How To Read A Book And Retain It ALL

Are you a reader?

Do your book shelves look like they’re about to burst at the seams?

Or if you’re like me… quickly running out of space, with all the books you bought, some of which haven’t even been cracked open yet. Or maybe a few pages in at best.

Because you know how it goes… You hear of a good book you ought to read. So you hop on Amazon. Next thing you know, there’s a package of 4 books on your doorstep.

Dammit, they make it so easy and pain-free to order! 🙂

Jim Rohn once said…

“Successful people have libraries. The rest have big screen TVs”

I agree.

And I actually got both. But my library is by far bigger.

Heck, at one point I even considered learning how to speed read. So that I can get through all these “must-have” books. Oh and if you’re a fan of reading on Kindle, same difference.

But now, before you add another published collection of wisdom to your knowledge bank, here’s something to chew on…

How much of what you’ve read, you’ve actually retained?

I once pulled an old book off of my shelf. Haven’t touched it in 10 years. At least. Probably more. I crack it open and there are lots of earmarks and it’s full of highlights and notes. I like to read with pen and highlighter in hand 🙂

I’m going through it, and this is some good stuff. Really good stuff. I mean it must be, I highlighted it 15 years ago!!!

And then I checked it off my list. Got it. Read this one. Tucked it away and was on to the next one.

I’m standing looking at my library and thinking…

How much treasure is buried in these books, much of which I’ve “read” (or more like glanced at)… but sadly, can’t recall even half of it.

In fact, according to some statistics, the retention rate for reading is only 10%. You lose a whopping 90% of the information you’ve paid for and spent your precious time going through. Crazy when you look at it this way, huh?

This number may or may not be fully accurate, but just think…

How much can you recall from a good business book you read last year? Or even last month?

My point exactly.

Ok, nuff said. No need to keep beating a dead horse.

I think we can agree that reading a book (and even highlighting it) won’t do you much good in keeping the information in your head, and recalling it/putting it to use when the need arises… IF that’s your ultimate goal. And with most books I read, that is my goal.

That’s Why I’ve Decided To STOP Reading Books

And instead, start learning them!

Because when you drop a few coins on a non-fiction book, aren’t your buying it to LEARN how to do the thing that’s promised in that catchy title?

So unless I’m reading the book for pure entertainment, here’s what I do now. It’s a little system I’ve implemented to make it damn near impossible for critical information (the one I’ve highlighted) to escape.

Here’s My Book Learning System:

Step 1 – Read the Table of Contents

Why? I’m going to clue you into a little advertising secret here.

People are more excited about buying something, because of the dopamine rush it creates in anticipation of the upcoming reward (learning how to do X), then actually doing the work of reading and learning. That’s why people buy books and courses, and often never complete them. That’s a FACT.

So, as I look at 250 pages of text, which now looks like work, what I do to get myself all excited about the book (again) is read the Table of Contents. Because it usually gives you a summary of what you can expect to discover. And it gets me fired up all over again to go through it.

Very important. If you’re not motivated by the promise of mastering the secrets revealed in the book, the entire process will feel be as painful as slowly pulling off a bandaid.

Step 2 – Read the Book

This is where I dive in and read the whole thing, cover to cover. With highlighter and pen in hand.

I highlight important stuff and circle things that jump out at me. The information I want to retain.

Also, knowing full well that everything I highlight will get permanently imprinted in my mind, keeps me eager to stick with it, and makes it a breeze to go through.

Step 3 – Fire Up Your Evernote

Side note, if you’re not using Evernote, you are REALLY, REALLY missing out. It is THE BEST tool for taking and keeping notes. Jotting down ideas. Organizing everything. And (this is SO IMPORTANT) have the ability to INSTANTLY pull up anything you need, on any device.

There’s a tiny cost, but it’s worth every penny.

In my Evernote I have a Notebook, called Books. (how original)

In this “Books” Notebook, I have Notes for my books. So I create a New Note, and call it “The (Book Title)” Notes.

I then go back to the book. Thumb through everything I’ve highlighted and I start putting it into this Note.

I don’t need to reread the book multiple times. I’m sure you’ll agree that most books, can be summarized in a few pages with the most important nuggets and tips. Yes, there are some great stories in there that illustrate the points, but once you read them, the key takeaways are what you really need to remember. The stuff you highlight and circle.

After I’m done with this, I don’t need to go back to the book, unless I want to indulge in all the stories again.

I now have my NOTES.

Also, this is where I jot down additional ideas and actionable steps that are popping into my mind as I go through the material. I found this to be extremely helpful in actually implementing the material.

Step 4 – Review the Notes

Many years ago I heard something very important from the world’s best sales trainer, Tom Hopkins.

He said…

“If you read, write, hear and
say something SIX TIMES,
you’ll have 67% retention.”

At the time, I applied that to learning appointment setting scripts, presentation, ways to overcome objections, closes, etc… It really worked. But for some reason I never applied it to book learning.

So, in reviewing the notes, I go through everything a couple of times. Both reading and saying it out loud.

And what about writing?

That’s next…

Step 5 – Write Down Key Takeaways

It has been proven, that if you write things down, as in longhand, not typing, you will remember the material much better.

As a matter of fact, the mere act of cursive, longhand writing is going to help you neurologically imprint the information.

As a side note, students of copywriting and advertising know that the best way to learn to write effective sales ads, is to copy successful ones by hand.

Yes, it’s somewhat tedious work, and in today’s day and age I’m sure not 1 in 1,000 would do this. But the results are wickedly effective. I write on a regular basis. I try daily, but at least 3-4 times a week, at the very least.

Now, I don’t write every single thing I highlighted. I write key points and take aways in a journal. And (this is important) I use a blue pen. Which according to research, helps gets those neurons firing in your brain. And that results in better retention.

So don’t fight this. Just do it.

Step 6 – Schedule Regular Reviews

For reinforcement, review your notes.

In fact, I find it’s better to have a routine, where you set a specific schedule for reviewing your notes.

Here’s one that works for me.

Review your notes every day for the next week. Then weekly for the next month. Go back and review once or twice a year after that. (the last part I’ve yet to do, but that’s the plan)

This takes a small time commitment. Maybe 5-10 minutes a day. But just think of the BIG REWARD… the rare ability to retain and recall everything that you’ve read!

So there you have it, 6 steps.

1. Go through the table of contents.
2. Read the book.
3. Put your notes in Evernote.
4. Review the notes.
5. Write (by longhand) your notes and key takeaways.
6. Schedule regular reviews.

Now let’s go and REALLY learn some of that stuff hidden on your bookshelves!

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Vitaly Grinblat has over 20 years of experience in sales, marketing and advertising. Including running his own financial services agency for over 10 years. Since 2005, he has created a number of information products online, as well consulted with and designed advertising campaigns for private clients, generating over $10,000,000 in sales. Currently Vitaly is involved in a number of businesses and projects including creating marketing campaigns for a large publication company, running an e-commerce business, a nutraceutical company and Success Thread.


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