July 11, 2018

How to read, to remember, the benefits of note taking

By Paul Laughlin

Having shared so many book reviews lately, my thoughts have turned to how to read better.

I’m not talking about the basic mechanics of being able to read the English language. Nor about the common goal, of being able to “speed read“, so you can achieve reading more books in less time.

More in line with our past focus on quality, I’m thinking about reading to understand and remember. I don’t know about you, but too often I look back on a book that I’ve read and can remember little of what was in it. Is that really increasing my knowledge or insight?

So, in this post, I will share 3 posts from other blogs. Posts on how to take notes when reading books – both to improve your recall and ability to share with others.

So, before you read another of our recommended books. Decide on a note taking approach that works for you…

How to read: note taking to help you remember

First, let’s return to an author or mentor whom I’ve shared before, Michael Hyatt. You may recall that I have previously shared reviews of his excellent books, “Platform” and “Living Forward“.

As well as being an author, Michael is a mentor to many leaders. He is also on record as stating that leaders need to read. So, how does he guide his mentees to use note taking to remember what they read?

In this post, he shares how he does that for one of his mentoring groups. This focusses on his use of highlighting while reading and a handy structure for sharing what you have learnt with others. I find it useful to aim to debrief someone else on what I have read, as soon as possible after completing a book. Such sharing (or a book review for this blog), helps you better summarise & recall what you have learned.

How to Retain More of What You Read

One of the most important things you can do to grow as a leader is to read voraciously. As I have written previously, “leaders are readers and readers are leaders.” I love learning, so this comes easily to me. My dad is a great example.

How to read: a 3 step method, guided by your biases

So, is that all there is to it? Not quite. Firstly, my experience is that different methods work for different people. That is why I am sharing 3 different takes on this approach.

But, in addition to that, it is worth thinking more deeply about an effective method. That requires consideration of our behavioural biases, if it is to become a habit.

For that reason, I hope this post from Farnam Street helps. They are regular publishers of quality posts on behavioural psychology and our unconscious biases. In this post, they share a helpful 3 step method, that includes both annotations while reading and how to summarise afterwards. I like their pragmatism on rereading annotations & use of Evernote. Those work for me.

The Top 3 Most Effective Ways to Take Notes While Reading

There are three steps to effectively taking notes while reading: At the end of each chapter write a few bullet points that summarize what you’ve read and make it personal if you can – that is, apply it to something in your life. Also, note any unanswered questions.

How to read: a comprehensive method with flashcards

If you are keen, to really get the best out of each book that you read, it may be worth being more comprehensive.

This next outlines a method that is too comprehensive, time consuming, for me. However, it may work better for some of you. It certainly appears to be a well designed system, focussed on enabling long term recall of what you have learnt. If being able to articulate key learning from each book is important to you – this may be the method for you.

From his own blog, Robert Heaton shares his approach to both annotations while reading & more complete note taking. A useful structure for thinking about understanding any topic. So, there are useful pointers for students here (of any ages):

How to read | Robert Heaton

Five years ago I realized that I remembered almost nothing about most books that I read. I was reading all kinds of non-fiction – pop-psychology, pop-economics, pop-sociology, you name it – and felt like quite the polymath auto-didact.

How to read: what works for you?

I hope you find that those, reading and note taking tips help you.

How do you read at present? Do you have any tips to share with our readers? If so please comment below of contact us.

Let’s keep learning together & sharing insights.