Smart Highlights 101: How to Learn Effectively From Every Book You Read
2 simple questions to get the most out of your readings
I’m ashamed when I look back at the books I read (and highlighted) 10 years ago.
Why? Because I’ve highlighted too much and implemented too little.
Worse, I don’t even remember why I highlighted some bits in the first place.
This is why I wanted to share with you the changes I made to my highlighting strategy that allow me to:
- learn better
- retain more of what I read and
- use those unique in’s tights to transform my business and the ones of my clients.
Let’s get started.
Highlighting is worthless if you don’t do this
We all know the story.
We buy a new book. We start reading it. And we start highlighting. It doesn’t matter if it’s with your good ol’ Stabilo or your Kindle.
Yet, most of the time, those highlights are nothing more than highlights. They stay in your book. You donkey ear the pages. And that’s it.
Truth is, highlighting without processing is nothing more than lowering your book’s resale value.
The value of a highlight is not in the highlight itself. It’s what you’re going to do with the bits of text you just highlighted.
Highlighting feels good. But merely feeling good about an idea does not trigger life-changing results. If changing, learning, and thinking were as easy as a long press and swiping right, we would all be rich with six-pack abs.
If you really want to benefit from your highlights, you need a process to go back to them and use them as raw material for your knowledge work.
The 2 questions that changed everything
There are two simple questions that you can ask yourself to start taking better highlights.
The first question is: Am I willing to rewrite it in my own words?
This is called the Feynman technique. In short, it stipulates that rewriting something boosts your understanding and your ability to recall the bit of information.
So instead of simply being a highlighting machine, start taking a few extra seconds to rewrite what you just highlighted in your own words.
If you’re not willing to do so, then it’s safe to skip that. It means the information is not worth your time/not compelling enough to go through it a second time.
The second question is: Is this note relevant to my work?
Many people can get their fingers off highlighting because they’re afraid of missing out. Truth is, the information will probably never fade away. You can always re-read The book later on.
Since we’re submerged in information overload, it’s not so much as what to highlight but what you can dismiss.
Extra bonus tip
Using the two decisive questions I just shared with you, you’ll highlight less but do much more with what you’ve highlighted.
An extra tip you can use to diminish your highlighting frenzy is to keep a rule in the back of your mind.
This rule is crucial to really start juicing value out of your notes instead of just them being a vast amount of clutter.
Here it is: Remember that the more you highlight, the more you have to process.
In other terms, you need to go back to these highlights and see how you can create a network of notes and actionable insights that will compound their value over time.
Reading a book is not just about highlighting and having a good time. What’s more important is how this book will impact your life and change it for the better.
It’s all about creating a notetaking system that empowers your life rather than clogging your apps.
Want to learn how to supercharge your notetaking system? Click here to get my free email course. (Safe link to my website)