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How to Retain More While Reading

How to Retain More While Reading: 8 valuable tips

Learning how to retain more while reading is a valuable skill that can help you succeed in both your personal and professional life. It isn't just about memorizing information, it's about understanding it on a deeper level.

We’ve all been there: you’re reading a book, an article, or a report, and your mind starts to wander. Before you know it, you’ve read three pages without actually processing a single sentence. It makes us wonder. Can we learn how to retain more while reading, or should we just accept this strange form of memory loss?

Fear not, fellow reader! How to retain information while reading is a skill that can be developed and honed. And as a leader, it’s especially important to be able to absorb and apply new knowledge quickly.

In this article, we’ll explore eight simple tips to help you retain more while reading. From pre-reading strategies to using technology, we’ve got you covered. So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn how to become a reading retention champion. And if your mind starts to wander, don’t worry – just think of all the cool new things you’ll know when you’re done!

Tip 1:  Pre-reading strategies

Before diving into a text, it can be helpful to employ a few pre-reading strategies to set yourself up for success. Here are three techniques that can help you get more out of your reading experience and retain information:

  1. Scanning headings and subheadings: The first step to effective reading is to understand the structure of the text. By scanning the headings and subheadings, you can get a sense of the main points the author will be making. This can help you focus your attention and anticipate the key takeaways before you even start reading.
  2. Previewing the introduction and conclusion: Another way to get a sense of what a text is about is to read the introduction and conclusion. These sections often provide a roadmap for the content that lies ahead, as well as an overview of the author’s main arguments. By previewing these sections, you can gain a better understanding of the purpose and scope of the text.
  3. Brainstorming what you already know about the topic: Finally, take a few minutes to brainstorm what you already know about the topic you’ll be reading about. This can help you activate your prior knowledge and create a mental framework for the new information you’ll be absorbing. By connecting new ideas to existing knowledge, you’ll be more likely to remember and retain the material.

Tip 2. Active reading techniques

Now that you’ve set the stage for your reading, it’s time to put on your active reading hat. Active reading means engaging with the material actively, rather than just passively absorbing it. Here are three techniques to help you do just that:

  1. Highlighting key points: One way to retain information is to highlight key points as you read. This can help you identify the most important information, and it also serves as a visual cue for when you review the text later. Just be sure to use highlighting sparingly, so that the most important information stands out.
  2. Summarizing sections in your own words: Another way to actively engage with a text is to summarize sections in your own words. By putting the material into your own language, you force yourself to process and synthesize the information in a way that makes sense to you. This can help you remember the material more effectively and also deepen your understanding of it.
  3. Asking yourself questions as you go along: Finally, asking yourself questions as you read can help you stay engaged and focused. Try to anticipate what the author will say next, or ask yourself how the current section relates to what you’ve read before. By actively questioning the material, you become a more engaged reader, and you’ll be more likely to retain information.
How to Retain More While Reading

Tip 3. Note-taking

Taking notes is a classic way to actively engage with a text, and it can also help you retain more information. Here are some note-taking techniques to try:

  1. Writing down key ideas: The most basic form of note-taking is to simply write down the key ideas and information from the text. You can do this in a linear format, like an outline, or in a more visual way, like a mind map.
  2. Organizing notes in a way that makes sense to you: Whatever format you choose, be sure to organize your notes in a way that makes sense to you. This might mean grouping similar ideas together, or color-coding your notes by topic.
  3. Using shorthand or abbreviations to save time: To make note-taking more efficient, consider using shorthand or abbreviations to save time. For example, instead of writing out a full word, you might use an abbreviation like “w/” for “with.”

Note-taking formats

Here are a few common note-taking formats:

  1. Outline format: This format involves using headings and subheadings to organize your notes in a hierarchical structure. You can use bullet points or numbers to list key points and supporting details under each heading.
  2. Cornell method: This method involves dividing your paper into three sections: a large section for your notes, a smaller section for key points or questions, and a bottom section for summarizing the main points of the reading. This format can be useful for synthesizing information and reviewing material later on.
  3. Flowchart or diagram: This format is useful for noting down the sequence of events or steps in a process. You can use arrows and boxes to connect the different steps and to show how they are related to each other.
  4. Mind mapping: Mind mapping can be a powerful tool for retaining information while reading and for organizing your thoughts and ideas. It can help you to identify connections between different ideas and to see the big picture of a topic.

Ultimately, the most effective note-taking format is the one that works best for you and helps you to organize and retain information in a way that makes sense to you. If you would like to read more about note-taking: The power of effective note-taking.

Tip 4. Visualization

Another way to retain information is through visualization. By creating mental images or diagrams, you can make the information more concrete and memorable. By visualizing information, you not only make it more memorable, but you also make it more enjoyable to read.

Here are three visualization techniques to try:

  1. Creating mental images or diagrams: One way to visualize information is to create mental images or diagrams. For example, if you’re reading a description of a process, you might create a mental image of each step in the process. Or if you’re reading a list of related concepts, you might create a diagram that shows the relationships between them.
  2. Using graphic organizers: Another way to visualize information is to use graphic organizers. These are tools that help you organize information in a visual way, such as a flowchart or a Venn diagram. Graphic organizers can be especially helpful when you’re trying to understand complex information or see how different ideas are related.
  3. Drawing your own illustrations: Finally, you can create your own illustrations to help you visualize information. This might mean drawing a picture of a concept, or creating a comic strip that summarizes a section of the text. By creating your own illustrations, you can make the material more engaging and memorable.

Tip 5. Setting Goals

By setting goals, you not only stay focused and motivated, but you also create a sense of accomplishment as you work towards your objectives.

  1. Identifying what you want to get out of the reading: Before you start reading, take a moment to identify what you want to get out of the material. This might mean learning a new skill, gaining a deeper understanding of a topic, or simply enjoying a good story.
  2. Breaking down the material into manageable goals: Once you’ve identified your overall goal, break the material down into smaller, manageable goals. For example, you might set a goal to read a certain number of pages each day, or to finish a particular section by a certain date.
  3. Organize accountability partners: Having someone to hold you accountable for your progress can be a powerful motivator. You can set up regular check-ins with a friend, colleague, or coach who can help keep you on track and offer support and encouragement.
  4. Progress tracking: By tracking your progress towards your goals on a daily or weekly basis, you can build momentum and develop new reading habits.

Regarding goal-setting, I have committed to reading at least 25 pages of a book every day. Once I achieve this goal, I mark a cross in my agenda. I try to extend my streak each time, and the funny thing is that it becomes increasingly difficult to skip a day as my streak gets longer. I recently laughed about it with a good friend of mine. We both found it amusing that such a simple technique works so well. This progress tracking helps me build momentum and develop new reading habits.

How to Retain More While Reading

Tip 6.  Taking Breaks

As an interim director of a school, I have to do a lot of reading. Not all of it is equally engaging, which can make it difficult for me to retain the information. Therefore, I have taught myself to take regular breaks. I like the pomodoro technique:

The Pomodoro technique is a time-management method that involves breaking down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. The technique is named after the Italian word for tomato (“pomodoro”) because it was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s while he was a university student, using a tomato-shaped kitchen timer.

The basic idea is to read for a set amount of time (usually 25 minutes), then take a short break (usually 5 minutes) before starting the next session. After completing four sessions, you take a longer break (usually 15-30 minutes) before starting the next set of sessions.

The Pomodoro technique is not just for reading. It is intended to help improve focus, productivity, and time management by providing structure and reducing the likelihood of burnout. By taking regular breaks, you can avoid mental fatigue and stay fresh and engaged throughout your workday.

Tip 7 Practice

Like any skill, reading requires practice to build stamina and focus. Here are three ways to practice reading and to retain information effectively:

  1. Reading regularly to build stamina and focus: Consistent reading is key to building your reading stamina and focus. Start by setting aside a regular time each day or week to read, and gradually increase the amount of time you spend reading.
  2. Trying out different techniques to see what works best for you: There are many different reading techniques and strategies you can use to improve your reading comprehension and retention. Try out different techniques and see what works best for you. For example, you might find that summarizing sections in your own words is particularly effective for you, or that using graphic organizers helps you to visualize the material. If you would like to know more about techniques to read faster, read: How to Read Faster: Techniques for Improving Your Reading Speed
  3. Being patient with yourself as you develop new habits: Finally, it’s important to be patient with yourself as you develop new reading habits. It takes time and practice to build new habits, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Keep practicing, and before long, you’ll see improvements in your reading ability. 
    Read “Build a Reading Habit: 20 Tips for Making Time for Books” if you woul like to read more about reading habits. 

Tip 8. Using Technology

Technology has made reading and retaining information easier than ever before. Here are three ways you can use technology to improve your reading and retention skills:

  1. Using apps or software to help with note-taking or visualization: There are many apps and software programs available that can help you take notes, create visual aids, and organize your thoughts. Some popular options include EvernoteOneNote, and MindMeister.
  2. Listening to audiobooks to supplement your reading: Audiobooks are a great way to supplement your reading and improve your retention. You can listen to audiobooks while you’re driving, exercising, or doing other activities that don’t require your full attention. I am a frequent user of Scribd. Scribd is free for the one month, but if you follow this “friends-link“, you get an extra month to try it out. 
  3. Using e-readers to easily highlight and organize important information: E-readers like Kindle and Nook allow you to highlight and annotate text, making it easy to go back and review important information. You can also organize your notes and highlights in one place, making it easy to find the information you need later on.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, retaining information while reading is an essential skill that can help you gain knowledge, improve your memory, and increase your productivity. If you would like to know how important reading is, read How important is reading? Reading Leaders lead smarter. By using a combination of pre-reading strategies, active reading techniques, note-taking, visualization, goal-setting, taking breaks, practicing, and using technology, you can enhance your reading experience and get the most out of it. Remember to be patient with yourself, try out different techniques, and celebrate your progress along the way. With time and practice, you’ll find the best methods that work for you and achieve your reading goals. So start applying these tips today, and happy reading!

Recommended books about how to retain morewhile reading:

  1. “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren – This classic book provides practical advice on how to read effectively and retain more information from your reading.
  2. “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning” by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel – This book explores the latest research on learning and memory and provides evidence-based strategies for retaining more information while reading.
  3. “The Memory Book: The Classic Guide to Improving Your Memory at Work, at School, and at Play” by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas – While not specifically focused on reading, this book provides tips and techniques for improving your memory and retaining more information in any context.
  4. “Reading with Purpose: How to Read Faster and Retain More” by Franklin D. Roosevelt III – This book offers practical advice on how to read more efficiently and effectively, with a focus on retaining more information from your reading.
  5. “The Art of Reading: How to Read for Pleasure and Profit” by Joseph Epstein – While this book is primarily focused on reading for pleasure, it includes tips and strategies for retaining more information from your reading

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