How to Actually Get Something Out of What You Read
If you are someone who struggles to recall what you have read
“10 minutes or less.”
If you are between the ages of 15 and 44, that is how minutes a day you read, according to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
I used to fit that description. I think from 15 to 24 I read maybe a book year. The only reason it was that much was that sometimes in the summer I would get bored and have nothing to do.
But all of a sudden in the last year I have read over 20 books. Why such an affinity for reading now?
Because I started reading a different way, and it allowed me to stop wasting my time. I am addicted to ROI (Return on Investment). If I am going to spend any length of time doing stuff I want there to be a good return.
For the longest time, I could not justify reading. I would read a book and then before you know it the only thing I would remember is that I had read it. I wouldn’t remember any particular lines from it, and when I would try and recall it, I would be reminded that my recall skills were not supremely effective.
So what changed?
I started taking notes, but not in a typical way.
A lot of people, when they take reading notes, it is done between the pages. They take their highlighters and pens and make up their books to a point you don’t if you are taking notes or proofreading what the author wrote.
This strategy is excellent, but these notes are trapped on the insides of the cover. I’m not sure about you, but most of my books reside on my bookshelf, not in my pocket, for easy reference when I need them.
Insights from books are good, but when they become partnered with action, the author’s intent is fully realized.
Our brains are great at making connections but generally lack exact memory recall. The opposite is true of computers. A computer cannot take all of my experiences and knowledge and come up with new ideas, but it sure can find my documents and present them to me just as I had written to them.
So, let’s let our brains connect and let computers store information. This is where my note-taking method comes into play, leveraging our mind’s strength to make connections and computers’ ability to recall information.
How I Take Notes
When I get a book I grab three different colored post-it notes and put them in the front of the book. Then I label them with what they represent.
Orange - Important to Remember / I want to share
Blue - Reminds me of…
Green - Questions for the Author
So whenever I come across a section that I want to take a note on, I will use one of these three colored stickies to mark it.
Once I have completed reading the book, I create a Google Doc for Book Notes - (Title of Book). I put Book Notes in the title because if my Google Drive every becomes disorganized, I can simply search Book Notes and all of my notes will appear. I do not have to remember anything else about the book.
Copy the Sticky Notes
Now I take all of the orange sticky notes and type out their contents with page numbers on the Google Doc. I will do this for each note of that specific color and then go back through with the other two colors.
Then I will read through these notes and pick out from each category what was one note that I want to take away from this book.
If this is a struggle, try to limit it into your top-5 and then filter it down into your top one.
I put these insights at the top of the page, as shown below.
I distill sometimes potentially 300-page books into three points because I want to be able to, at a glance, trigger a lot of mental connections.
Whenever I look at a note from a book, I am taken back to the place where I originally made the note and I am able to re-establish those connections instantly.
Then I have a separate Google Doc called Book Notes-All; this is where I will type the title of the book in title format and the date above it in the subtitle format and one note from each category of sticky notes. I also include a link to the full book notes as well for easy reference.
I put the books on this document in the order that I read them. The further back I read them, the more likely I need to open the full Book Notes to get a brief on what I insights I gained.
Time to Start Reading
My note-taking strategy has been incredibly useful for me, as I have started to increase my reading, and as it motivates me to read more. I give this note-taking style credit for a lot of my personal growth and professional growth. I am able to read books, get inspired by amazing people, and then act on it.
I can easily and in an organized way, access the information by the click of a finger and bring it up in a conversation without destroying the flow.
If you try out this method, let me know! And if you are ever looking for a good book to read and reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send something your way.
Until next time!