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How to Remember More of What You Read

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How to Remember More of What You Read

While the world today is over-saturated with media in the form of television, movies, handheld devices, and the internet books remain one of the best ways to learn about new things or improve your knowledge on subjects you might already be familiar with. It’s for this reason that advertising reps still read books about advertising every day, and you better believe Richard Dawkins (world renown biologist) is still reading books on biology in spite of being one of the most famous scientists in his field.

That said, how many times have you sat down with a book on a subject you were eager to learn about only to put the it down 1000 pages later, feeling like you were no more knowledgeable than you were when you started? It can be easy to read a book without retaining any of the knowledge held inside of it, but this post will teach you how to remember more of what you read, and hopefully make you one of those special people that can read a book and actually comprehend and remember what the author was trying to teach you.

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1. Skim the Text

Like most people, you probably tackle a new book by cracking it open, starting at sentence one, and making your way through the text like an explorer chopping his way through the jungle with a machete until you reach the end. Instead of going through this long process, it’s easier—and more effective—to map your route by skimming the text first. Many books have the main points described at the end of each chapter, so take a look at them and try to figure out what each one will teach you. Rather than journeying into the perilous unknown, familiarize yourself with the territory. Prime your brain for what’s to come by skimming the text first and the journey will be easier for you.

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2. Define Your Reason for Reading

If you picked up a copy of a book about famous art forgers, it’s a good bet you had a reason to do so. Whether you have to write a report about art forgery, you’re interested in the individuals who would commit such a crime, or you’re looking to get into the business yourself you probably had a reason for choosing to read that book. If you consciously acknowledge this reason, write it down, or say it aloud; then you’ll be able to define the direction you’re going in and this will guide your reading efforts. This direction will let your brain know what’s important and what it can ignore, and you’ll retain more of what matters from your reading.

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3. Immerse Yourself in What You’re Reading

How many times have you found yourself sitting in your room with a cup of tea or coffee and a good book for an hour only to realize your eyes have been moving across the page without your brain processing what you were reading? This is because you weren’t immersed in the book in your lap. Immersion is key to retaining what you’re reading. Rather than just reading what it takes to make a good presentation, put yourself in the conference room. Imagine yourself using the keys to engage your audience and explaining your bullet points. If you make the book your reality then you’ll be able to remember it more easily when the time to implement what you’ve learned comes.

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Practice the Three Keys

If you skimmed this article before you read it, asked what you wanted to get out of it, and really pictured yourself implementing the strategies above then there’s a good bet your next reading session will be incredibly profitable. There is one last aspect of remembering more of what you read, however: practice until it becomes second nature. Just like a professional quarterback has to practice his throws endlessly, a great reader has to practice his reading technique. Regular practice makes an action second nature, and practicing effective reading will make remembering more of what you read a breeze.

Enter each reading session consciously aware that you will practice the steps outlined in this article and you’ll retain more than you can imagine.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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