I would guess that you have read some form of a “self-help” style book at some point in your life. You probably read this book to improve your overall experience and make some specific positive changes in your life. Maybe you made the changes you were looking for and found the book useful in your quest for self-improvement.

But, more likely, you didn’t get as much out of it as you could have.

I bet you read the material and enjoyed it. Still, you never really took action on the concepts delivered to you. It could be that you didn’t really understand what needed to happen to fix your problem. Maybe the book didn’t correctly spell out the steps necessary to find success. Or, perhaps it just seemed too hard, too complicated. Bottom-line, you didn’t get it done. You had the tools at your disposal, but you didn’t use them to fix the problem.

You wasted your time and didn’t take and discernable action. You failed to execute.

Self-help books’ intention is to provide you with information that you can use to solve some sort of personal problem. These books are designed to illicit action and change. The self-help category of books is enormous. There are tens of thousands of books on hundreds of different topics, all with the intent of helping you solve some specific problem. Finding the one particular book that speaks to you and enables you to address your distinct issue is not an easy task. It’s easy to get lost in the volume of information and never find what you are looking for. Choosing the correct book is a critical factor in actually applying a solution to your problem.

Given this, what are some things you can do to help ensure you find a book that can help you the most?

First, you can ask friends or family for recommendations. Chances are someone you know has faced the same problem you are trying to fix and may have some suggestions on books that could help. Second, do a web search for the top 5 or 10 books specific to the topic you are exploring. You will find several useful resources in the top 3 or 4 search results to point you in the right direction. Finally, go to your local bookstore and ask the staff what they recommend for your topic. They will most likely show you the correct section in the store and provide a few good options to choose from.

Once you’ve found a book that provides what you need, what can you do to take action on it and stop wasting your time?

The single most important thing you can do while reading a self-help book is to attack it with a plan. Don’t read a self-help book the same way you would read a novel. Instead, read it like it’s a college course, and you need to get an A to graduate. Take notes on the material and jot down questions and thoughts while reading. Summarize your thoughts on what you have learned. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, after your reading session, write-out 2 to 3 things that you are going to do to take action based on your learning.