Read and remember – make it stick!


I had this annoying problem with recalling content of books I read. While reading them I had all these good ideas, all these statements that I agreed with and said to myself – those are wise words, words to live by, advice I should remember etc. Then a few weeks or maybe even days in extreme cases go by – and puf! Gone are all the good things I told myself I should have remembered.

I read quite a lot, or try to read as much as I can in between running a start-up, keeping fit and socialize. I love to read. I read all kinds of different stuff; a lot about psychology, philosophy, business books, biographies and for bed-time reading often something more easily digestible, that can make my mind unwind.

Reading a lot gives me a lot of ideas and inspiration, but if only 10% of the things I wanted to remember actually sticks, then it is kind of wasted time and energy. Time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere. But as I love my reading, I was looking for a way to make more stick, rather than decrease the amount of time spent reading.

What I found was a rather obvious technique, but to implement it, I had to change my position on what to do with my books. First part of the technique is marking interesting passages, paragraphs etc. in the book. If something rings true to you – make a mark. If it makes you think about something, write that in the margin. In other words, make your books personal.

This was quite odd to me at first. I had never written in any of my books; it seemed a bit wrong. But once I got started it really feels natural. I mark the lines with interesting content in the margin instead of underlining them, as this is just easier. Underlining often ends up crossing lines of text instead of actually underlining them – at least in my case.

Second step is getting back to the book a few weeks after you have read it. Browse through it, read the passages you marked while reading, take notes either on a piece of paper or whatever you like. Draw a mind-map if thats your favorite way to key together large amounts of information. This will first of all make more of the book stick immediately as you actively write notes, but these notes can also act as an instant resume, if you some years down the line needs to refresh your memory on the content of that book.

Of course this is primarily useful for books you actively seek to get something out of. Business books, books on personal development etc. I will probably combine this technique with the use of my blog to create a resume of what the book is all about, my personal thoughts and recommendations. Since I read a lot, I might as well share some of the information, when the sharing also aids my own memory then everyone is able to gain from it.

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