4 Ways to Retain Everything You Read

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Reading is a great habit. But if you forget everything you read, how helpful is it? If you don’t retain the lessons you learn, what’s the point?

Whether you prefer fiction or nonfiction, retaining what you read is a vital piece of reading, but one that many overlook.

Here are four great ways to help you retain what you read:

1. Take Really Good Notes

If you fail to capture ideas and lessons from your reading, you’ll never put them into practice. This sentiment applies to everything from fantasy to leadership books.

Create a system for good note-taking. Use a journal, index cards, or sheets of paper you file away. You might want to:
  • Rewrite inspirational quotes on index cards
  • Re-tell what you’ve read in your own words in a journal
  • Write sentences and paragraphs that moved you
  • Underline, circle, and highlight in your books
Notes will change the way you remember and retain what you’ve read. Give it a shot.

2. Be an Active Reader

It can be so easy to read the words on a page without comprehending them. To retain what you’ve read, you must comprehend what you’re reading.

You do this by being an active reader. Here are some ways to make sure you’re not a passive reader:
  • Ask yourself questions as you read. What is happening in the story? What evidence did the writer supply to support their claim? What’s the lesson from this chapter?
  • Don’t let your mind drift. It is effortless to skip a few sentences without even realizing it entirely. Your eyes saw the words, but you didn’t read it. If you catch yourself doing this, stop and re-read.
  • Frequently Stop and Check-In. At a minimum, stop each chapter and re-tell yourself what’s happening. What’s happening in the story? What have been some main ideas so far?
Become an active reader to remember what you’ve read.

3. Create a Representative Visual

This may seem silly or extreme, but creating some kind of “project” or visual after finishing a book can drive home points and ideas you’ve learned. Try to visualize the lessons and things you’ve learned.

Think about pulling out the markers and the hot glue sticks to make a poster. Create a scrapbook or collage. You can even use some of the index cards from your notes.

It might be time consuming and messy, but creating a visual after you’ve finished a book can work wonders.

4. Discuss with Others

Discussing what you’re reading with other people is incredibly important for retaining what you’ve read.

It allows you to do a couple of things:
  • Hear other perspectives and interpretations. For example, you might have read a science fiction book and felt the underlying theme was around friendship, while a friend might feel moralism was a key theme.
  • Be Held Accountable. Sometimes we can start a book, but struggle to finish, despite knowing we enjoy it and it carries valuable information. Friends can help us finish strong.
Join a book club or just grab a few friends and start reading the same books. It’ll be fun and beneficial.

Take notes while you read, read actively, create visuals, and discuss books with friends. You’ll retain and remember much more of what you read.

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