Here's some very good advice from 1741, Isaac Watt's "Improvement of the Mind." This text was inspirational to Michael Faraday (one of the most influential scientists of the 19th century) who as a young man, resolved to discipline himself and improve his mind by reading good books, taking good notes, and studying the habits of admirable people.
Faraday thought his poverty and lack of education would prevent him from becoming a scientist, but his big break came when he won tickets to attend four scientific lectures by Sir Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution.
"Books of Importance
1. Books of importance of any kind should be first read in a more general and cursory manner.
2. If three or four persons agree to read the same book, it will render the reading beneficial to every one of them.
3.Several persons engaged in the same study promote each other's improvement.
4. Your chief business is to consider whether the authors' opinions are right or no, and to improve your own solid knowledge.
5. If a writer does not explain his ideas or prove the positions well, mark the faults or defects and endeavour to do it better.
6. If the method of a book be irregular, reduce it into form by a little analysis of your own.
7. If a book has no index to it, or good table of contents, make one.
8. Make all your reading subservient not only to the enlargement of your treasures of knowledge, but also to the improvement of your reasoning powers.
9. Be diligent into the sense and arguments of the authors.
10. Never apply yourselves to read any author with a determination beforehand either for or against him.
a. Nor should any of our opinions be so resolved upon, especially in younger years, as never to hear or to bear opposition to them.
b. When we peruse those authors who defend our own settled sentiments, we should not take all their arguments for just and solid.
c. When we read those authors which oppose our most certain and established principles, we should be ready to receive any informations from them in other points.
11. When our consciences are convinced that these rules of prudence or duty belong to us, and require our conformity to them, we should then call ourselves to account."
Improvement of the Mind