I’m an avid reader. Last year, I challenged myself to read one book per week. That challenge was difficult for me to achieve, but I finally cracked it. I’ll share my secret with you of how to quickly read a book and retain what you’ve read.
In order to read a book a week, I needed a repeatable process. I ran an experiment to find the sweet spot for me. I’ll share that with you.
To keep the experiments consistent, I picked one book to use: Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Duke. BTW, this is an awesome book!
Experiment 1: Speed Reading
First, I tried to learn speed reading. Years ago, a friend of mine swore by her ability to speed read. So I went online and did a course in speed reading. Yuck, I didn’t enjoy the learning process of it. But I stuck with it.
Results: Wow, that didn’t stick for me. Though I could fly through a book, the concepts weren’t cementing themselves in my brain. The next day, I couldn’t tell you the main hypothesis or key points of the book. That process didn’t work for me.
Experiment 2: Audio Format
Arlen, my colleague at XWP, told me that he enjoys reading books through the audio version. Okay, I’m game. I bought the audio version of the book and sat down to listen. I got through 5 chapters of it.
Results: I could speed up the audio which helped me to get through those chapters fairly quickly. But I didn’t retain the information. Then I tried 1.0 speed. The next day, I couldn’t recall the main points of the book or any of the stories.
Unexpected Benefit: I really enjoyed hearing the book come to life as the author read it to me. It gave the material a personality by weaving in another dimension of storytelling.
Experiment 3: Audio + Digital. Result: Success!
Then I got an idea. What if I combine the audio and digital formats? I observed the following:
- I really enjoy reading the book, stopping to think about it, writing notes, and highlighting key points.
- Plus, I learned from experiment 2 that I enjoy the author (or narrator) telling me the story as it brought the material to life.
Let’s give it a try.
Here’s my process:
- Play the audio on my iPhone and put my earplugs in to block out any distractions. I play it at 1.5 speed.
- I follow along in the digital version on my iPad.
- When a key observation or insight is revealed, I stop the audio to reflect, adding notes, and highlighting the section for later recall.
Results: My reading time was cut by ~31% AND my retention significantly increased.
I finished the entire book in ~3.8 hours (including stop/start time to reflect), which I split over 2 days, AND I’m still retaining the key points. Note, the audiobook is ~5.5 hours in length.
Did I find a secret for me? Let’s try it again to see if it’s repeatable.
Is It Repeatable?
I tried the same process for 4 more books. Same results.
Wow, this process really works for me. Now I’m able to rapidly consume a book AND retain it.
Do you like to read? If yes, give this process a try. Share below how it works for you.