7 easy ways to remember what you read.

Reading is one of my favourite things to do.

Open a book (or turn on your Kindle) and you’re instantly whisked away to other lands, meeting unfamiliar characters, and discovering ideas you never thought possible. Reading can help put things into perspective, and can open up your mind to new ways of thinking.

Sometimes when we read, the words – and concepts – enter our minds, but the ideas don’t always stick. So how do we go about remembering what we read?

Over years spent poring over books, essays and articles, here are seven things I’ve learned to help me remember what I’ve read:

1. Make a regular time to read

Studies have shown that reading at consistent times of the day helps our memory retain information. Pick a time that best works for you – first thing in the morning, on your lunch break, or just before you go to sleep – and try to make it a habit to crack open your book then.

2. Set a target

Each time you read, set a target for yourself. It may be to read four chapters, to read for an hour, or to understand a concept – and stick with it.

3. Take notes

I was brought up not to tarnish a book and write in it, which isn’t the best advice for remembering content. These days, I adore making the book my own. I underline lines that resonate with me in pencil, use a highlighter for great quotes, make notes in the margins, and draw my interpretation of the concept as it comes to me. If you’re not keen on writing in your book (or you’ve borrowed it from the library or a friend), writing notes in a notebook works just as well.

4. Ask questions as you read

Questions provoke the mind to seek answers. Asking questions out loud is best, especially if you are an auditory learner. Ask yourself ‘How could I apply that? What is the best way to apply this information? Who would appreciate knowing this?’. This is an awesome way to help remember what you’ve read.

5. Summarise the chapter, then read it again!

At the end of each chapter, write down two or three sentences summing up the most important points for you. Then, re-read your summary before you make a start on the next chapter. For example, before you read chapter three, read the summaries you’ve written of chapter one and two. It’ll refresh your memory and your mind will become a sponge for any new information.

6. Share what you’ve learnt

Have you ever read something so powerful that you just have to share it with someone? It’s a great way to retain information. When you read something incredible, talk about it with a friend, a family member, even your pet (your dog will appreciate the extra attention!). Repetition is essential in remembering ideas, stories, and quotes.

7. Apply what you’ve learnt

Within 24 hours of reading about something, apply that new knowledge and do something. Even if it’s a simple task, like baking three-ingredient scones, drawing up a weekly planner to help with time management, or teaching your dog to shake hands (hmm, maybe not so easy after all), activate your learning by doing. By applying what you’ve learnt, you’re more likely to remember it longer term.

What are some of the things you do to remember what you read? How effective are they?

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