Reading Books: Strategies for Retention & Application

In a recent post, James Clear said:

It’s important to read books, but it is just as important to remember what you read and put it to good use.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s not enough to just read — we must consider what we’re going to do with the information we’re absorbing.

This is something I’m constantly thinking about, because I succeeded in reading 52 books in both 2015 and 2016. Now that I have the habit, it’s about connecting with the “why.”

For me, it isn’t just about accumulating knowledge anymore. It’s more so about discovering useful and relevant ideas for my life and the people I serve daily.

How have I been able to read 52 books per year in the last two years? Trust me when I say my process isn’t anything fancy, but you might take away something from it, so here it is.

My Process for Reading Books

I keep my process simple. Here’s what it looks like:

· I use an index card as my placeholder. I also write my notes on it, including useful thoughts, ideas, and quotes.

· I will underline sentences with a pen as I’m reading. Jim Kwik has shown the dramatic effects this can have on your reading speed. I know some people argue that reading slower is better, but I find I don’t miss anything when I go faster. This is because, when you’re well-read, you begin to identify themes in your reading, you can predict what’s going to be said next, and you find that even the best writing contains filler words that can be skipped.

· I write reviews for the best books I read. This is not unlike writing a book report. You retain more of what you explain to others.

And that, for better or for worse, is about it.

Strategies for Retention & Application

Earlier, I mentioned James Clear. The article I referenced is called Reading Comprehension Strategies: How to Retain More of Everything You Read. It’s worth a look if this is a subject you care about.

In it, he suggests:

· Making your notes searchable. He puts his notes into Evernote so he can easily return to ideas as necessary. He also talks about how you can use different technologies and tools to make this process of note-taking more streamlined.

· He considers how what he’s reading connects with ideas already forming inside his mind. Connecting seemingly desperate ideas helps you appreciate the different perspectives people have on life.

· Summarize the book in a single paragraph. This helps you home in on what’s important about the book. You can probably see how this idea connects with what I said earlier about writing reviews.

I think these are great ideas, and they just might change the way I approach book-reading from now on.

Final Thoughts

How important is reading to you? Is it something you prioritize in your life, or not?

I’m the founder of The Music Entrepreneur HQ, a resource for musicians, creatives, and music business entrepreneurs. I share strategies for life, business, and music with my wonderful audience. I’m currently working on my second book.

I’m also the co-host of a new podcast called Using Your Power, along with my co-host Maveen Kaura of Discover Your Life Today. We dare to go deeper into life’s big questions, and yes, we tend to talk about a lot of books on our show.