Becoming an avid reader is a dream of many. However, many people struggle to read fast and more importantly find it difficult to retain the information. Most are likely to forget what they have studied.
When I was aspiring to become a Chess Grandmaster, I had to read a lot of books and it was essential that I remembered the information so that I could practice later on.
In this process, I learned a few tricks and tips which I will in turn share with you in this article - you will learn to read fast, effectively acquire information and remember the same for future use.
STEP-1: Get into the right mindset for learning.
People can be divided into 4 broad categories of ‘types of learning’.
- Upturned bowl – They are 'closed', don't have a quest to learn. Are critical and skeptical. They do not like to be taught. This, in turn, prevents them from learning and achieving greater results in life.
- Bowl with a hole – They are curious. They want to learn. However, they do not know how to retain information, causing them to forget a lot of what they have learned.
- Full bowl – They believe that they are experts “who know everything” already. They take joy in judging content rather than consuming it.
- Empty bowl – Open to learning. Curious. Give new things a try.
Not surprisingly, the ‘Empty Bowl’ category of people are the quickest learners. They have the most open and productive mindset towards learning.
In fact, the state of being open-minded is most natural to us. After all, as kids, weren’t we all so very curious about everything?
You can very well bring back this mindset. Just say to yourself:
“I am curious. I want to learn more. I want to know more.”
With such a mindset, your future learning will be exponentially more productive.
STEP-2: Energize your brain!
Have you ever been in the situation where you started to read something and soon started feeling sleepy and lazy?
Well, this is actually quite common.
It could be due to the uninteresting nature of the reading. However, there could be another scientific reason. Our brain consumes more energy than any part of our body – about 20% of the total energy!
Therefore, you have to make sure that your brain is in an optimal state so that you can learn efficiently.
So, how do you do this?
You need to feed your brain! You might be wondering what is brain food – well, it is oxygen!
Therefore, a very simple and yet very effective recommendation is - open up your window and let fresh air to come into the room. If you study with the window open (or sit under the cool breeze of the AC), you will realize that you are in a much more active state of mind.
STEP-3: Learn for 30 to 60 minutes.
An interesting study found that the most productive employees worked for 52 minutes and then took a break for 17 minutes (on average).
A similar schedule of study is helpful. Concentration for 30-60 minutes with a 15-minute re-energizing break between the next round is beneficial.
Here is another good piece of advice – when reading a book, highlight the important bits (perhaps, by underlining).
Even if you never come back to your notes, this practice is still helpful because it focuses your attention on the key ideas - the important bits.
At the of your daily study, it is a good habit to write down ‘3 Key Take Aways.’
Tip: Evernote is a good app to do it electronically.
Why is this useful?
It helps you mentally map the important bits of information so that it can be easily retrieved in the future. The mere act of writing will allow you to recall the information better because before you write anything down, your brain has to go through the process of editing and formulating the piece of information in a concise manner.
STEP-4: Do this to retain 90 - 100% of the information you've just studied.
When you read or just listen to something, we are usually engaged in a passive state. When we learn anything in a passive state, we often forget the majority of the information soon.
What is the antidote?
Answer: Active Learning.
In other words, you have to actively participate in the learning process.
Ask yourself, what is the one idea that I've just learned from what I've read that I can implement in my life over the next 24 hours?
This practice will enable you to retain information and also create a positive change in your life.
What if there is just no way for you to implement this information in your real life? For example, what if you just read a book about dinosaurs hunting pattern? What do you do then?
Here is a solution: share the ‘3 Key Take Aways’ that you took down with somebody.
The reason this works is the same as the reason why teachers are able to remember information a lot better than the students. It is because when they teach or talk about something, they are in an active state of mind. They need to find the right words to formulate and explain the concept in an understandable manner.
Therefore, sharing the ‘3 Key Take Aways’ will allow you to fully conceive and retain a piece of information.
To sum up, if you follow the above 4 tips, you will become an effective learner who has the ability to retain information.
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