By Manjot Pahwa manjotpahwa 2 min
There are certain habits I’ve developed over time that have helped me vastly read faster and retain much more. Sharing them here for the benefit of the community:
- Pick up multiple books from the same area to go deeper in an area. That way to genuinely learn about a topic.
- Research the author thoroughly before picking up any book. Research the gist and the reason for that book to exist. I quite often read the Introduction or Foreword before actually starting the book. Those sections are filled with stories about the author and how they came to write the book.
- You’re not compelled to finish a book you don’t like. You can leave it at some point and pick it up again when you feel like returning to a topic.
- Some books are more flexible and might not be read linearly. It does depend on the topic of book you’re reading. It’s okay to pick up chapters if the book is meant to be a collection of answers to unrelated topics. For example, I read a book on Ayurvedic healing and after some basic principles, it was organized by type of ailment. I could pick and choose the ailment I was interested to read more about.
- Write notes every single time. Don’t copy paste notes from your kindle or phone, write manually, typing every single word. Also try to paraphrase, this way you are forced to actively think about the material you’re reading.
- Speed read parts that might not be useful to remember. My brain cache is limited, there are things I like to keep and things I just discard. Learn to recognize those parts of the book that you need to remember and those that can be discarded.
- While reading you might come across topics you don’t know much about. While you’re still finishing the book, read a brief summary to get through the current content. Write them down separately to research more later. I come back to that list after I’ve finished a few books on that area or sometimes while in the middle of the book if comprehension of the book depends on understanding that topic.
- Write a summary after you’ve read the whole book. Share summarized and paraphrased information on your blog, on social media or in communities that might be interested. This will help you think more broadly about the topic of the book rather than the deep level of your notes.
- Discuss and refer the book to your friends and family. Discussion will help you discover new opinions on the same topic. Referring will help you become a better teacher.
- Discover new books through your friends and their bookshelves.
Of course, the above are rules that worked for me and might not for everyone else. They’re not commandments.
If you had to pick up just one thing from the above, I would focus on the writing notes/summary part. I think writing and actively thinking while I’m reading has given me a lot more knowledge than just reading through books and forgetting.