How To Retain What You Read Better
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
While reading is the ultimate portal to explore new ideas, learn new things, and improve your vocabulary, it takes conscious effort to set aside time to indulge yourself in those crisp pages. Let’s say you finally make some time for it with a hot cup of coffee or tea and read through a few chapters of a book. How much of it do you remember after a few days, for real?
When reading fiction, you don’t really have to consciously make an effort in remembering all the details in the story since we read it for fun. However, when you read books for educational purposes, for instance, books on self-development, finance, business, productivity, or lifestyle, you’ll want to remember the key take-away from them.
As we all know, our brain isn’t that reliable in remembering stuff in the long run. Once you finish a book, you might recall its highlights for the next few days or even a week. How about after a month or when you’ve moved on to another book? Maybe not so much.
The ideas don’t stay fresh on your mind all the time, hence it is important to find ways or build a system that helps you retain the key concepts that you’d like to remember.
Small Chunks of Information Every day
Taking in digestible bits of information every day is much better than cramming through multiple chapters at once. The latter may look like you’re actively absorbing facts, however, in truth, you’re just passively reading through the chapters and probably will forget them in a few days.
Reading one chapter a day is a great way to really get you reflecting on what that portion is trying to convey and gives you better insights into its practical aspects. A goal of reading just a little every day is relatively easy and you’re more likely to stick to it on a daily.
Maintaining Book Notes/Short Summary
Another simple way to remember what you read is by taking notes as you read along. I know this may seem like a task for people who like to go with the flow of things without having to pause and note down stuff. In that case, after you finish your reading for the day, you can summarize a few points that resonated with you.
You can take notes physically in a notebook or digitally on your phone/laptop, whichever works for your convenience. Just make sure they are easily accessible for whenever you want to refresh on certain concepts from the book.
Discuss What You Read With People
When you read something fascinating, discussing it with your family or friends is a great way to reaffirm your thoughts on a particular read. This not only puts forth an opportunity to hear different opinions but also helps in evaluating your own perspective on it.
It is similar to how you become polished in a concept when you try teaching or explaining it to someone else.
Decide When You Want To Read
Reading when you feel tired or just for the sake of finishing a book is not going to bring you any value. It’s best to read when you feel fresh to absorb the essence of a book.
Starting your day off with some reading is a good practice in general. If you don’t have the time in the morning, it’s effective to wind down your day with some inspiration. In conclusion, it’s optimal to read when you’re able to immerse yourself well in the concepts, helping you retain the idea better.
Finding A Practical Aspect
After noting down the key concepts of a book, finding ways to apply it practically to your life can really set the tone. It is good to be ‘book smart’ but what is even better is being ‘street smart’.
These days, a lot of books have a very practical approach to their ideas where a set of actionable items are in line, ready to be followed. While your goal is to practically apply what you read into your life, this method is, no doubt, the best way to ingrain ideas into your memory.
Another method is re-reading a book. Although this is a bit time-consuming, it can give great insights into ideas that might not have struck on your first read. The methods I’ve mentioned above can not only be used while reading books but also for articles on the internet, podcasts, audiobooks, and video content.