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11 powerful ways to remember more of what you study

Reading more is certain to improve your professional and personal lives. Reading has been the secret to the success of many people, from Bill Gates, who reads 50 books a year, to Elon Musk, who claims to have read 10+ hours a day when he was younger (including the entire Encyclopedia Britannica when he was only 9). 

Unfortunately, whether you’re reading to broaden your horizons or to advance your career, finding more time to read in our already-hectic schedules is difficult. Especially with so much information bombarding us on a daily basis. How do we make the most of the limited amount of time we have to read and retain what we read?

We’ll cover everything you need to know to make the most of your reading time in this guide, from how your brain converts information into long-term memory to what to do before, during, and after you read.

How your brain converts reading into memory (and why it doesn’t always) 

Reading won’t help you if you can’t remember what you’ve read. The problem is that your brain can’t store everything, so it has to decide what’s important and will be used later. 

So, how does it arrive at that conclusion? The most straightforward way to think about this is to consider an English class. 

Most people can recall the plot, characters, and perhaps a few key scenes from books they read in English class. Yet they can’t recall entire books they read just a few months ago. Why is this the case?

The truth is that you remember because you had to. Because you were reading for a purpose (getting a grade) (whether for a paper or a quiz), you knew you’d have to use the information and connect it to larger themes or ideas in class. But what about that book you bought on the road last weekend? It did help pass the time, but it wasn’t for anything. 

And, just as your High School curriculum was designed to build on what you were learning, the more you can connect what you learn from reading, the more knowledgeable you’ll become. This isn’t to say you should only read things you’ll use right away. However, if you want to remember what you read, you must be specific and intentional. 

Know why you’re reading. 

Reading without a goal will not allow you to retain the information you read. You should understand why you’re reading something and whether it will help you achieve your goals. Are you reading for pleasure? To learn more about something or someone? To acquire a new skill? Or to launch a new venture?

You must have a clear idea of what you hope to gain from the book. You can’t expect to take in an infinite amount of information and remember every minor detail that isn’t pertinent to your goal. 

Knowing why you’re reading will help you focus on the important parts of the information. It will save you time and increase the impact of your reading. 

Skim thoroughly. 

If you are reading for pleasure, you do not need to read the content thoroughly. When reading to recall information, it must be thoroughly scanned.

It entails carefully reading the headings, tables, graphs, and paragraphs. To absorb the most important parts of the text, you should adjust your reading pace based on your reading goal. 

The following are the advantages of skimming, which sound simple but are important in reading. 

  • Primes the memory to help you remember information quickly the second time you read the material.
  • Directs your brain to look for important parts of the document in specific segments of the document. 
  • Creates a sense of overall reading and comprehension of the text, making it easier to remember specific details. 

Share Your Knowledge with Others. 

Sharing ideas from books with friends, family, and colleagues is one of the best ways to retain what you read. 

Sharing important ideas you’ve read with different people, including specific examples of how the ideas apply to you, will help you retain what you’ve read, just like humming a catchy song helps you remember the lyrics.

If you’d rather keep your thoughts to yourself, you can use The Feynman Technique, a powerful accelerated learning strategy developed by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. 

The Feynman Technique is simple: take a blank sheet of paper, write the title of the book at the top, and then write down the key ideas from the book as if explaining it to an eight-year-old child.

You’ll improve your reading comprehension and remember everything you read if you practice explaining key ideas from a book in a simple way that even a complete beginner can understand. 

Connect the Book’s Idea to What You Already Know 

You can retain more of what you read and improve your reading comprehension by connecting new ideas to familiar concepts. You’ll also discover novel solutions to old problems because new insights emerge at the intersection of ideas from various domains. 

Simply ask yourself, “What does this remind me of?” the next time you’re reading an important idea in a book.

Read Similar Books 

After reading countless books on similar topics, I realized that the information and knowledge contained within different books are like the branches of a tree. 

Although each branch appears distinct, they all grow from the same trunk. 

In other words, the fundamental ideas in seemingly disparate books are often similar. 

It will aid you in connecting ideas and remembering what you read. It will save you time and energy that could have been spent searching for the best books to read or reading bad books. 

When you read the fundamental books on a subject, you create a solid foundation, or “tree trunk,” on which to accumulate new ideas that reinforce your existing knowledge on the subject. So, while new books may appear to contain new information, they all draw ideas from the same “trunk” of knowledge.

Organize your highlights and notes. 

If you decide to take extensive notes on a book, there are several tools available to help you remember what you read. Personally, I keep my notes organized in Google Docs because they are searchable and accessible from my phone and laptop. 

Prior to using that, my written notes were dispersed across multiple notebooks that went missing. This meant I’d have to rewrite my notes, which would be a huge waste of time and energy.

If you want to type or handwrite notes from a book, you can use a reading stand to keep the book steady as you turn the pages (otherwise, the pages will close and you’ll have to keep reopening them, which can be tiring). 

Only read books that you like (at least twice). 

Eating is similar to reading. The more junk food you consume, the worse your health and body shape will become. 

Similarly, the more bad books you read, the worse your knowledge base becomes and the more difficult it is to remember what you read. We often begin reading a new book because it comes highly recommended and is popular. But that doesn’t make it a bad book. 

And, more often than not, we punish ourselves for not finishing an average book. 

A better approach is to avoid reading any book that isn’t good. 

After reading a fair share of bad books that left me with a bad taste in my mouth, I devised an effective three-step strategy to help me separate the good from the bad: 

Step 1: Read the table of contents quickly to get the “gist” of the book, then skim through the first few paragraphs of the first chapter and the last few paragraphs of the last chapter. Continue to the next step only if the book appears to be valuable. 

Step 2: Read the first few paragraphs and the last few paragraphs of specific chapters that interest you. Proceed to the next step only if the book still appears to be useful to you.

Step 3: Open the book anywhere in the middle and read one chapter in its entirety. If you’re still interested, it’s probably a good idea to read it from beginning to end. 

Great books, as a general rule, are thought-provoking and leave you feeling slightly exhausted after reading. They make you wiser as well as more knowledgeable. 

If the book you’re reviewing passes all three steps and meets these criteria, it’s probably worth your time to read the entire thing. 

But we’re not finished yet. 

While bad books should only be tasted and good books should be devoured, great books should be thoroughly chewed and digested. To put it another way, great books should be read more than once. And, in the words of playwright Oscar Wilde, “there is no point in reading a book if one cannot enjoy reading it over and over again.” 

Create a mental image 

It will be imprinted in your long-term memory if you can turn the words of a book into a mental picture. Creating a mental image is an effective method for remembering what you read. When you come across a new concept, take a moment to pause and try to visualize it as clearly as possible. 

A picture can convey the essence of thousands of words and is therefore easier to remember and recall. Learning through association refers to the process of visualizing a concept.

However, simply forming a mental image is insufficient to ensure success. To visualize the concept, the reader must actively read and engage in the content. 

Practice as soon as you finish reading. 

Reading causes the brain to generate constant memories of words and meanings. Recalling immediately after reading stimulates brain activity, which helps to solidify the information. 

Start practicing as soon as you finish a reading session. Maintain your focus and avoid multitasking because it prevents the information from consolidating in your memory. Consider the book you read later in the day and plan to read it again in the coming days.

Read within your attention span. 

Memorization requires you to read within your attention span. If you can’t concentrate, no matter how much you read, it won’t stick with you. The majority of people have a short attention span. As a result, it’s best not to read dense and complicated content for more than 15 minutes at a time. It might help to take a break in between and quiz yourself on what you read and how much you remember. 

The information you consume during your attention span is more likely to be remembered later. As a result, readers should try to improve their ability to concentrate for longer periods of time.

Read before going to bed. 

The best way to put this into practice is to read or listen to your book right before going to bed, and then sleep well. 

To avoid disrupting your sleep while reading in bed, use a clip-on warm book light, which will make reading easier on the eyes while avoiding the effects of blue light from lamps and bulbs, which cause sleep deprivation.


Many people have trouble remembering what they read. However, there are numerous ways to maximize the benefits of reading. 

This article discusses some practical methods for overcoming memory barriers and remembering what you read. Choose the method that works best for you and stick to it if you want to see results.

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