How to retain more of what you read

HOW TO RETAIN MORE OF WHAT YOU READ is courtesy of Phil Chambers

Summary:

  1. Have an outcome in mind and ask questions of yourself about why you have chosen to spend time reading and this will filter your experience.
  2. Be a critic. DRC. Emote. Again ask questions but this time of the material and the author.
  3. Create a mind map. Explain it to somebody or even teach it.

The more the brain process information, the better it sticks in your memory and the better it is understood. Back in the days before photocopiers and word processors, most large companies had typing pools. Ranks of typists would reproduce documents by copying. They were highly
skilled at rapidly and accurately retyping a document but without any understanding. The process was simply eye to hand with little going on in between. This is why coping out notes from textbooks is a highly ineffective study strategy. Many students waste hours taking notes of notes of notes with demoralising poor results.

If you process information a little deeper by approaching a text with questions in mind, you will be more engaged. You are more attuned to the reason for your reading. Certain parts of the text will have additional significance imbued to them by virtue of being relevant to your questions. The more significant something is, the more your brain pays attention to it and the easier it is to comprehend and remember.

Going deeper still: Try arguing with the author. Be a critic. Do you agree with the point of view being expounded? Why does he or she write this? Is there an ulterior motive or hidden agenda? What evidence is there? Does this conflict with other books you have read on the subject?
Challenge everything and get angry. Bringing emotion into you reading massively increases the impact of the text. If you think back to strongly remembered events in your life, they are often those times associated with powerful emotions. Your first love, times when you have been furious,
disappointed, ecstatic, awe stuck or inspired.

Creating a Mind Map involves a greater amount of processing than traditional copied notes. You are choosing key words to summarise big chunks of text, linking concepts together and are more engaged due to the use of colours and images. Memory works by association and imagination. Mind Maps utilise both of these skills to give increased recall of wide context and detail.

Have you ever faced a difficult problem or decision and asked a friend for advice, but by the time you finished explaining it, you knew the answer yourself? The act of articulating a problem crystallises it so that you can see it more clearly. The same is true of reading. Explain a book to a friend. You will find that by putting it into your own words, it will make more sense. You are taking
the ideas and making them your own – Synthesising them with your existing knowledge and truly understanding.

Finally, the deepest level is teaching a subject. You not only have to very clearly explain the material, you also have to be able to phrase it in a variety of ways, answer questions and engage your audience. This requires a deep understanding and a great deal of mental processing. I am always tired after delivering a full day’s training course. I probably won’t have expended much physical energy but will be mentally drained. Dr Marian Diamond, Professor of Neuroanatomy at the University of California at Berkley said, “Each one teach one”, when referring to the ideal educational system. By getting children to teach their peers after initially grasping a topic, it greatly
embeds and consolidates their knowledge.

Follow this link to retain what you have just learnt.!

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