A Quick & Simple Technique to Retain What You Read

How much information do you retain from reading books? If you’re like the average, you should retain about 10% of what you try to retain. Up until now too long, I was like that too.

In the past three months, I started reading a lot more, and that allowed me to develop better reading habits for better retention. A lot of it comes from Maarten van Doorn’s excellent piece:

The Complete Guide to Effective Reading

But my technique is very simple. Some of you may be doing it already.

You know how you highlight what you find relevant and sometimes take notes in the margins? How frequently do you get back to them? For most people, it’s either never or maybe once at the end.

So you think it’s important, yet never make an effort to remember it. In the Learning How to Learn course on Coursera, Dr. Barbara Oakley explains that highlighting may hinder your ability to retain something. I think it might be true unless you do something about it.

So, the technique is simple, when you resume reading a book, before you start where you left off, review your highlights from the past 3–5 days. If something particularly stands out, write it down somewhere outside the book. But even if you don’t, your retention will increase simply by recalling your highlights.

I’m an avid highlighter, yet that rarely takes me more than 10 minutes to do and I easily double my retention.

Remember, devouring books is never the goal. The goal is to retain what you consider important!

So try it out next time you resume a book and double your retention!

You can do this!

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