How to Retain More Information from the Books You Read

How to Retain More Information from the Books You Read

Have you ever read a book to learn something, but you don’t feel like you really remember what you read? It’s a common phenomenon.

We learn lots of things in school, but we’re not taught how to read a book and retain the information. It’s an important skill to have. It can take quite a bit of time to read a book. It would be a shame not to get the most out of that time.

Get the most out of the books you read with these strategies:

  1. Read in an environment conducive to remembering. Ideally, you have options regarding where you read. Some places are better than others. Do you concentrate better in a silent environment? Perhaps you read better with some background noise like classical music or in a coffee shop.
  2. Read at the right time. When are you best able to concentrate? In the morning? In the evening? After a workout? After a nap? After a meal? On an empty stomach? Give yourself the best chance to retain what you read by ensuring that you’re at your best.
  3. Know what you’re trying to learn before you begin reading. What is the point of reading the book? What do you wish to gain from reading it? Be clear on the purpose of why you’re reading this particular book in the first place. You’ll notice the relevant facts and ideas if you know what matters to you before you begin.
  4. Skim the book first. Skim the chapter you’re about to read. Understand how long the chapter is and what it’s covering. If there are any bullet points at the beginning or end, slow down and absorb them.
  5. Take notes. If you have the option of taking notes directly in the book, that can be effective. At least you’ll know where to find your notes! Many people choose to keep a notebook for each book they read. Write down the important ideas along the way. Include your thoughts, too.
  6. Reflect on what you read. After reading a chapter or a certain number of pages, reflect on what you read. Look back over your notes. Think about what you already know on the subject. How does this new information fit in with what you already know?
    • Avoid reading further until you’ve completed this process.
  7. Use the information. It doesn’t make much sense to read a book on dieting, investing, or meditating without using the information. Develop a plan for applying what you’ve read. Take it slowly and just implement one new item every couple of days.
  8. Consider reading the book again. It has become popular for people to claim that they read a book a week, or even a book a day. It’s not possible to read a book in a day, retain the information, put that information into practice, and read another book the following day.
    • It would be far more effective to read a few books, a few times each, over the course of a year.
    • Try this experiment. Read a book, and then a week later read it again. Notice how you found things in the second reading that you don’t even remember seeing in the first reading.

Try this process the next time your read a non-fiction book. You can perfect the process to fit your needs and idiosyncrasies. Your time is valuable, and books take time to read. Make the most of your valuable time by retaining more of the information you learn from books. Enjoy your reading!

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