So many books, how do you retain it all?

So many books, how do you retain it all?

In Expert Tips by Molly Hurford

So many books, how do you retain it all?
A common “problem” — if you can call it that — is there are almost too many books on Scribd to read and to listen to. Sometimes it can be hard to pick a good one, but our editors constantly crank out helpful reading recommendations from The Best Colleen Hoover Books, Ranked to Read Like a CEO. Sometimes it’s challenging to decide which book to read, of the many books you’re reading, not to mention whether you want to read or listen to that book. But if you’re wondering about how to retain all of the knowledge you’re picking up while reading, Scribd Coach Matt Harrison, author of Long-Term Learning: Harnessing Your Brain to Learn More Effectively and Remember More of What You Learn, can help. There’s so much information out there, and Harrison offers tips around knowledge retention so you can retain all the important stuff and actually use it in your life.

Take notes

You can highlight passages and add your own notes in the Scribd app, which can help with information retention and allow you to quickly revisit key points, says Harrison. You can also easily add bookmarks to important sections to revisit later, or bookmark exercises that you want to do but don’t have time for at the moment. For some people, using a physical notebook to jot down notes can be even more helpful, since writing by hand has been shown to be better for knowledge retention than typing — find a note-taking style that works for you.

Listen and read

If you really want something to sink in, you may want to listen to it as well as read it — the two formats will improve your retention in a way that simply rereading the same book twice won’t. “When you use different portions of the brain to take in the same knowledge, you retain it better and understand it more,” says Harrison. Scribd often offers both options, allowing you to take a dual-pronged approach to learning the material.

Find the right speed

You have to be honest with yourself about how you hear or read information, says Harrison. Some people have no problem listening to an audiobook at two-times speed and actually find that it forces them to concentrate harder, thus absorbing more, while others hear blurry white noise when they speed up their audiobook narration. The same applies to reading: You may have seen tips for speed reading or skimming and tried them, only to find that while you got through the book faster, your recall of it is woefully incomplete.

Build your own library

“Human brains have really small storage,” says Harrison. That means when you’re trying to learn a lot about a certain topic, you need a way to keep all of the information organized somehow. Within the Scribd app, you can see all of your notes and highlights under the Notebook tab — this allows you to build your own research library on a particular topic. Using something like this, or a separate document where you log all of the key information on a topic you’re learning about, can help you retain the information in a more cohesive way, says Harrison.

Take a break

If you’re trying to cram in information for a work presentation or striving to finally understand French history or to read an epic classic, you may find yourself hitting a point where you’re just not able to absorb any more information. Take a break, and let your brain do a hard reset. This can come from taking a walk in nature or getting a good night of sleep, says Harrison. He adds that often, you’ll realize you absorbed more than you thought you did once your brain has had a break — you might even find a solution to a problem you were trying to solve.

Read multiple books

A lot of readers (especially the type who love a library as large as Scribd) prefer bouncing between a few titles at once. This may not seem like an optimal way to retain knowledge, but Harrison says that it’s better to read what feels interesting and exciting at the time rather than forcing yourself to focus on one book at a time — and you may actually learn more in the process. “Humans aren’t good at multitasking, despite what some people may think,” he says. “But you absolutely can jump between a novel and a nonfiction book without losing the ability to learn.” Just don’t attempt to listen to an audiobook while reading another book at the same time!

Focus, don’t multitask

Especially when reading or listening to a book within an app, it’s incredibly tempting to try to multitask… You’ve likely had this happen, where you’re reading or listening and the urge to just quickly send a text, check email, or scroll Instagram. “Now that we have constant access to unlimited content, many of us feel like if we don't have more and more content coming in, we're not being productive. But it’s hurting our ability to learn,” says Harrison. “It’s one thing to listen to an audiobook on a walk, run or commute, when the activity that you're doing is sort of not something that requires intense focus. If you want to learn, you have to listen or read when it can be your primary focus."

Do the exercises

Raise your hand if you read self-improvement books or business books that include exercises to do, yet you’ve never paused to do a single one of the exercises. You’re not alone — but if you want to retain more from the books, doing the exercises really does help, says Harrison. Sure, you may not be able to do them at the moment — for example, if you’re driving and listening to an audiobook — but make a note to come back to the exercise when you do have the time. "I'm a huge fan of using exercises to enhance learning,” Harrison says. “You can read all about a topic, but the best way to actually learn is to do the thing!”

Revisit the exercises

Harrison is a fan of 'spaced repetition,’ where you read the book, do the exercise, and do another exercise (or repeat that same exercise) a week later. “If you're going to do two exercises, and you did both of those immediately after learning something, you will retain less than if you do one of them right after learning something and another one of them a week later,” he notes.

If you can’t retain this info, check out his audiobook where he does a deep dive into the topic, complete with several exercises to try!


About the Author: Molly Hurford

Molly is a writer and bookworm in love with all things wellness related. When not playing outside, she’s writing or podcasting about being outside and healthy habits for The Consummate Athlete. She also writes books, including the Shred Girls series. In her spare time, she runs, rides bikes, and hikes with her mini-dachshund and husband.
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