Because we live in such an instant gratification world, we want everything now. That probably applies to reading for most people. In an age where we can get any information we want from the internet, why read through a whole book looking for new information?
Speed reading has become the answer to this. There’s a ton of apps and info online on how to speed read, claiming you can train yourself to read over 1000 words per minute (average for college students is 200-400) through methods such as hand-pacing, scanning, meta guiding and line grouping.
This is all well and good – in fact it’s a very appealing prospect to be able to read double if not triple the speed. But the truth is, despite the fact some read faster than others, everyone goes through the same process of retaining information when reading. We first ‘fixate’ on the text, then we move our eyes to the next group of text, all while comprehending the information. And the comprehension part simply cannot be sped up.
What I’m proposing is that ‘smart’ reading – retaining the most valuable information – is a far better method if you’re serious about learning and not just getting through books. I initially learnt this from Tai Lopez and some other YouTubers, however I’ve added a few steps to get the most out of every reading session. Here’s 6 steps you can take to get the most out of every single book you read.
Develop the habit
To learn consistently, you’ve got to read every day. It’s no use just picking up a book every few months and skimming through it, because you’re only going to forget what you learnt. By reading consistently the ideas you pick up will build upon each other and you will start to think differently – in much more intellectual, deeper and creative ways.
I recommend setting a goal of reading 20 pages every day for at least 30 days. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to develop a habit, so aim high. Make sure you start by reading a small amount every day, otherwise you’ll run the risk of skipping a day because you feel you don’t have enough time. You can easily read 20 pages at lunch or bed at night.
As you start to read more, up the levels of daily reading. I like to read for at least an hour every day now (started off at 20 pages ~ 30 minutes) and some days I’ll read more if I really get into something. Once you get that momentum going, nothing’s going to stop you.
Get a journal, pen and highlighter
This is the most important part of speed reading. You’re going to use these to retain and organize everything you learn for future reference, so take them wherever you take your books.
I’m always buying books on multiple topics, meaning I have a vast choice of reading and can pick and choose relevant books to what I’m currently doing in my life. Say I’m changing up my diet, I’ll centre my reading around nutrition and exercise.
Reading as relevant as possible means you’ve always got something guiding you through your endeavors, cutting your learning curve and helping you grow every day. Pairing the reading with what you experience in real life means you can really hone in on what you’re doing right and where to improve. It’s like doing a college degree and working in a job relevant to that degree at the same time. Learning and implementing should go hand in hand. If there’s nowhere to apply what you’re reading in real life, you’ll forget it much faster.
If you’re anything like me, you probably get distracted so easily that you zone out without realizing it and suddenly you’ve read three pages and can’t recall a word you read. Therefore, devoting your full concentration to a book is vital to retaining anything.
I recommend dedicating a quiet space and a certain time of the day to read. The mornings are the best because you are more likely to retain the information – I find I am more creative in the evenings and my mind wanders far too much. Make sure there are not visual or audible distractions, too. You won’t be able to think deeply about what you’re taking in if your thoughts are hijacked by the TV or conversations around you.
Breathing meditation can help too. Take deep, long breaths through your noise and out your mouth for a couple of minutes, only focusing on your breathing. Do it until you have no thoughts in your head other than that of your breathing. When you come back to reality, start reading immediately before any thoughts take you away from the book. You’ll probably start to think about certain ideas and phrases you read if they grab your attention, but write them down and continue reading because otherwise you’ll lose your momentum.
Most people leave note taking in the classroom and never take notes on what they read later in life. This is one skill school gave you that is actually useful, so use it! The most efficient way of retaining info is noting the most valuable information you find in a journal as you read through the book.
Once you’ve read the book, go back to the journal and highlight the most important parts of your notes. This way, you’re doubling up on the highest value information. Eventually you’ll build up a mini-library of invaluable information that you can go back to at any time in the future.
I like to have separate journals for separate topics. For example, I could have a journal on biographies – something I can reference when I want some advice and wisdom from the world’s most intelligent and successful people. Maybe I’ll have a journal on productivity to go to and pick up new strategies when I’m feeling lazy or stressed.
Most people put a book down, feel like they’ve accomplished something then never use the information they were given again because they forget it. If you’re going to do that you may as well never read a book again in your life.
Be smart and take the time to get the most out of your learning, you never know when it’ll come in handy in the future.