3 Ways To Remember The Information You Consume

How many blogs do you read a day? How many books do you read in a month? How much information do you take in over a year?

If you’re anything like me, it is quite a bit.

Pool of Knowldge/Image by Ian Muttoo

I have a list of blogs that I read regularly. It’s easy. They come to my inbox and I can choose what to read.

I’ve got more than a few bookshelves worth of books. It’s easy to go and pick one up and read it.

There’s also podcasts, audiobooks, webinars, and more that I take in.

The great information that is available is mind boggling.

And yet that is the problem.

I find myself jumping from one blog post to the next. One book to another. Podcasts and webinars are the same.

I consume and consume and consume. Rarely stopping to process and apply what I’ve learned.

Do you find yourself doing the same? If you’re like me, you do it more than you think.

“Because in truth, we aren’t really committed to improving and changing ourselves. We’re just drawn to positive, inspirational ENTERTAINMENT.”
Kevin Miller

Statistics show us that we remember ten percent of what we read, twenty percent of what we hear, and thirty percent of what we see. That’s pretty scary, huh?

But there’s good news. You can retain more of what you read, hear, and see. All it takes is time.

    • Revisit the material you’ve consumed
      One of the best things you can do is revisit the material you’ve consumed. When you reread, re-listen, or re-watch you will catch knowledge that the creator of the content wanted you to catch.

      Think about it. If it took the author a year to write the book will you really learn everything the author wanted you to learn in the first reading? You’re probably shaking your head and saying “Nope, I don’t think that will happen.

      “With that answer, decide to revisit the learning materials that have had the greatest impact on you. Take it in once again and see what jumps out at you this time around.


    • Take notes
      Create a strategy to take notes while you’re consuming the new knowledge.For books, I have 3X5 note cards that I use to take notes on. They work great as bookmarks as well.

      For podcasts, I struggle with taking notes as I’m normally driving or running. This makes it difficult to take notes on paper. So I try to use an audio recorder or text messages to record notes during podcasts.

      For webinars, it is fairly easy. I have a text editor open and ready to type in. When the presenter makes a great point, I type it into the text editor and am able to save it.

      Now remember, your notes won’t do you any good unless you have a plan to review them. Make sure you’re taking time to review what you’ve written. Without doing this you’ll lose much of what you’ve learned.


  • Slow down
    Lastly, take your time and slow down.

    Reread a tough or challenging section. A chapter has an interesting title? Focus on it and take your time. Soak in the information and make sure you’re processing it.The slower you take it in, the more time your brain has to process what it’s consuming. Let your brain work!

With all the information out there, we have so many choices and so little time. Yet it won’t do you much good unless you’re intentional about your learning.

Be intentional about consuming the information and applying it to your life. If you don’t, it will fall to the wayside.

Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.”
— Brian Tracy

Question: How do you retain the information that you take in? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I take notes in my journal about some of the things I come across. For blogs, I’ll “star” some blogs in Google Reader, so I can revisit them later in the week. Evernote has helped some, but I still need to get into a better pattern with this. Honestly, I resonate with your post. So much of what I intake gets left on the side of the road (so to speak). Thanks for the reminder.

    • Glad to be a reminder Jon.

    • I have thought about unsubscribing from every blogin my google reader and going to email subscriptions, but I love that feature of google reader…so I am staying!

  • I like to underline as I read. If something strikes me hard, I will put it on a post-it-note and file it away. If a book is particularly good, I might even work on a sermon series based around it (if it was that type of book).

    • Working great content into a sermon or a message is a great way to reinforce the idea Bill. Not only do you get the share the information with others, you get to run it through your mind a few more times.

  • Great practical advice, Joe. I was just thinking about this earlier today as I just started reading “The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews.

    Great book! I’m a quarter of the way through and loving it!

    For me, I love audio and it really helps if I go back over and listen to things a second, third, or even a fourth time.

    • That’s awesome. I’ve heard great things about The Traveler’s Gift and it’s sitting on my bookshelf. Can’t wait to get into it.

      For audio content review, do you listen to it back to back or do you revisit it?

      • Joe,
        It depends. I’ll do both depending on how well I liked the book or program and how relavent and easy to grasp the material is.

  • One thing I’ve done in the past, not so much now, is when I’m reading books I highlight the sentence or passage and then I take that highlight and write it into my moleskine notebook. I’ve also set up a document on my zip drive where I can type or copy it in, save it and read it later.

    Thanks for the reminder, Joe. Now if I can start reading the materials you suggested to me, I will reestablish this practice!

    • That’s a great strategy you had Thomas. Not only did you see it, but you reinforced it by physically writing it out.

    • I like to do that to…unless it’s a book I borrowed from a friend! haha…then I can’t.

  • Kevin Miller’s quote really nailed it. I’m definitely guilty of enjoying my inspirational entertainment!

    • It’s so easy to do many of us are guilty of it.

  • I’m a note taker. Watch me in church and you will see I hardly stop writing! Even if it’s a message I have heard before, I am taking notes.

    Ask my spouse, I have post-it notes scattered all over the office- I write notes about news stories, blogs, quotes, pretty much anything I feel is important. You would think it would diminish the importance, but it doesn’t. my system of madness works for me!

    • Haha, that might be overwhelming to me! How do you keep it all organized?

      • It’s organized chaos, but it works for me. I tend to be a bit of a control freak when it comes to certain things- example, my spice rack is alphabetized along with the canned goods. But when it comes to my office, all normal organization goes out the window.

  • Great tips Joe, this is a needed post because with consuming so much great content we have to remember and apply it. I would add if possible to take action right away to help retain something you saw, read or heard, I’ve been able to do that a few times.

    • You add a very valid point Kimanzi. Putting it into action will make it stick in your mind more than anything.

  • Great stuff! With so many blogs to read, I only remember the ones that post original content. If it is a reiteration, I will most likely not remember it.


  • By the way, my self-hosted blog is live now. I am waiting to announce it through my site in a few days when everything is set-up.

    I am loving the customization that self-hosted provides. I am nervous about followers wanting to switch over though.

    I wanted to ask you though…what major plugins do you use for this site? What plugin do you have for the sharing icons at the bottom of each of your posts? I really like that one!

    • Congrats on the switchover Brandon.

      You said you were worried about your followers switching over to the new site. What I would do is have your .info site redirect to the new address. You can do that through the company you bought the domain name. If you need any help in doing that, let me know and I’ll show lead you through it.

      The sharing buttons would be from ShareAHolic. I’ve really liked them so far.

      Post Teaser- I like this because it creates previews of the posts on your main page. Then people have to click through to continue reading. It keeps them engaged.

      Supreme Google Webfonts – Allows you to easily edit your fonts while typing up a new blog post. It also gives you the option of changing the font size and more right from the post editor.

      WP Greetbox – Creates a notification box at the top of the post reminding people to subscribe to the blog.


      The Tentblogger Simple Top Posts and Commenters – Creates a widget to show your top posts and commenters. Easy to use and with a simple edit you can remove your name from the top commenters list.

      Hope that helped!

      • Awesome! I’m surprised at how thorough your response was…thanks!

        As for the domain, I am going to put out a “We’ve moved” message probably friday.

        I would like a few days after to have the domain transfer to the new site. To do this, do you have to pay an extra fee?

        And I will download those plugins…thanks! Those are exactly the ones I was looking for!

        Also, to do email subscribers, is mailchimp the best? I have an account with them, and I haven’t figured out how to incorporate it into the site. Is there a plugin to have a sign up box on the sidebar that will automatically send out new posts to the subscribers?


      • Awesome! I’m surprised at how thorough your response was…thanks!

        As for the domain, I am going to put out a “We’ve moved” message probably friday.

        I would like a few days after to have the domain transfer to the new site. To do this, do you have to pay an extra fee?

        And I will download those plugins…thanks! Those are exactly the ones I was looking for!

        Also, to do email subscribers, is mailchimp the best? I have an account with them, and I haven’t figured out how to incorporate it into the site. Is there a plugin to have a sign up box on the sidebar that will automatically send out new posts to the subscribers?


        • You’re welcome Brandon. It was no problem as it’s something I enjoy talking about.

          There should be no extra fee to redirect your old domain name to your new one. Should just be a setting to change.

          I’ve used feedburner and it was alright. I’ve switched over to MailChimp recently and just now getting subscriptions from that. It’s easy to use, has a great layout, and it’s free up to your first 2000 subscribers. I think it’s been pretty awesome so far.

          If you’re going to sign up, feel free to do so by clicking here

          • For mailchimp, how do you get it to automatically send out the posts when you publish them?

            Also, what widget do you use for the mailchimp?

            • You have to setup a list and create a campaign. Basically linking your RSS feed to MailChimp.

              Dustin helped me get the widget together. It’s one of the MailChimp plugins plus some custom coding.

              • I have the account and the campaign, but I haven’t found how to link and RSS feed. I might try to ask him…

                There is so much to learn on this self-hosted site. I am having beacon ad problems right now. My site right now does not display the ads properly. It is all bunch together…haha! The joys of getting it together!

                • Yeah, it can take a bit to get it setup. To setup MailChimp to grab from your RSS feed, click on CAMPAIGNS in the top right bar.

                  Next, click on CREATE CAMPAIGN. That will give you a dropdown menu with a few choices. One of those will be RSS-DRIVEN CAMPAIGN.

                  You’ll be taken to a new screen where you can enter your feed address and what time the newsletter will be sent out. Make sure it’s after your blog post will go live or your subscribers will have to wait until the next day to get the email.

                  • Gotcha! When I have some time, I might go that route. MailChimp has a lot of options.

      • The Tentblogger Simple Top Posts and Commenters – Thanks for the tip on this one.

        • No problem Jon. There is a small tweak that needs to be made to the code to take your name off of the list but it’s fairly simple. I’ll shoot you an email with the instructions.

          • Thanks, Joe. I’ll look for your e-mail. I love the opportunity to share blogging tips here. Thanks for using your space in this way.

  • These are some great points man.

    I also use a 3X5 index card when reading a book. I mark the thing I want to remember then put the page and a note on the card. So I can easily go back to it on another day or when I’m looking to write or think about that topic. This has been a huge resource when writing blog content.

    I think It would benefit be to slow down and take more time to apply the things I learn into my every day life.

    Great points and post!!!

    • Thanks Dan! When using your 3X5 cards, do you organize them by topic or do they all go in a pile and you randomly draw them out for inspiration?

      • After reading the book I put it in the front of the book. So I don’t lose them and can easily go back to the book and look at it.

  • I always take notes from the blogs, books and podcasts that I read. I have a section that I pull from many peoples blog posts and put them into Evernote so that I can keep track of what I read and revisit it. Thanks for reinforcing the crazy things I do.

    • Evernote has been awesome for note taking. What process do you have for reviewing your notes?

      • I have different notebooks that I use a categories like Bloggers on my ipad. Then on the web, I clip posts that I like and put them into that notebook and add tags to them so I can easily search for what i want. Leadership, Motivation, Productivity, etc. Keeps stuff organized.

  • I don’t know if anyone has said it yet, but the best way I retain things is to consume them as if I was going to teach it the next day. Adding to your retention percentages, on average we remember 80% of what we TEACH. So when I’m learning something new, in my mind I pretend as if I’m going to have to present what I’m learning the next day for a class of 100 people.

    It takes some practice, but it has definitely worked for me– especially when I actually DO teach the material.

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting Dustin. You added a great point. I think we remember better when we approach consumption that way because we run the information through our minds multiple times, trying to figure out the best way to present it to our audience. What do you think?

    • Monica Dix

      It’s corny that I learned this watching the TV series ER, but I’ve found that learning many things, especially doing things using my hands (I’m a cook) is indeed easier if I follow this:

      Watch one, do one, teach one.

      Thanks for a very useful post!


      • I love that! It’s amazing where we can find our inspiration from.

  • Great post – when I’m reading a blog post that is raising some questions and piquing my curiousity, I’ll write down my thoughts on post-it notes, so I can discuss them with the author.

    I think in our lives there is so much information overload, that we need to take a moment to slow down and actually process the information or we are just being unproductive.

    • Oh, that’s a great idea Josh! I’d never thought of writing down thoughts while reading a blog post to talk about it with the author. I can see that stirring some amazing conversations.

  • Julia Tomiak

    Joe, great ideas! I love index cards and used them A LOT in grad school. I guess since I’m studying writing, I should do the same. I’ll need to buy more, and a cool box to put them in. And then, I can get dividers, and organize them by content. Thanks so much- I often feel overwhelmed, and you have helped bring some order to chaos!

    • Dividers are a great idea for organization. Another great way to be able to easily identify topics is by using sitcky tabs. They sit just above the cards and are easy to see.

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  • These are really useful and helping tips that we can use easily in our daily routine to remember important information in our life.