How much information do you remember from what you read 2 weeks ago?

How much frequently does it happen to you to read a specific non-fiction book or article and then 2 weeks later, when you really need the information, you don’t remember it any more? I guess that it happen to you often when you were at school. I had several times in the past the perception that I didn’t have a good memory because I was forgetting so fast. If you still have the feeling that you have a bad memory, don’t worry, most probably it is “normal human”.

The forgetting curve

Hermann Ebbinghaus developed in 1885 the “forgetting curve” (see figure below). As you can see, only 1 hour after you have lost already less then 50% of the information, in 24h after only 33% of the information can be remembered and in 1 month only 20%.

The cone of learning

The”forgetting curve” does not distinguish about the way how the information was learned and this make a big difference. When you were at school, which information did you tend to remember better: what was learned in theoretical or practical class? The practical class of corse. Why? It is because you had a more active involvement. The way how the information is acquired makes an important difference. Dale have developed in 1969 the “Cone of learning” (see below table). The best way to retain the information is by doing the real thing and the worst way is reading.

The subject question can be answered by “Cone of Learning”. A person remember in average only 10% of the content that the person read 2 weeks after.

“read the book, study the book and become the book. to retain 90% of the content, practice what you learned, one book at the time.”

— ProjectYourLife

The 7 steps to improve your book learning

You can memorize more from what you read by changing your learning method. Below I describe the 7 steps:

  1. Choose the right book and read at the right time. The best would be that you have a particular pain point that you have to solve in the short-term that can work as your learning motivation. One example could be that next week you have a speech to give and you want that the presentation is successful. Another example could be that you have an important exam in one month and you want to be able to memorize the information so that you pass it. You should not take more then one day reading per chapter.
  2. Take notes with a pencil during the time that you are reading. Underline what you read that was new and of interest for you. Make a checkbox every time that a referred text gave you the idea of a possible action that you can take for implementation; describe the action.
  3. Read the book 3 times. Repetition is communication and, in that case, memorization because it reduces the forgetting curve. In the second reading, just read what you underline in the first time and underline a second time only what you forgot or what is of extreme importance for you. In the last reading, read only what you underline 2 times.
  4. Make a mind-map. Take what you underline 2 times and organize the information in a mind-map. Next to each node try to draw a picture that comes to your mind related with the specific statement.
  5. Do flashcards with spaced repetition. Transform the mind-map into a flashcard. For that, in one side of the flashcard you write the question and in the other side the respective answer. There are good APPs in mobile.
  6. Make a study plan. Collect the check boxes in the book into an action plan. Decide “What”, “Where”, “When” for each action. Decide also when you would like to learn the flashcard set. Define the period of time when you want to revisit the mind-map
  7. Perform a 30-day challenge. During 30-days, Study the flashcard set and close all checkboxes from the action plan.

Take aways:

  • In 1 hour you will lose 50% of the information
  • If you want to memorize more, be active
  • If you want to learn faster, you need to practice your learning
  • Don’t do a training, course, read a book if you will not utilize your learning immediately

21-days challenge:

  • Buy a book that you want to learn and use the above “7 steps to improve your book learning”
  • In the next meetings, take notes and participate in the discussion


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