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4 Effective Strategies To Remember Everything You Read

4 Effective Strategies To Remember Everything You Read

Have you ever encountered the following scenario:

You: I just read a great book!

Friend: What’s it about?

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You: (paused and tried so hard to recall what you’ve read)

Or have you forced yourself to finish a book in a day or so, because you worried you would forget the previous chapters after a reading hiatus?

When it comes to widening our knowledge base, unfortunately, we usually prioritize quantity over quality. Yes, the more you read, the more information you get, but we tend to forget the things we read after a short period of time. Our inability to retain information from what we have previously read is dauntingly common. We sometimes skim through the passages; or read word by word, letter by letter, without understanding the content; or even scan the book and get to the next — to bombard ourselves with piles of knowledge. But how often does loading and stacking help us retain what we read?

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If we can’t remember anything from the books we read, what’s the point of reading? To make your reading effective and meaningful, here are 4 strategies to help you retain what you read:

1. Generate questions and look for answers

One reading habit we have is to completely immerse ourselves in the text and drill into the details when we read. We think the best way to get the most out of a book is to complete all of the chapters, but we don’t always remember the walls of text upon closing the book. One method to retain our memory is to first go through the table of content (the table of content is here for a reason!) and generate a list of questions, then actively search for answers in the book. When we have a purpose to read a book, it is easier to find and remember what we read.

2. Scribble in the margins while reading

Jotting notes is definitely a great strategy to better knowledge retention. When a certain paragraph stands out to us, we will usually highlight or copy the text, but instead, we should use our own words to summarize key ideas to make a stronger impression. Through this process, you are teaching and explaining to yourself on the points. If you are able to give an outline of the passage without hesitating, you can ensure you have really comprehended and digested the content.

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    3. Research on points that you don’t understand

    When you try to rewrite the summary with your own words, you may encounter points that you find ambiguous or vague. Take the extra 10 minutes to research deeper to get a fuller understanding. This doesn’t mean to throw yourself in at the deep end. Taking the extra step to research can help you understand the subject matter with more details, because most authors assume their readers have some sort of background knowledge of the topics prior to reading the books. For example, for a philosophical book, the writer automatically assumes the readers have a certain level of knowledge on different ideologies in the era that the book is written.

    4. Apply the knowledge to your real life

    As mentioned above, jotting notes leads to a better retention of information. Many people hold the misconception that the more detailed our notes are, the better we will retain what we have read from a book. While we are so focused on cramping every single bit of a book into our notes, we often forget that we are simply copying paragraphs from the book to our notes. Also, how often do you revisit your notes? Most people’s answer is never. So your hard work in jotting notes have completely gone down the drain.

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    To make your reading and note-taking session more effective, try to incorporate your own life into whatever you are reading. What this means is when you are taking notes, also think about how the knowledge you read could benefit your life and solve real-life problems. When you do this, your notes will become more insightful and useful, helping you remember what you read from the book.

      Reading requires devotion of time and effort

      It may sound unnerving and stressful to spend much more time just to retain what you have read. It could be quite heavy at first, but as you follow the strategies more and more, your efforts will pay off and you will definitely have a better retention after reading each book.

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      Frank Yung

      Writer. Storyteller. Foodie.

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      Last Updated on March 13, 2019

      How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

      How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

      Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

      You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

      Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

      1. Work on the small tasks.

      When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

      Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

      2. Take a break from your work desk.

      Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

      Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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      3. Upgrade yourself

      Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

      The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

      4. Talk to a friend.

      Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

      Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

      5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

      If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

      Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

      Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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      6. Paint a vision to work towards.

      If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

      Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

      Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

      7. Read a book (or blog).

      The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

      Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

      Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

      8. Have a quick nap.

      If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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      9. Remember why you are doing this.

      Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

      What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

      10. Find some competition.

      Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

      Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

      11. Go exercise.

      Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

      Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

      As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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      Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

      12. Take a good break.

      Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

      Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

      Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

      Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

      More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

      Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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