If you’re anything like me, you read a lot of books. For instance, over the course of last year, I read around 50 books. The problem comes when trying to remember the principles of those books, since reading more, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to recall everything about them. So I have to be honest and say that I’ve forgotten the vast majority of what I’ve read, especially when I was younger. Eventually, though I came up with a system that lets me remember most of what I read which means that I can also apply some of the principles of the books I read to my personal or professional life. With that in mind, I decided to write an article with some of the tips I’d suggest you follow in order to remember everything you read.
Highlighting can be a quite effective technique if done write. And I say that because a lot of people tend to highlight too much, completely defeating the purpose of narrowing down the information in the first place. The less you highlight, the more useful those bits are going to be later on, and the more they’ll stand out to you. As a general rule, you should first read everything to understand the gist of the text and then go back and highlight its most important parts. For those highlighting within apps, note that you can usually go back to those highlights and export them to other services. For instance, those who read on the Kindle app can export the highlights to Readwise so that they can find them more easily and you can even let Readwise email random highlights to you every day.
Take down notes
I’d say that taking down notes is one of the first steps you should take when you want to remember something. How do you know what to focus on when you’re taking notes? It’s always important to turn to key concepts that might come up later on, examples that illustrate the most abstract ideas, and of course, the main points. To help you with main points, they’re usually in bold or italicized for your convenience in most books already.
The simple act of writing down ideas in and of itself is a great way to remember them, but if you make an entire summary, that’s even better. As I said before, you should first focus on comprehending the text as a whole and then you should try and summarize the main ideas. Your summary should distill the chapter in a very general way, which means only focusing on the most important parts. Otherwise, what’s the point of writing a summary in the first place? When you first start working on summaries, the entire process can be overwhelming, but as it’s usually the case, the more you practice, the better you become at it.
Complement your reading with other sources of information
Sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on a specific concept or idea. Luckily, we live in the age of information and you can use other sources of information to complement your reading. There are many summaries online, you can use podcasts that discuss a given book at length, there are YouTube tutorials, you can find reviews of a given book on Amazon or Goodreads and the list goes on and on. The best part about another person explaining the same concepts you have already read is that their approach might be different from the author’s. They are explaining the same idea, but from a different perspective, with examples of their own, or in a more visual way. Additionally, looking at an idea from a different perspective can make you feel motivated and interested in a way that the original source didn’t.
Focus on the practical part
This doesn’t apply to every kind of book. But since most of the books I read are about productivity, most of them encourage you to take action. Taking the concepts from a book to the real world has a lot of benefits. I could go on and on about the ideas from Eat that Frog, for example, but even if it sounds compelling in theory, it isn’t until you bring that to your life that you can see its advantages.
How can you engage with the content even more?
Always ask yourself: is there a way in which I can engage with the content in a deeper manner? Writing reviews, summarizing in a few sentences and then sharing it with others, discussing the book with other readers, or being part of a book club are some of the tips that come to mind. I’ve also watched videos of people re-reading entire books just to write a summary in Notion which is extremely time-consuming but gives you infinitely more value than simply highlighting.
Take a break
Finally, it’s very important that you take some time off to actually process all the information you’ve been reading. The best thing to do afterward is probably a physical activity, so go for a run or take a walk. In the modern age, when we’re literally surrounded by information at all times, we should take some time off so that we can process the information we actually want to remember later on.