In this post, I explain my process for making the most of my reading by saving all the important information quickly and reliably with two of my favorite tools.
Wait a minute, I don’t have a Kindle
You don’t need one! Any eBook purchased through amazon (or checked out via KindleUnlimited) can be read either online with Amazon Cloud Reader, or with their app, available on many mobile devices. All of the functionality explained here will still work.
Because your brain is a processor, not a hard disk. It even performs pretty poorly as RAM. If you’re not a tech-geek like me, suffice to say your brain should not be used to remember things. Your brain can make decisions based on information, but never trust it to remember anything important. Now, long ago in days of yore, our primitive ancestors had to keep a journal or diary, or in some cases several notebooks. In these stacks of pressed wood pulp, they would physically scribe the information they needed with graphite or ink.
And finding information in these journals? Good luck. If your organizational system for record keeping was in the top 1% of the world, you might be able to find something in a few minutes by locating the right book, and then locating the right page, but you could only find what you knew you were looking for.
Now, some people prefer this analog method, and some have spent a great amount of time perfecting this analog art of journaling. Side note here, I used to keep a bullet journal myself, but it wasn’t for me. I’ve linked it above, because who am I to tell you what organizational systems will work best for you? But I digress, about this note-taking task…
Thankfully, we live in the future, and we have the cloud. Not only is storage space in the cloud very cheap (in some cases free). It’s durable. A computer can’t crash and take your data with it if it’s stored on the cloud. ALL THE COMPUTERS in the cloud would have to crash for this to happen. And searching? Boy howdy do computers make that a breeze. With Evernote, you can search by text, and not only will it find the information you’re looking for, it may find related information your puny animal brain didn’t remember to consider. Writing a blog post about willpower? Sure you know you took some notes about it when you read Mental Muscles by Adelle Marigold, but you might have forgotten that The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg had some great information about it as well. Thanks Evernote!
I follow this four step process
- Read book. Highlight interesting parts.
- Copy Highlights to Evernote.
- Re-Read, fast-forwarding to highlighted parts, add notes if the information provokes any thought.
- Schedule review reminders.
Step 1: Read Book
Pretty self explanatory. Read the book, and if you find something that is interesting or sticks out, highlight it in the kindle reader.
Step 2: Copy the highlights into Evernote
If you navigate to kindle.amazon.com, and you can view your highlights and notes for recently read books there. Now, some people will suggest using the Evernote Webclipper to clip the whole page to a note, and save yourself sometime. I’ve found however, that because amazon uses infinite scrolling, the webclipper may not get everything. Additionally, although the text will still be search-able, it won’t be nicely formatted, so I have some extra steps, but I really feel the juice is worth the squeeze.
I copy all the text from my notes into a text editor (I use Atom a powerful text editor for coding computer applications, but even notepad works fine for this purpose). I highlight some of the text that amazon adds to the page like “delete this highlight”, use the find operation of my text editor, and “Replace All” with an empty space. This leaves me with loosely formated, but clean text of my highlights. This is the raw text, that I paste into a new Evernote note. Once I have it in Evernote, I use the bulletpoints and tabbing to arrange the data as it was in the book. Top level items for chapter names, under that section names, and under that individual highlights. The actual tab structure varies on the structure of the book, but as long as it has some consistent format, it’s fine for me.
Step 3: Re-Read, and add notes
Once you’re done with step 2, the next day or so, go back through the book and look at your highlights. If you’ve had any thoughts about what you’ve highlighted, add your thoughts as a note. Either add it in the kindle reader, and move it to Evernote, or add it directly into Evernote.
Step 4: Schedule review reminders
Now after reading a new book, it’s important to go back periodically and re-read your notes. If you have more thoughts, add them. I use Todoist for this, but Evernote has reminders built-in. Review it recently at first, but then you can space out your reviews. Currently, after reading and finishing the first 3 steps for a book, I set a review reminder for 1 week out, 1 month out, 3 months out, and then annually. You want to revisit your notes because your opinions may have changed, or you may have learned something new that sheds new light on information you’ve read before.
I’ve just out lined my personal process. I encourage you to experiment and find what works for you. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear about them on twitter)