Reading self-help books about business, organization, goal-setting, and all the fun stuff that makes me feel productive in the moment is a favorite pastime — and I know I’m not alone. But much of the time spent reading equates to very little work getting done. While trying to make time for more action, I decided to test using Scibd’s Snapshots rather than reading the entire book. My goal was to become more productive by spending less time reading and (theoretically) more time doing what the books suggested.
I was in a good position to do this and report back: There were several Snapshots where I'd already read the full text, so I could read the sub-10-minute Snapshot and see if the information I had gleaned from the full book was there. I was pleasantly surprised that it was!
I also tried the reverse: Reading the Snapshot first, then if I found the information useful, reading the entire book afterward to get more of the details and nuance. In some cases, I would argue the Snapshot was plenty to get me going, and while the book was fun to read, it ultimately didn't make my life any more 'together' than reading the Snapshot.
There's a great value in reading the full version of some of these books, but to get the kickstart you need when you’re short on time, Snapshots are fantastic. You can read a few in less than an hour, then decide to do a deeper dive into the one or two that resonated most.
Here, I've put together 10 Snapshots that helped me get my life together this summer, and I'm guessing they'll help you, too:
Key insights from Michael Hyatt's Your Best Year Ever: A Five-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals
While the book is a great read, the Snapshot will get you moving faster toward the actual hard work of planning out your important goals. The Snapshot hit on the high points: Acknowledge where you are right now in your progress toward your goals, get clear on exactly what you want to achieve, and set smarter goals to get there. The process isn't rocket science, and the breakdown in the Snapshot feels like a workbook you can get moving on right now instead of reading the entire 300-page book.
If you struggle to pay attention and fight the urge to check your phone multiple times, or you can't spend an afternoon concentrating on that report that's due at the end of the week, this Snapshot is right for you. In fact, a short and to-the-point version of a book on focus is probably the exact baby step that’s needed to focus on reading the entire book about focus.
This Snapshot is packed with action steps to pay more attention, and thereby drive up your productivity and improve your relationships. Focusing your mind is like strength training: You have to start with smaller weights to get there. This Snapshot not only explains that concept; it illustrates it.
The 5 AM Club is a parable about people who meet at a self-improvement seminar, and while it's a pretty lightweight self-help read that manages to also be entertaining, you can grab the key concepts in the Snapshot and save yourself the narrative arcs. It's about waking up earlier, but also about how to create habits, how to structure your day and week, and how to carve out time to learn new skills.
This is a great book, but it's also the kind of book that requires regular re-reading to stick with the principles and to get your butt kicked back into productivity mode. The Snapshot is perfect for that, with a five-minute dose of motivation to look at how you can be doing 10 times more than your goal requires. (It sounds like a lot of work, but Cardone's concept of "massive action" is one that gets you up and moving.)
Key insights from Emilie Wapnick's How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up
Plenty of us are struggling in the new gig and freelance-based economy to figure out exactly what it is that we want to do when we grow up, but Wapnick is here to tell us it's OK. While this is an awesome book to read, the Snapshot gives you an idea as to whether the book will help you clarify what you want to do with your life, or if it'll leave you more confused or feeling stuck rather than inspired.
Key insights from Brian Tracy's Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
Most people who've read a book or listened to a podcast about getting things done have heard about the idea of eating the frog: Doing the hardest, worst, least fun project first and getting it out of the way first thing. That sums up Tracy's aptly-titled Eat That Frog!, which is already a short read. But the Snapshot boils it down even more, preventing you from procrastinating by ironically reading a book on how to stop procrastinating.
Key insights from Emily Fletcher's Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance
This Snapshot of Fletcher's great book on meditation for the everyday person who might not immediately embrace meditation. Getting into meditation is different for everyone, and Fletcher's methodology might not universally ring true, but reading the Snapshot quickly lets you know if the book is worth your time. Even if you decide not to read the book, some of her simple tips on mindfulness and meditation could help you carve out moments of calm in a busy day.
Key insights from Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
If you’re the type of person who gets hung up on every single Twitter or Instagram comment, or if you constantly find yourself asking if people like you or think you're smart/pretty/athletic, you may need The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. The Snapshot quickly walks you through Manson's idea that we all need to care less about the status quo and what others think and tune in to what passions drive us. Think of it as an expletive-filled way to get to your 'why' in life.
I'll be honest, I loved reading this book. But I found more value in the Snapshot, especially for a second read or a quick reminder about decluttering. That's because while the book is great, it gets really granular on the details of how to organize each type of item, down to how to fold T-shirts. Really, the first few chapters are enough to send you on a decluttering spree, and that's what the Snapshot provides. You get a quick sense of how to tell if something "sparks joy" — Kondo's key concept — and that should be plenty to help you pare down your wardrobe or tackle the garage cleanout. Shirt folding not required.
One of Kruse's secrets: Be more efficient where you can. That can include doing things like reading this Snapshot before the book! I've read both, and I'd say starting with the Snapshot is more than enough to send you in the right direction. In fact, it might be more useful because it doesn't leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed, or — in my case — excited for change but then exhausted from reading. Once you feel like you've tapped out the advice from the 7-minute Snapshot read, then maybe you'll be ready to read the whole book.