How To Retain Information

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How To Retain Information

I am always reading one fiction book and one nonfiction book on success, business, finance, or similar.  I've done this my whole life.  It was and is instrumental in my success as a person and a businessman.  If you're not reading regularly, you should be.

Back in my early 20's (I turn 40 next month! Yay!), I found that I would devour success books like candy.  I would burn through one after the other.  I'd read one, say "Damn!  That book was awesome!", then completely forget about it and bore into the next book.

I was reading.  I was not retaining.  What then was the purpose of reading other than entertainment?

Reading books for pure enjoyment is fine, but that's what fiction books are for.  Nonfiction books that teach new skills or perspectives are for implementing new behaviors that improve your life.  If you're reading these books but not retaining what you learn or taking action upon it, you're wasting your time.

For the last 15 years or so, I have followed this procedure to make sure what I read in my nonfiction books becomes real action that improves my life.

1. I always make sure I have pen in easy reach as I read the book.  I refuse to read a skill-teaching non-fiction book without a pen handy.

2. When I come across a key point or action step that is applicable to my life, I underline it.  Then I put a mark in the upper corner of that page.  I always mark the upper-left corner of the leftmost page, even if the item I underlined is on the rightmost page.  You'll see why I do this in a minute.

3. I complete the book, marking items and pages as I go.

4. When done with the book,  I sit down at my computer, pull open a Word document, and very quickly flip through the pages looking at the left corner of the left pages.

5. When I find a mark, I stop there and type in the key point into the Word doc.  Then I continue and repeat for all remaining marked pages.

6. I place all these transcribed key techniques in a sorted-by-subject document I call my "Life Manual" for easy recall later.

Like I've said, I've been doing this for about 15 years.  My Life Manual is now over 60 pages of 8 point font with almost no margins.  It's full of the best key stuff from every nonfiction book I've read that had items worth underlining.  It's arranged by hyper-linked topic, and the topics include things like personal success, relationships, writing, sales, marketing, time management, finance, investing, taxes, business, real estate, public speaking, and many more.

Whenever I need some good advice on any key area, I just whip up my Life Manual, click to the correct topic, and there's a whole pile of real-life techniques ready for me to implement.

It's a great system and I highly recommend it if you're a reader like I am.

This article was originally published on March 26, 2012
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