Recall More of What You Read (and Hear)

I’m notorious for having an assortment of ebooks, hardcover books, magazines and blogs that I’m reading at any given moment...along with a variety of podcasts that accompany me as I walk my dog. Unfortunately, while I may maintain tidbits or impactful quotes, the rest quickly fades into the recesses of my mind.

But after listening to the Coaching for Leaders podcast (episode 449), “How to Recall What You Read” (about 18:45 in), I realized I’ve been incorporating several practices to help me retain and recall what I read. Be sure to check out the episode for tips, which I won’t repeat here; instead, here are a few tips of my own:

1) Download Readwise: This handy app combs your highlights from Kindle, along with articles from Instapaper and other sources, and delivers a curated selection of highlights directly to its app or your inbox each day. This aids in recall and application, as refreshers often come just in time to be incorporated into blogposts, talks and other things I’m doing. You can also share favorite highlights on your social media platforms. You can try Readwise free for 30 days; then the basic subscription is just $4.99/month.

2) Capture Podcast Notes: If you’re like me, you listen to podcasts while on the go, which makes it difficult to capture notes.

  • Try keeping a notebook by your door to record key highlights as soon as you get home, since the physical act of writing helps increase retention.

  • No notebook handy? Take a voice memo on your phone before getting out of your car, or while on a walk. Make a point to state the time stamp as an “audio highlight” in case you want to return to that spot later.

  • Consider blocking time later that day to review show notes and take advantage of freebies and offers; some podcasts also offer newsletters to push show highlights straight to your inbox.

3) Keep a “Mental File”: Think about an upcoming opportunities to apply what you’ve read. Even if an opportunity isn’t readily available, recognizing specific, potential opportunities can help with recall once the opportunity presents itself. For example, when reading The Power of TED* (*the Empowerment Dynamic) by David Emerald Womeldorff, it occurred to me that my coaching clients are often stuck in “victimhood.” So when I was on a call with a coachee who was struggling, I was able to quickly recall the book’s concepts in detail, and use them to help the coachee gain perspective. In the past, I would’ve vaguely recalled key concepts, but I would’ve had to spend time searching through the book again for specifics or a refresher.

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How do you retain more of what you’ve read or heard? Take a moment to share tips below!


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