Do you feel awestruck when you see people giving lectures filled with facts and figures or their ability to narrate sequentially of what they read?
Do you feel you are not able to remember most of the things you read recently (forget about the old stuff!)?
If yes, are you suffering from any and/or all of the conditions given below?
Despite reading many books, articles, essays etc. you find it difficult to recall the gist and facts of the content even a day after you read it.
Do you feel despite reading so much, you don’t have solid mental back up to support you.
In a discussion you cannot put forth your opinion based on what you read.
What’s your thought? Is it because of your forgetfulness or your lack of understanding of the subject?
Do you make an opinion about the subject based on how you feel about it (with no active effort to digest the subject) while reading it?
Do you actually consciously make an effort to digest and absorb the facts (completely avoiding your feelings) while and after reading it?
Ability to remember and present views requires more than just passive reading.
What is takes?
An analogy could be:
We eat food, but unless it is digested and absorbed by the body and its nutrients enter into blood stream, it is of no use for us.
Similarly, it requires tactful processing of the mental food (books for example), absorbance of the useful nutritious part while discarding the rest.
In order to learn the processing what you read most efficiently these 5 points will be helpful. Please understand that it’s a habit not a one day job.
1. The First and the Most important step- Understand – ‘The Process of Learning’
Like most other skills in life, ‘understanding the process of learning’ is the most important and first step to remember what you read for long.
How do we learn anything? –Dance, driving car or an instrument –musical or scientific?
Through trials and errors!
Through memorizing a few things! – Essential
Training by a manual or by a trainer.
Repeating again and again what we learn – Practice
Doing the same work in the mind (while learning car I took myself to a drive in my mind adjusting all gears and tools in my mind, and it was immensely helpful)
How do we succeed?
When we make efforts to learn consciously, we keep at it and we personalize the process.
And after a while we find ourselves enjoying the newly acquired skill in an automatic mode.
It takes time.
‘To remember what you read’ is also a skill. A very useful one though. To acquire it is no different from any other skill. If you have not been taught, or if you have not self learned it before, chances are you will not have it.
Good part is- you can acquire it, at any point in your life, through observing your learning habits, through training, practice, repetition, persistence and a personal customization process.
Calm down. Its fun!
2. The Unavoidable Step- Know your interest and build up a knowledge base around it
If the books / articles you are reading do not excite your interest, chances are you will forget about the book and its message sooner or later.
Now we assume that you know your interest.
Even if you know your interest, it requires a lot of dedication to become thorough at the subject.
Each subject has its own vocabulary. When you read a new subject- you get exposed to a new vocabulary. The first time you read something new, mind gets engaged in acquiring the new vocabulary.
If the subject excites you, but you don’t build up your knowledge base around it through further reading, your initial vocabulary base will be lost soon. In the long run you will remember only as much as the person with no interest on the subject remembers.
If the subject excites you and force you to read more about it, over a period of time you will start remembering facts considerably. This is because by this time mind will not be engaged in trying to understand the basics, reading will a lot easier and the mind will work to analyze and create concepts and towards adding on the existing concepts.
The third and the subsequent articles/ books on the same subject will make your grip stronger on the subject.
Reading stories, articles, books on the same subjects for a long time will help make you informed about the subject in its entirety.
You will start remembering not only what you read, but also random things being said by the people around or a quick glance of an article in a newspaper will be enough to make you understand what’s inside it.
3. The Game Changer Step- The Mental Analysis
The purpose of reading is to help us develop an understanding/ informed opinion of the subject.
Before Reading questions
Why you read certain articles/ books?
Do you have specific goal in your mind?
What do you expect to achieve through reading a particular book/article?
Do you have specific questions that needed answers?
Is it a genuine progression of what you read before?
How and where the knowledge you gained from this particular section will be useful?
There could be many more
During and post reading analysis-
What are the main points the author is trying to put forth?
What contradictory information you gained from this piece of writing?
In your view what is the most interesting information you gained?
Anything new you learned? How this new is supplementing and / or contradicting your existing knowledge base..
There could be many more points of analysis
Find your own points of analysis.
Hence pause and pause often while reading. Make room for these points to appear in your mind and get answered.
Highlight these points and note down.
Soon you will be finding yourself doing this analysis effortlessly.
This will help you retain your knowledge.
No matter how slow you practice it, the cumulative result will be surprising for you.
4. Train your mind ‘to create a summary of the book’ and ‘quotable specific messages’
In order to remember what you read for long an article should be looked at in terms of its ‘summary’ and its ‘main quotable messages’.
‘Summary’ and ‘Quotes’ are two altogether different things, though they complement each other. A ‘summary’ is essentially an ‘overview’ and the ‘main quotable messages’ means ‘being very specific’.
This exercise substantially improves analyzing power and memory.
Whenever reading something, even if as small as a news article- ask yourself – what is the summary of it and what’s quotable message.
(In a news article, the events that happened before and the direction at which this event is pushing things will come under ‘The Summary Section’. A specific action or programme announced to deal with the situation will fall under the ‘quotable message’.
5. The most underrated but Essential Step: Re –Read
Once you have read something that triggered your interest and as a follow up you have read a few other related books and articles/ stories, its essential to re-read the first book.
It will amaze you and you will be filled with moments of ecstasy.
Because you will know how much you have gained, how much your analytical thinking has improved, how effortlessly you brain conceives the concepts now and most important, it’s a time to find out what you missed during your first read.
It will make learning permanent.
Please remember- its looks daunting but it is not and soon it gets automatic.
One suggestion- Reading is one of the best things in life. Any effort towards better reading habits deserves consistency. Once you are at it please don’t give it up.
Please share your views in the comment section.