Learn more, remember more


The other day I mentioned the value of spaced repetition for learning and retention. You review the ideas you’ve learned and want to remember at a later date, often more than once, to help you better understand and remember the material.

There are other ways to enhance your comprehension and retention, however, and you can use them with or without spaced repetition.

Instead of merely re-reading your notes, use one or more of the following techniques to learn more and remember more:

  1. Add meaning. When you read a book or watch a video presentation, you’re taking in someone else’s ideas. You can enhance your comprehension and retention of those ideas by adding context from your own thoughts or experiences. Add your opinion, your doubts, your questions, or your own examples, to further explain or differentiate the material.
  2. Review other sources. What do others say about the subject? Add their ideas, examples, and stories to your notes. Note how they describe things, where they agree or disagree, and their reasons.
  3. Explain it. Test your understanding by imagining you’re explaining the concepts to a friend. Recite what you got out of the article, book, or video, what you want them to understand and remember.
  4. Use what you learned. Connect the material to one of your goals or projects. If you’re preparing a new presentation, for example, find ways to add some of what you learned to that presentation.
  5. Create an “executive summary”. Re-read your notes, think about them, and write a few sentences or paragraphs representing the most important takeaways.

Instead of just re-reading what someone else wrote or said, or your notes about what they wrote or said, go deeper. Add your own thoughts about the information. Put it in your own words. You’ll understand it better and remember it longer.