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You’ve read that interesting book, now what?

Am loving all the posts on my LinkedIn where people are sharing their book recommendations. If you want to make the most of what you read or listen to - check this post out!

We live in an era where we consume so much information and insights. Maybe you just caught a youtube video/google talk/ podcast /LinkedIn post from your favorite person that had mindblowing insights. Read a book / heard an audible that made you feel invigorated and energized. Stumbled on that tech article/preso with quotes and stats you could directly use at your next work presentation. But as the days' roll by, this information fades. Now the next time you want to implement some strategies you can’t quite remember the framework you were so sure would help you. The next time you create that work preso, you don’t remember where you stored these stats and need to dig deep to re-discover them. This is inevitable - our brain is meant to process information, not store it.

So how do we ensure this doesn’t happen? How do we ensure the killer insights and powerful ideas stay with us and are available to us when we truly need them? I found the answer to this question in the book “Building a second brain” by Tiago Forte. It changed how I consume books, videos, and other interesting info. Sharing some top insights with you here. Try below the next time you read/listen to something interesting or valuable.

STEP 1: Capture / Highlight interesting information

The next time you are listening to an audible or podcast or reading a book that’s interesting/ valuable take time to capture some highlights.

  1. What to capture? You don’t need to capture everything - just capture things that strike you as surprising i.e. not what you already know. When information surprises you that means the idea strikes a chord with you and makes you think. As a rule of thumb, strive to save no more than 10 percent.

  2. Where to capture? When I read a digital book (kindle/libby) - I simply highlight the lines and use tools (“bookcision” app) to export highlights. For physical books - I use a highlighter or capture thoughts in apple notes. For videos, audible, podcasts etc I use apple notes again. I find this the simplest because I can pause reading and use the voice-to-text feature to quickly jot down my thoughts. Does it inaccurately capture ‘stakeholders’ as ‘shakshuka’? Sure :) Does it improve how fast I take notes? Absolutely! :)

Note: At this point, you are not putting too much thought into any highlight you are capturing. You will have the opportunity to revisit these notes at a later point in time so focus on capturing things quickly.

STEP 2: Organizing this info

I use a folder on my iCloud notes titled “Insights and Ideas” where I capture a subfolder for each book I read. Insights from podcasts and videos go as a note in this folder as well. I might revisit this if the number of notes becomes unmanageable but it works well for me right now.

Side note: Tiago has very powerful ideas for organizing information (all digital info) in your life - check it out if you are interested.

STEP 3: Progressively summarize

Once you are done with the entire book/ video take the time to summarize your insights. Structure the highlights, add your own notes and insights and make this summary personal to you. Tiago recommends you do this in a progressive manner i.e. reread the highlights multiple times and each time distill it down even further. He has a killer youtube playlist to show his process. This step might feel time-consuming but it is so worth it! This will help you extract the most important info from the book/ video, why it resonated with you, and how you can make use of it. I simply copy the highlights over to a new note within the subfolder and hack away at it. This can be a passive activity ie the next time you are in the doctor's office or are waiting for something to get done whip out your phone and use those minutes to create a personal summary.

That’s it! Your insights and learnings are now just a quick search / browse (folder) away and you can revisit these with ease. I’ve been doing this for the last few months for some of my favorite books and have found this super valuable. The whole process also forces you to read “actively” ie process the info you are reading and the progressive summarization (re-reading the highlights multiple times) prompts new thoughts and ideas. Try it out!

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