uniquely placed to solve it.
          3. Send a customer testimonial – This is your chance to share how a customer overcame the same problem. It helps the reader imagine themselves in the clients shoes as well as adds credibility.
          4. Overcome an objection – the best way to do this is with another case study or testimonial but one that addresses a fear. “We were worried that…(objection to buying) but in the end…”
          5. Paradigm shift. – This is another objection overcomer but in this case its about reframing the whole issue. A common one is price. “That’s a lot of money for X!” “It is a lot of money for X, but this is so much more than X, it’s…”
          6. Sales email – Just sell. Don’t make a pitch, just ask the customer to buy.

          The best marketing plan is the one you can implement

          There are definitely more complex and fine tuned marketing plans out there. You may even be able to successfully implement one and reap the benefits. BUT, many companies miss crucial steps and end up with an incompletely plan that is more flash than substance.

          The plan above is both achievable and agile so you can adjust when you notice aspects not working or need to bring a new product to market.

          Get a copy of Marketing Made Simple

          If you want to read the original book (instead of this marketing made simple book summary) a copy for yourself.

          You might also want to check out my book summary of Social Media Success for Every Brand which is a complement to this book.

        1. How I read 3x more books this year

          Growing up, I struggled with reading. As someone diagnosed with Dyslexia, that is hardly surprising. Last year I set my self a modest goal to read more books.

          My target was a book every month for 2019. I did it, so I decided to set a more ambitious reading goal. Read two books every month for 2020. Well, currently I have read 36 books this year and will probably read a few more before the year-end. Here’s how I tripled the number of books I read in 2020.

          Table of Contents

            Sketchnote of how to read more

            read more sketchnote

            Principles for reading more

            Every action I took conformed to one of a few principles. While you may choose different actions, I suspect the principles will help inform your actions.

            • Want to read more books
            • Momentum is key
            • Create an encouraging reading environment
            • Cheat (you’ll see)

            Start with Why

            Start with why

            The first step was to start with the reason why. There are so many goals that are born out of ideas of what we ought to do and not whether we want to. This can lead to feelings of guilt and failure rather than motivation.

            My motivation started two years ago when I revisited my intention to read more timeless books and fewer temporary articles and social media posts. Last year I started a reading habit, but I was inconsistent. I knew that I could read more by making it a regular part of my week.

            That small success gave me a taste of the benefits of a consistent reading habit:

            • Learning about important entrepreneurial insights
            • Discovering fascinating new developments in different fields
            • Stretching my imagination by entering a new fictional world
            • Learning lessons from the lives of those who have gone before us.
            • Knowing interesting ideas to share in conversations
            • Having a break from a screen
            • Gaining ideas to blog about

            All these benefits provided the inspiration and motivation I needed to read more.

            Set yourself a goal

            The first practical step I took was to set a goal. I knew I wanted to read more than last year. I also knew my rate of reading thanks to tracking my reading in goodreads.

            When I really applied myself, I could read a short book in a week (with some other reading on the side). I decided to aim for two books a month. This gave me a bit of leeway if I came across a heavier book or if life got in the way. In the end I have managed three books a month.

            Form a book collective

            I have never formally joined a book club, but they certainly help many readers. Instead, I have taken part in reading groups and found an informal association of like minded readers.

            Some examples include the roam research book club and finding fellow readers on MicroBlog and the ness labs community.

            These book groups help find recommendations for good books and can help identify parts you might miss when reading.

            You can also share what you’ve read which helps practice summarizing and recontextualising information: both practices which help to understand and remember key information.

            Creating a positive reading environment

            Create a positive reading environment to read more books

            One of the core ideas from Atomic habits is to focus on creating a habitat that encourages a certain activity (and prevents distractions). This is more effective than seeking to increasing or exercise your willpower.

            Here are some practical points on how I created a positive reading environment.

            1. Always have something to read

            There are two aspects to this idea:

            1. Keep a collection of books that you can start reading as soon as you finish one book.
            2. Keep a book with you at all times.

            These two aspects means you always have an option to read. So you never find yourself in the situation of wanting to read, but not having anything. I save books that sound interesting to a list in my task manager and knowledge management system — Obsidian.

            I also frequently buy books for kindle even while I’m still reading a book, so I have a library ready for later. Admittedly, sometimes I don’t ever read these books as they don’t seem interesting later, but It still helps create the right reading environment

            2. Set times to read

            Initially, my reading time was at least one evening a week and during commutes. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns ended that habit and caused a blip in my reading routine.

            I adapted. I soon found the time after I gave my daughter a bath was the perfect time to get in a chapter or two. Plus, reading in the evening felt an even better way to relax after a day of non-stop screens.

            3. Read good books

            This feels stupid to say as it’s so obvious but it’s easier to read good books than bad books. That doesn’t mean you should only read light and easy books, while avoiding intellectually challenging material. Instead, pick books you want to read, not feel obliged to read.

            That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try some books that are outside your comfort zone. You may find that you enjoy them! Just don’t try to keep up with the latest “must reads” out of social pressure. You should read books that you want to.

            Also, you can always…

            4. Quit bad books

            Quit bad books

            Some books just aren’t for you. That’s okay. If you find yourself somewhere into a book and decided that it isn’t for you. Quit. It’s okay.

            The faster you quit your bad book, the sooner you can start reading another good one. You can even come back to the book later if you wish.

            5. Use external motivators

            Intrinsic motivation (motivation for the process of an action) trump extrinsic motivation (motivation for the product or reward). While most of the points here have address intrinsic motivation (as it’s more powerful), it’s also okay to use some external motivators too.

            Early, I mentioned that I set a goal. I put my target number of books in Goodreads, so I could track my progress. Every finished book was another step on the way. I also used Streaks to encourage myself to read something every day. These little motivators can help get into a state where intrinsic motivation takes over.

            At the same time, you need to be careful with external motivators, they can supplant and kill your intrinsic motivation.

            A nudge is good, but make sure you revisit your why.

            6. Avoid distractions

            It’s easy to disappear down the internet rabbit hole of Wikipedia articles, twitter threads, non-stop news and YouTube autoplays. These forms of content can be interesting, relevant and even edifying. But they are more likely distrations. They are a form of pushed content that often gets in the way of what you actually want to read. It’s good to set up some barriers against these distractions like:

            • limiting access to social media on your phone
            • reducing notifications
            • setting timers for certain activities.

            The following points are controversial and may not work for you. They do, however, work for me.

            Read different genres

            You might have a favorite style or type of book, but variety is the spice of life. Sometimes reading books of the same genre can get tiresome. By switching from fiction to non-fiction or from thriller to biography, you can have a fresh change and boost your motivation.

            This can work well with using different book formats.

            Use different formats of books

            Read different formats and genres of books

            I read both e-books and paper books (as well as listen to audiobooks). This is partially out of necessity (I can’t always get a paper book in Poland) but also for variety. Ebooks, whether on kindle or a phone/tablet and app, are great for travel as they don’t take up so much space. Paper books are great at home. And audiobooks are great when your hands are occupied.

            I also find certain types of books are better suited to different formats.

            • Fiction works well in paper (the experience) and audiobook (for long car journeys)
            • Non-fiction business works well in e-book (highlighting) and audio (2x speed!)
            • Books where you want to jump around are better in paper

            You may find that you prefer paper books for highlighting (and writing notes in the side). That’s fine. It’s important to work out what type of books works best for you in which format. Some of my preference is determined by using the service Scribd (a kind o Netflix for books) which has e-books and audiobooks.

            Have multiple books on the go at once

            Some people prefer to read one book at a time, so they can focus on it and get through each book quicker. I, however, prefer to read several books at once.

            By using different formats, I can have multiple books on the go at once with clear distinctions for when to read each one. This also helps provide some variety when you don’t feel like reading a certain book today. You can switch to a different book. Some possible options include…

            • Have a paper fiction book on the go if you tend to read non-fiction on a Kindle
            • Have an audiobook as an alternative to your paper book
            • Read a biography as a break from the theoretical book.
            • Have a book on a topic “for fun” as a break for the book “for work”

            It’s really up to you, and you should experiment and find the right book combinations for you.

            Cheat 1 – use faster playback with audiobooks

            Listen to audiobooks at 2x speed

            Most audiobook players can have faster playback speeds. I resisted this idea for a long time. 2x speed felt against the spirit of audiobooks. I also worried about not taking notes at key moments.

            That was a misplaced fear.

            Pausing is easy enough to do and it’s possible to rewind a few second (or re-listen). This also helps practice the “read, recite, review” process that helps remember information better.

            You can try speeding up to just 1.1 or 1.2x and then slowly increase from there.

            I sometime feel a bit anxious when I listen at 2x but 1.5x is always comfortable for me now. In fact, 1x feels strangely slow.

            Cheat 2 – Finishing what I started last year

            One trick I’ve employed to boost my numbers in this final month is returning to some books I quit this year and last year. These range from 25-75% finished, but they’ve helped me rack up my numbers in these final two months.

            I didn’t force myself to read these books, they were all books I wanted to read. For one reason or another — another book came along or a section felt less relevant/interesting — but I wanted to return to them.

            This helped grease the figures but I still read more than previous years.

            My goals and ideas for next year

            I’ve set my sight on 45 books for next year. Not quite one a week, but getting closer. I’m planning on using all the same tactics as before and some new ones including.

            Getting a kindle or similar ereader

            While using a tablet it great and has some advantages. A dedicate ereading device is less distracting. I’ve heard many other writers like Ali Abdaal recommend getting a kindle to read more.

            Writing more books summaries

            While I have created some book summaries this year, I want to make more. Doing so can provide some extra external motivation. There is a risk that this will prove to be a distraction, so we’ll see how this experiment goes.

            What’s your advice how to read more books in a year?

            I’ll admit that what worked for me, might not work for you and there may be some ideas or practices that I am missing. I’d love to know how you have been able to increase the number of books you read in a year. Leave a comment with your advice.

          • 5 Great Sketchnoting Books for Education

            One of the things I’ve found really helpful to introduce sketchnoting and visual noting taking into my own teaching, is to look at different fantastic books around using visuals for learning and effective communication. After all, communicating and aiding learning are vital tasks that we do as teachers everyday. These great sketchnoting books can help stimulate your thinking and provide you with new ideas for how you can implement visual effectively in your teaching.

            Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde

            The first book on Sketchnoting is from Mike Rohde, the man who invented (or came up with the term) sketchnoting. In this book, Mike introduces the concept of sketchnoting, why you should Sketchnote, different elements in sketchnotes and he covers some basic techniques that will aid your sketchnoting.

            Sketchnote Workbook by Mike Rohde

            Personally I feel this book is even better than the handbook as it covers practical assignments to start experimenting with sketchnoting in different areas of your life. This will help you discover different tools and design ideas to use in your sketchnotes as well as see examples of sketchnotes and get you practicing your chops as well!

            Visual Notetaking for Educators

            This book is targeted towards general education teachers in America. It includes a lot about how the brain works and how using doodling can help. The writer mentions about teaching English in a “second language context” (people living in a country where English is spoken) and towards the end of the book there are some practical ideas of how to implement sketching in your classrooms.

            It’s a good book but it’s not a definitive guide for how to implement these ideas in your own context

            Sketchnotes for Educators

            This books is by Sylvia Duckworth whom has become quite famous for her sketchnotes around education principles. If you’ve seen someone share a sketchnote about education online, it’s probably one of hers. In this book, there is a collection of her 100 most popular sketchnotes that you can use, share and adapt as well as links to online versions.

            The Doodle Revolution

            This books isn’t strictly about sketchnoting but it is about using visuals and drawing to aid in thinking. This is certainly targeted more towards adults and business settings, but there is some useful information on how using visuals can be an aid in “non visual tasks”

            What Other Great Sketchnoting Books do you Know?

            This isn’t a definitive list, there are many more books on sketchnoting, visual notetaking, and graphical facilitating, mostly looking at things from a business perspective, but these are a great starting point.

            Do you know of any other great sketchnoting books?

            P.s. Check out this list of great analogue sketchnoting tools