Read Less, Remember More: How I Maximized My Reading Experience and Retention

“Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.” -Bill Gates

The quote that got me hooked on reading. I hated reading because of my ADHD and specific learning disability, which affected my reading and comprehension. Despite this, I was eager to learn by reading books. I love reading when I get to choose a book I like rather than being assigned to read a specific book for English. Over the past four years, I have read over 100 books and started a podcast focused on expanding knowledge with a growth mindset through summarizing books and having guests. The following is what I have learned through my journey. 

To save time, apply what you learn from books. This means taking the time to reflect on the information, think about how it applies to your life, and implement changes based on what you’ve learned. One way to do this is to take notes as you read, focusing on key takeaways and insights that you can immediately put into practice. Another way is to set aside time each week to review your notes and think about how you can apply what you’ve learned. I highly recommend talking about the book you read to someone to see what you retained off the top of your head. 

After hardly retaining what I read in the books, I realized I needed to do something different to maximize retention. Techniques that maximize retention for me are listening to the book on Audible or Scribd and annotating. I can recite books like it’s nothing from doing this. 

While it takes a lot of time, it is well worth it. Later, you can refer back to your annotations to get a quick summary of what that section was about. You enhance your critical thinking skills as you consider and evaluate different viewpoints and arguments presented in the book.

Now you may ask, “how did you read 100 books and remember every single one?” I have learned to become more effective and productive rather than just productive. The goal is to retain information more effectively and maximize your overall learning experience.

There is an app, “Blinkist,” which summarizes books in 15-20 minutes. I have found more retention of books on the app than reading the book from front to back without annotations. This enables me to “read more books.” The downside is that you will miss the details in that book that could have resonated with you.

Tip: You will forget more than 95% of a book. The goal is to maximize the 5% of the book you remember. 

My personal goal when reading non-fiction books is not to retain every detail but, instead, to focus on retaining the most valuable information. This approach to reading can help you retain information for a longer period of time.

The Pareto principle, which I learned in Tim Ferriss’s, The 4-Hour Workweek, refers to “80% of your outputs coming from 20% of your inputs.” That is why for the average person, I recommend Blinkist. If you take the Blinkist route, you should do nothing outside of listening and following along. If you “multitask,” you won’t retain much.

Compounding. This is how I got to read over 100 books. I took baby steps by reading for 30 minutes each day to reach 100 books in 3 years. Remember, quality over quantity. Take your time to reflect on what you read. 1% better each day compounds into a lot in 5 years. 

You don’t have to read to become “smart.” Other ways I have learned are from personal experience, YouTube videos, documentaries, conferences, Harvard Business Publishing Education, and more. The key is to make the most of your time and focus on learning, whether that means setting aside dedicated time to read or actively seeking out new experiences and opportunities for growth.

Books dig deep. In most cases, the internet cannot provide what a book does. The internet cannot provide the tangible experience of reading a book, the sense of immersion that comes from being absorbed in a book, and the ability to annotate. I want you to push yourself and continue to learn; below are my recommendations.

Here is a start to some of my personal favorite books within the self-help and business genre, and check out the in-depth summaries on my podcast, Redefine Relentless.

  1. Extreme Ownership
  2. The 5 AM Club
  3. Atomic Habits
  4. $100M Offers by Alex Hormozi (my favorite)
  5. Think and Grow Rich

Link to more recommendations here.

Podcast Recommendations:

  1. How I built this by Guy Raz
  2. Planet Money by NPR Group
  3. Redefine Relentless by Hunter Beale