Time is valuable. Good information is valuable. That’s why we need to be better at comprehending and remembering what we read. The Information Age assures us that information is readily available but most of us would rather not have to read stuff more than once in order to have it stick. Here are 5 Cool Ideas for remembering what you read.
1. Ask yourself questions as you read.
My brothers and I played cops and robbers when we were young. When play-acting, the “dying” person used to utter the phrase, “All the money in the world is in the …” just before expiring. This tantalizing phrase prompted the question, “Where is all the money in the world?” When reading, prepare your brain to receive important information by continually asking yourself questions. Use titles, headings and the first sentence of each paragraph to trigger the questions. If the lead sentence reads, “ABC Bank is the largest bank in the region,” quickly ask yourself, “How much money does the bank have?” Be on the lookout for key words like “important” and “critical” and numbers.
2. Read with pen in hand.
Psychologist Howard Gardner identified seven learning intelligences, including visual learning, audio learning and experiential learning. Those of us who like to process visual cues generally have better reading comprehension scores. If you are an experiential learner, however, you may want to keep a pen in your hand as you read. When you underline key passages or make notes as you read, your comprehension will improve. Still practicing? Underline the phrase, “underline key passages.”
3. Create your own table of contents.
As you read an article or book, make special note of information that directly applies to you. Create your own table of contents on the first page. Your table of contents should contain a few words of what you want to remember and the page on which more information can be found. In his book, Love is the Killer App, Tim Sanders suggests creating “Cliffs Notes” at the beginning of a book. When reading an especially good book, it’s not unusual for me to make three or four pages of notes on the blank pages in front of the book.
4. Review what you read.
Your notes will contain the most important information and you should review them a few hours after you’ve finished reading. Quickly read them again the next day. Your reticular activating system, the part of the brain that files new information, will appreciate the refresher.
5. Tell someone what you’ve read.
The idea is to have your brain reprocess the information in different ways. Telling someone what you’ve read trains your brain to recall the subject matter. Of course, recalling information that you’ve read is the essence of improved comprehension. Now go tell someone about this.