How to Absorb Information Better & Get More Done

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2. Use a highlighter

One of the mistakes people make early on is that they give up highlighting, either because they end up marking too many things or were told by teachers that it’s a useless endeavor. The truth is that highlighting can be a great tool – if used correctly. You shouldn’t use it on everything, and you shouldn’t use it once every fifty pages. Instead, you’ll want to focus your efforts on highlighting the author’s summary statements. They’ll often ramble on and on about one point for several pages, and provide at the end a neat little bow tie shaped paragraph that definitively states the point they were trying to get across. Highlight this, and when you go back to skim the book, you’ll have everything you need to know ready at a glance. I can’t tell you how many times this helped me when going back to review a book for a test.


Benefits of Using a To-Do List

However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

  • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
  • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
  • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
  • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
  • You feel more organized.
  • It helps you with planning.

3. Process

Scanning and absorbing can both be done without much deep or abstract thought.

They’re more mechanical than processing in that respect. But processing is where we actually learn information in a meaningful way. A way that we can then apply to the project at hand and to future projects.

There are a few ways to process the information you scan and absorb, and choosing the right one depends both on the information you’re looking at and your own learning style. Read on for some of the possibilities.

Image by jez

Rephrase What You’ve Read

Rephrasing what you’ve read can be done during the absorption stage (while taking notes) or afterward.

Scan and absorb the information as detailed above and then write out a short paragraph or two about what you just read. Sure, it might remind you a bit too much of all those reading assignments in school, but there’s a reason you were assigned that type of thing so often: it works and really does help you retain information.

Try It Out

If you’re reading a how-to article, try what it’s telling you.

This type of processing is particularly suited to short how-to articles that have advice you can repeat over and over again on multiple projects.

Gain More Experience

This is related to trying it out, but gaining more experience in a particular subject can give you the opportunity to not only try what you’ve learned, but to also expand on it with your own knowledge as you learn more.

Look for opportunities where you can apply the concepts you’ve scanned and absorbed. The more experience you get, the more you’ll learn from just a few minutes of scanning and absorbing.

Dispute It

Argument can be a great way to learn more about something. This works best with opinion pieces or articles where there are opposing viewpoints or options.

When you read something, try looking at it from the opposite angle. Poke holes in it, look for what it’s missing or has overlooked, and then write down those opposing views.

One of two things will likely happen when you do this. Either you’ll find that the original information you read stands up well to criticism and you’ll have a better understanding of it overall. Or, you’ll realize that there are better approaches and you may turn in a new direction. In either case, you’ll have more knowledge than you did when you started.

Creating Content Suitable for Scan-Absorb-Process

The flip-side of learning to use the scan-absorb-process method for learning things is to create articles that keep this method in mind.

Those seeking information, online especially, often use this method either consciously or subconsciously and are more likely to turn to your site if your information is laid out in a manner that’s conducive to this method.

Here’s a simple questionnaire to cross-check your content:

  • Do you use bold, italic, and other font styles to make important bits stand out?
  • Do you use headings and sub-headings?
  • Do you use lists to reinforce important points?
  • Do the images you’ve used to illustrate your content help to clarify your meaning?
  • Are your paragraphs short (but not too short, at least 3-4 sentences)?
  • Do you use traditional paragraph format (a thesis sentence, followed by a few sentences supporting your thesis, with the last sentence a conclusion)?

Note-taking from books

We’ve now seen how to take notes in lectures more effectively. A rather different kettle of fish is taking notes from books. On the one hand, it’s easier because you’re not under such time pressure, and you don’t have to keep up with what somebody is saying. On the other hand, however, the temptation is simply to copy down entire passages of books. Why bother note-taking from books? Because, as with lectures and classes, taking notes helps you engage more with what you’re learning, and the act of writing down the salient points means you’re more likely to remember them. Here’s how to do it effectively.

Use bullet points

A good way of making your notes more succinct, and of ensuring you summarise the salient points rather than copying everything out, is to use bullet points. If possible, try to keep each bullet point to no more than a single line; this forces you to be concise, as well as making each nugget of information easier to remember.

Have an end-goal in mind

The chances are that you’re reading a book with a view to using its material in an essay. If this is the case, ensure that you keep your essay question in mind and only note down points that will be useful in the essay. This means you don’t waste time writing down things that won’t actually be useful in constructing your argument.

Organise your notes

Using your bullet points, add a heading to each section so that you know what each segment of your notes is about. One way of organising your notes is that the heading outlines the premise of an argument, while the bullet points note each of the supporting arguments.

About Anthony Metivier

Anthony Metivier has taught as a professor, is the Anthony Metivier has taught as a professor, is the creator of the acclaimed Magnetic Memory Method and the author behind a dozen bestselling books on the topic of memory and language learning… Read More

Anthony Metivier has taught as a professor at:

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