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This is how you can remember what you learn

In the past couple of months, I've been enjoying my bicycle rides to work more than usual as I've started listening to podcasts and TEDTalks while riding.

One of the podcasts I listen to is the James Altucher show, where James interviews famous people from pretty much every domain. I've listened to his conversations with Yuval Noah Harari (author of Sapiens), John McGinley (who plays Dr. Cox on the TV show, Scrubs), Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert, the comic strip), among many others. Some of the people that come on his podcast also write (books or blogs) that I also read (for example, I read Sapiens and I read Scott Adams's blog). James reads them as well. And then he asks questions about what they've written.

So, in a way, listening to his podcast reminds me of my MBA days, where I would read case studies and text books and go to class, where the professor would ask questions and discuss about what I (and other students in my class) have read.

This happens with some of the other podcasts I listen to as well.

This pseudo-repetition is a good way to ensure I recall a lot of the things I read. It just makes those neuron connections storing information stronger.

The third form of repetition, which will take it up a few more notches, is to actually write about it. A lot of what I read and listen to end up being fodder that I mull over and eventually connect to my own experiences and the things I see around me. Which is what I write about.

I am targeting a read count of 52 books this year. That's 30 more than what I read last year. Which makes this a humungous task for me.

But, at the same time, I know that sheer quantity means nothing if I read short and fluffy books or if I don't take away and remember any of the things I read. If I enjoy reading a book, I want to be able to recount the gist of it and what I learnt from it or what inspired me about it even a few months and years later.

And this is where the repetition helps.

While reading each book or article over and over seems like a total waste of time, talking about what you read with friends and writing about it forces discussion, which is a good way to ensure you remember things for long. And if you can't think of anything to say about the things you read, they either aren't worth reading or you are failing to learn anything from them.

So, read a lot, but also write about what you read. Or just talk to the people around you about it.

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  1. Internalizing what one reads is an ongoing process. I use Derek Siver's method of making book notes while reading a book - to write down our takeaways from reading, on a periodic basis. These book notes can be reviewed from time to time, rather than having to re-read the book.

    You can find Derek's book notes on several books on his website: Among others, there is Sapiens, Choose Yourself etc.


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