5 Tips to Read More and Forget Less







March 14, 2015

Reading. A skill we all possess, yet not all readers are created equal. Most of us struggle to read a 3,000+ word article, let alone a book. We’re too busy and too distracted.

Reading. A skill we all possess, yet not all readers are created equal. Most of us struggle to read a 3,000+ word article, let alone a book. We’re too busy, too distracted, and watching the latest House of Cards is just a bit easier than reading a 437-page business book. Then there are people like Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Ryan Holiday and Shane Parris, readers whom I greatly admire. Yes, all three men are also writers, but when you look a bit closer, you’ll realise they are readers first and foremost. These gentlemen devour books like most others binge-watch three movies on a Sunday afternoon:

Why care? Because to read more is one of the best ways to gain new insights, learn about a topic you’re unfamiliar with and build wisdom. So here’s to reading and what I’ve learned from these master readers and my own experience throughout life.

1. Clip articles using Pocket or Evernote

Where reading of online articles is concerned, don’t read randomly what you run into, when you run into it. Clip them for a future moment (using Pocket or Evernote), then “batch” read a bunch of them at a later time (on the toilet, in bed, on the train). This ensures you don’t get distracted from whatever it is you were originally doing, and it goes well with the next point.

2.Create a time buffer

Unless it’s a matter of life and death, don’t immediately jump on the urge to read something. This goes both for articles and books. If you act on your impulses, you might spend your precious attention on something which next week holds no value to you. Especially with books, it’s good to let the intention to read sit there for at least a few days, then see if you still think this is the best thing to read at this time. Reading a book is a bit commitment, don’t treat it lightly.

3. The Three T’s: pick the right read at the right moment

Sounds easy right? Well, it’s not. There are three aspects to picking the right read at the right moment:

  1. Topic. Is the topic relevant to problems or questions you’re currently facing? Or is it simply a general interest you have, but not immediately applicable?
  2. Type. Is it the right type of read for that moment? During a short commute on the subway, it might be better to read some clipped articles (see point number 1) than trying to dive into A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell.
  3. Taste. If you feel like reading some pulp, go for it. As Teddy Roosevelt said: “The reader, the booklover, must meet his own needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say those needs should be.”

Don’t be afraid that spending some time to determining what you should read next is a waste. At least check the table of contents, to see if the material matches your expectations. Remember, the only true waste of time is committing to a book which teaches you nothing!

4. Take notes

This is the hard one. The one that makes it less fun. It’s also the one which ensures you recollect 25% - 50% more of what you’re actually reading. As an additional bonus, you’ll have notes you can go back to when you want to get a refresher on the book. This is especially powerful if you make the notes in Evernote, as they will show up in “context” when you might be searching for a related topic.

5. Drop it when it’s not

The age-old adage says you should finish what you started. This usually holds true and it usually goes for books as well. Nevertheless, if the read is a big disappointment, don’t hesitate to drop the book and head on to the next one. Life is too short to waste on bad reading!

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