May 23, 2019

How to Better Remember and Use What You Read: GTD Method

Photo by Claudia on Unsplash

In a challenging world, it’s important to stay competitive which makes you read more and more information daily and implement new knowledge into your life. Personally, I read a lot of books, reading takes a perceptible part of my day. I’ve been improving and iterating my own reading process year after year. It’s been only 2 months since I finally found my perfect reading system utilizing Getting Things Done (GTD) methods!

Well, going forward, I am typing this post as a final step of my system. Our brain keeps more information when reproduces it regularly. So, I write a book review on Medium when I finish a book that deserves to be remembered.

Why Take Notes While Reading?

Note-taking is an incredibly powerful tool to remember while reading.

Notes extend your memories. I’ve explained before how writing can be seen as an external enhancement of your brain, allowing you to think more complicated thoughts and solve harder problems. Notes you keep, therefore, act to expand your memory.

The act of taking notes ensures your mind isn’t wandering. Even better, notes can facilitate deeper processing of the material, which has been shown to improve memory than when you pay attention only to the superficial details.

Unfortunately, note-taking is challenging in term of storing them.

Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done is a time management method, described in a book of the same title by productivity consultant David Allen. The method is often referred to as GTD.

The goal of GTD is to reduce the stress by unloading your mind from things to do by recording them externally. GTD helps you to organize your notes and keep them handy. I use Tags and notebooks in Evernote so I can organize my quotes as I wish and create a powerful knowledge base.

How to Utilize More Insights from Books

I’d like to explain my perfect reading system. Follow these steps and you can find the right way to better remember and use what you read.

Step One: Why am I Reading?

The starting point of any note-taking technique has to be the purpose of whatever you’re trying to read. Why are you reading it in the first place? Why are you trying to take notes? What do you hope to achieve? Why a particular book is important for you? Clarify it before taking any notes.

Step Two: None-taking

While I am reading, I diligently take notes directly on the margins of the physical text and highlight quotes or passages that I want to capture later. On these particular pages, I fold up the bottom corner.

To highlight notes I use various colors of sticky bookmarks to group together related ideas. I use the next color code:

  • Red: To-Do
  • Yellow: Important
  • Green: To Think

For instance, it’s worth taking into account the number of colors you use. Of course, the amount of sticky notes is dependent on the purpose you are using them for, but as a general guideline, less is better.

Step Three: Review or Recall?

A few weeks after I finish the book, I revisit the pages and transfer the notes, quotes, and ideas onto an Evernote Notecard. The notecard contains all ideas and quotes related to a single book.

Red notes are reorganized in separate notes and moved to my To-Do notebook. The Red ideas and quotes deserve to be implemented as fast as possible. This is a goal of reading books — to find insights and ideas to make my life better, so I put all my attention to extract them and utilize onto my life.

Step Four: Write a review on Medium

The best strategy for everyone to better remember and use what you read is to share your notes, ideas, and to build new communities around books. This offers the best opportunities for an authentic experience, a space for creativity and personal happiness.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O’Connor

Having Medium reviews done, I can reread them time after time to remember what I read. Even more important, Medium helps me to share my thoughts with others, to get feedback and additional inspiration to review new interesting books.

This is what my perfect reading system does, and it helps me enormously in retaining books’ main ideas to make me more competitive. There’s really no secret. Read a lot. Structure using GTD methods. Write about your reading. Apply what you read.

Here’s to more reading this year and beyond!

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