How to Retrieve What You’ve Read—Almost Instantly

This is a guest post by Dwayne Morris. He is the author of The Outrageous Life, a speaker and consultant, who also serves on the staff of his local church. You can read his blog or follow him on Twitter.

“Readers are leaders and leaders are readers.” I can remember when and where I heard that phrase for the first time. It was at a Campus Crusade meeting on a Thursday night in Hardin Hall on the campus of Clemson University.

Word from a Book, Highlighted in Green - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #18259623

Photo courtesy of ©

I’m not sure why those words are burned into my mind, but this quote took my leadership to the next level. Soon after, I started soaking up anything I could find on the topic of leadership.

As I began this component of my leadership development, I reasoned, “Why would anyone read this stuff without the means of sharing and revisiting it from time to time?” I could not understand why anyone would read through a book without a pen and/or highlighter.

To read a book just to say you read it simply baffled me. I understand we all have different learning styles, but unless you have a photographic memory, there is no way you can retrieve what you have read in less than sixty seconds. I knew I needed a way to keep the golden nuggets of leadership within reach.

The next defining moment in my “readership journey” came when I met Steve Wright. Steve is an author, speaker, Student Minister and all things leadership. He shared with me how most of his creativity and teaching material came from what he was reading.

He also divulged his system of reading and filing. This compelled me to create my own methodology for capturing what I was reading and then put it in a format that would allow me to retrieve it quickly. Here’s the method to my madness:

  1. Read good books. This may be a no-brainer, but I don’t read arbitrary books. If someone hasn’t recommended a title or author, I don’t touch it. This is where crowd-sourcing is a key component to my leadership development. Hence, I’m currently finishing up Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.
  2. Never read without a pen and/or highlighter. If you are reading good books and your intent for reading is to learn, then you need to be ready to mark those nuggets when you find them.I understand this might push some of my OCD friends over the edge, but trust me, the librarian will not show up on your door step demanding a fee for damaged books. Not to mention that studies have revealed that you tend to read faster when you use a pen to help pace your eyes along the text.
  3. Finish the book and rewind. When I complete a book, I’m only halfway to the finish line. My next step is to go back to the beginning and revisit the principles, illustrations, and examples that caught my attention the first time through.As I re-read those sentences or paragraphs, I search for a key word that would identify the topic it addresses and circle it. If I am not able to find that word, I will write a word in the margin.
  4. Create your own index. This is the extra mile. Now that I have done the work to read, mark and identify, I need a tool to help me get to it as fast as you can. I will ask my assistant, Vickie, to flip through the pages of my work and begin composing a list of the key words I have attached to the information.She will also attach page numbers to the key word. If I have used that word in several areas, she just adds those page numbers in sequence. In the end, I will have a list of key words and all the pages attached to those words and will arrange them in alphabetical order. (Note: I use MS Excel. MS Word will work as well.)
  5. Cut and paste. Hold on, you are almost finished. My last step is to look at the book I have processed and determine how many blank pages are in the front and back, covers included. I also measure the dimensions of those pages. This is critical as I want the pages of my index to fit inside the book.I will modify the settings for my margins to match the dimensions for the book. Once this is done, I determine how many pages my index created and make sure I have enough blank pages in the book. If not, I will adjust font size and even font type to make sure all of my index pages will fit. Finally, I’ll grab some rubber cement and paste these pages on the blank pages of my book.
  6. But wait, there’s one more step. As I began this process, it occurred to me that I needed a Master Index of the books I complete. This allows me to see all of the books I have read that mention a particular topic. So if I need material on Social Media, I can see which books and authors reference Social Media.

The bottom line here is that you must have a means to retrieve what you read. It helps you stay sharp and it elevates your value to others who know you are a disciplined reader and can share what you learn.

Question: Do you have a method for retaining and retrieving what you read? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • David Gross

    Thank you for sharing your reading and recall process.  Great tips!  I would like to ask if you use Kindle or e-books?  If so, what recording/recall process do you use?  I have recently become a fan of e-books.  Being a missionary overseas, the ability to download a book immediately is efficient and much cheaper than buying books and having them shipped to where I live.  I use the Kindle software on my phone and laptop.  I use the highlight and notes features with the Kindle, but I was wondering if you take other measures for cataloging and recall?  Thanks!

    • Dwayne Morris

      Great question David. I read both paper and ebooks (with a leaning to paper.) For my ebooks, I go to my Amazon account and print my highlights/notes and then apply this process. There is a small glitch. Amazon will only allow you to print a limited number of pages. If you have a lot of highlights, you may have to be a little more selective.  Hope that helps.

      • Jordan Collier

        See if this blog post can help you with your ebook question.

        • David Gross

           Jordan, thank you very much!  I have recently been organizing my Evernote content and working on taking full advantage of Evernote.  Your post was a great help!

        • Nathan Dunn

           Great post, Jordan! Thanks for the step-by-step instructions with screenshots!

      • Katherine Harms

        If you use Kindle, you can copy the file with your notes from your Kindle to your computer and print as much as you like. I do it all the time.

        • Dwayne Morris

          Great suggestion!

      • David Gross

         Thank you for the answer.  Being new to Kindle, I have not tried this feature but will try it.  Due to the cost of shipping to Eastern Europe, I had to leave over 15 boxes of my books back in the States and send over only a portion.  E-books have given me the opportunity to start building my library here in a way that is cost and space efficient. 

  • JeremiahZeiset

    Mr. Morris, you are right on with your article. We tend to be lazy in everything we do, and simply want to be spoon-fed knowledge without effort on our part. Great reminder to not waste our time reading unless we’re actually going to do something with the material. Thank-you!

    Jeremiah Zeiset

    LIFE SENTENCE Publishing

  • Toni Krasnic

    Instead of highlighting, I find that creating a mind map of
    key concepts in the book works much better. By creating a mind map, I’m forced
    to think about what I’m reading and connect it all in a meaningful mind map. See
    these examples by various readers:

    When creating mind maps of books, you can digitally cut and
    paste important diagrams/images from the book to the map, add live links to
    author’s blog and articles, add extra notes, and then print it out if you like
    paper documents.

    I also have a master book index mind map which links to
    various book mind maps. In the notes section, you can add a quick synopsis and
    main ideas for a quick memory refresher. See example:

    The best part about creating these book mind maps is that they’re visual records of what you read and work great in helping you recall the book every time you revisit them.

    • Dwayne Morris

      Great suggestion Toni. Mindmeister is a great tool. I’ve used it to prepare talks and some project planning. My problem is getting it all to fit on a reasonably sized sheet of paper. By the time I finish, I need a poster-size sheet. Thanks for the input!

      • Toni Krasnic

        Good point. Paper is limited by size.

        One way to deal with it is to print to image, then upload to Picasa where you can zoom in on the image.

    • prophetsandpopstars

      Thanks for the BiggerPlate suggestion. Didn’t know about it. 

  • Annie Kate Aarnoutse

    I almost always take notes when I read, on a piece of 9×11 paper folded in half.  That gives me 4 ‘pages’ of paper, and I can take notes even when I don’t own the book. 

    After that I mull over the book and usually respond to it in writing, either with a summary or a review that I post on my blog. It’s a great help, for absorbing the information, and Goodreads seems to be, too, but I’m still wondering if there is a program for indexing such information efficiently, either online or offline. 

  • Phil Baquie

    For everyone else without a personal assistant- may I recommend just using Ebooks :) You can easily compile your highlighted texts and word search at the click of a button. I purchased a small tray feed double sided scanner that quickly scans hard copy books (I get the spines cut at a local copy store) into word searchable PDF docs. Once digitized, I simply import them into my kindle reader on my iPad

  • Kevin Potts

    Hey Dwayne,
    Thanks for the post and these great tips on reading. I sometimes struggle to recall the details of what I have read. I like your idea of writing key words in the margins and then creating an index. I have used a similar, although a bit sloppier method, of writing key words on sticky notes and leaving them peeking out of the top of the book. And, I almost always read with a highlighter in hand. Thanks again for your great suggestions and God bless!

    • Dwayne Morris

      Thanks Kevin! Each individual has to find what works for them based on their time and resources. I hope to find some nuggets here to improve my system.

  • Jordan Collier

    Thanks for the ideas. I use Evernote to keep track of my reading and new ideas. I either clip my highlights ( or if I read a physical book, I type my highlights and snap pictures of the book margins and its cover and save them in a new note. I usually fill the the inside cover of books with key ideas and page numbers, so I can pick up a book and quickly find the key ideas I noticed while reading. By snapping pictures of my notes, I can use Evernote search feature and find things quickly.

    • Dwayne Morris

      That’s a GREAT suggestion! The key is developing a system that empowers you to add value to others. Good stuff!!!

    • Katherine Harms

      Microsoft OneNote is a great tool as well. It is better for me, because it looks like my physical workspace — piles of notebooks.

  • Geoff Little

    Thanks for the blog post, Mr. Morris.  I was disappointed, however, that you didn’t  refer to any next generation tools or ideas for saving and recalling text information.  For instance, pen scanners such as and the related page-scanners are great advances for voracious readers.  

    All the best as you continue to read and lead.

    Geoff Little
    Nashville, TN

    • Dwayne Morris

      Geoff, I lean to my kinesthetic learning style. The more I engage with what I read, the more it sticks. I often write additional thoughts or reactions to what I read. The new tools of technology can be of great value. Just requires time to explore and enhance your system. Thanks for the suggestion an the link.

    • Adam

      Geoff, I have always wanted to use a pen scanner, but the quality of them seems to be terrible!  Are they better than they used to be? viable now?

  • Sanshil2008

    Thanks for the excellent tips. A little bit on what I do – I never use a pen while reading, only a pencil! As I read, I underline with the pencil any new word or a punch line. After I finish one chapter, I write down the words in my journal – left page for words and the right side for the sentences. I hunt for the meanings of the new words an write it down> This way my own dictionary gets compiled. Now why a journal and why do I write and not use MS Excel or Word? Simple, Writing makes a man perfect – our age old adage!…believe it is true even now!
    Your tip on index is great, shall use it now…thanks a lot and warm regards – Sanjay

  • Katherine Harms

    This is, hands down, the most useful post I have read this year. I always mark up books as I read them. I love Kindle over other ereaders, because it allows me to take notes so easily. But this essay explains how to optimize the value of those notes. I have spent a lot of time, way to much time, trying to find important notes and comments on key topics. I will begin using this lesson today. Henceforth. I have always taken ownership of books I read by making notes, but from now on, those notes will be a thousand times more usable.
    Thank you!

    • Dwayne Morris

      Thanks Katherine! Glad to help.

  • Brenda

    I carry a highlighter wherever I go. I like the idea of circling or writing down key words.
    I would like to know if you have a system for online reading.
    Thanks for an informative post.

    • Dwayne Morris

      Brenda, the closest I’ve come to consistent online reading is reading books or blogs on my iPad. If you’re using the Kindle platform, it has tools available within the application. If it’s just blogs or online material, you might try the good ‘ole “Copy and Paste” method. You would create lists based on the keyword you want to use for that clip.  Hope that helps. 

  • Julie Cooper

    Seriously, Mr. Morris, you are recommending writing in library books? You should have some consideration for people who read the book after you.

    • Dwayne Morris

      I apologize for misleading you. I wasn’t inferring that you write in a library book. The reference to a librarian was a light-hearted poke at those individuals who have a hard time writing in their own books. I understand the consideration of those who read after me. In fact, I typically decline books offered to me as loaners because I just can’t read a book without marking it up. Thanks for keeping me honest.

  • theresa anderson

    You have taken this principle to a whole new level. I have a similar method but much more crude with post-it notes scribbled with key words and stuck to relevant pages. Never, have I ever thought of indexing and a master list to help me retrieve information when I need it. But, this is brilliant and I’m excited to apply it! I’m also lovin’ the other comments with additional tips. I’ll experiment and find a system that works. Thanks for the post that forces me to make my reading more intentional and retrievable. 

  • Michael Wilson

    I use the Kindle reading app on my iPad and then transfer all my highlighted material into evernote where I tag it with keywords.  Evernote enables me to search everything in my files so I can find what I need.  For hard copy books, I have to retype the highlighted material but it is worth it.

    • Diane Schultz

      Michael, how do you transfer highlighted material?  I’m using Kindle for PC and can find my notes and highlights, but can’t seem to find the print button or even a Print to (One Note, Word, PDF, etc.) on my computer.  

  • Mmodesti

    Great system, but it’s obviously based on hard copy books. Made me wonder if those figures about more people reading digital than analog apply to the subset of folks who read to learn. This post got me thinking about how to develop a similar Evernote/kindle system.

    • Dwayne Morris

      Hopefully you’ve browsed over the comments to this post. Several people have added content addressing that very questions. This is what I love about social platforms. You get great feedback and fresh, new ideas.

  • Matthew Reed

    I like to write a summary on the front of each chapter immediately after reading. Then a quick flip through a book can lead me to where I want to be

    • Dwayne Morris

      This reminds me of how Tim Sanders reads books. You need to pick up, “Love is the Killer App.” He shares a lot of his personal disciplines for networking and personal growth.  Thanks for sharing!

  • Grc

    Anyone have a easy system for NOOK?

  • Tom Perry

    I don’t know why I never thought of indexing thoughts/highlights from the books I read. So much better than constantly flipping back through books trying to find “that one quote” that was so good.  Thanks for the ideas!

  • John Richardson

    Great post, Dwayne. I usually buy the Kindle editions and use the notes and highlights feature to mark my books up. This allows me to cut and paste into blog posts, speeches, or technical documents. If you login to your Amazon account and click on Mange my Kindle, you’ll see all of your items listed and you can filter by item. 

    Amazon is now tying together some of their books with the Audible audio version. If you have bought both editions, you can go to the page in the Kindle version and the audio version will synchronize to that exact spot. It’s called Whispersync for voice. Very helpful. Details here…

    • Dwayne Morris

      Thanks John! I have had problems with Amazon limiting how much I can print. Maybe they have made changes. I loved the solution offered earlier of simply copying and pasting the highlights in Evernote. Great feedback!

  • Bud Brown

    Helpful post, thanks!

    I am in the habit of writing a one sentence summary on the first page of each chapter and a three or four sentence synopsis of the book inside the front cover. Amazing how quickly that will bring me back up to speed!

  • Tom Rogstad

    I use a digital recorder to read the quote I’m interested in, saying the page number as well. Then I upload it to Dragon NaturallySpeaking for transcription. I have a terrible tremor that limits what I can do by hand.

  • Mike Mobley

    Typically on an e-book ill use the Kindle app where I can take notes and highlight and then go back and review. Also love using Evernote for times I want to go back and review notes

  • Susabella

    Having neither the affliction of OCD, or the privilege of being a librarian or playing one on TV, I MUST speak out here. 

    If you want to mark up a book, please get your own copy. *I don’t want to read a book that someone else has marked up!*

    I LOVE these tips and will definitely employ them in my reading. I use both ebooks and actual books and I am always looking for ways to more deeply take in what I read. Thank you for this post. 

  • Tom Franklin

    As a librarian and someone who reads constantly, PLEASE only highlight your own personal copy of books.  What hold special meaning to you (and gets  highlighted) might not be what holds special meaning to me.  Your highlights might distract me and cause me to miss something that I needed to read to move me to the next step of where I need to be.

  • annepeterson

    This was a great post. One thing I do is keep a file on my desktop for possible quotes I may want to include. I make sure I put all pertinent information down. Author, source. It will help me from rereading. Great tips. Thanks.

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  • Jeremy Myers

    I have been doing this for Bible study for two decades. I have a file on my computer which contains a list of Bible books, with chapters and verses. Every time I read a good insight in a book about a passage in Scripture, I note the book title, author, and page number in this document. It has become my most valuable document on my computer as I go about preparing sermons and writing commentary. 

    • Dwayne Morris

      Great application! I use the SOAP Bible Study method and have considered doing the same thing. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ron Ross

    Talk about what you’ve read with someone. Share with them significant passages. And one more thing – read aloud paragraphs that you want to remember.

    • Dwayne Morris

      This is a GREAT suggestion!! I love to read the same book with others. Helps the “stickiness factor”! Thanks for adding to he list.

  • Sandra Nicholson

    I recall the elderly lady who at her death, her children found her well used Bible with the initials written throughout of T and P. Further investigation in her notes allowed them to understand that those initials referenced verses down through the years that had been tried and proven in her life. Thanks for not just another tip but information that I know has been tried and proven. Honestly never had a method and couldn’t count the times I’ve said , ” I’ve read that somewhere and when I figure it out or remember, I’ll get back to you ” so now I have a method. Christ said in Luke 12:48 For unto whosoever much is given, of him shall be much required: I know this applies to all things and so with this method being given. I will move forward to improve and be a better servant for His glory.

  • Diane Schultz

    Great ideas!  I’ve done some of this with pulling out my favorite recipes and creating my own mini Word-based cookbook, so I no longer had to search all my books to find which of them had that recipe I wanted to use again.  Your extra steps (pasting indices in the books, then compiling a master list) are sheer genius, and you have my thanks for sharing them.

  • Roberta Martin

    Your process sounds like it would definitely help in the overall scheme of things. However, if you read an in depth textbook (try Anatomy & Physiology for instance) it sounds like you’d be rewriting your own version of a 1,000 page book, minus the diagrams, glossary or index. Any tips on this type of material?

    • Dwayne Morris

      I would look for common threads. Part of the discipline is engaging with the content. While it may be tedious, I would think creating some personalized tool will only help your retention. The key is to find what works.

  • Patricia Gonzalez

    With reference to what you call ‘arbitrary books’ you stated that, “If someone hasn’t remommended a title or author, I don’t touch it.” Doesn’t this rather limit the sphere of possibly good information that might be available. No one can recommend what he himself has not read. That to my mind is a very limited circle. Someone first had to read your first work before recommending it to someone else. There is always a first time for every author.

    • Dwayne Morris

      That’s a good point. The challenge for me is getting through books. I err on the side of quality and not quantity. I have a stack of 9 books awaiting my highlighter. I have to be selective. And I try to keep my reading to areas that involve my particular audience.

  • Dave Anthold

    I typically read my books through the Kindle format so I will highlight the items I want to retain & then retrieve them online & push them to Evernote for storage.  For some books that I cannot get in Kindle format, I mark up the book through highlighting, underlining & margin annotating.  I then transfer the key ideas to the front of the book for a quick reminder. 

    Also, I use Shelfari ( to store all of my books online, write a quick review, rate the book, connect with others and track goals I have for book reading.  This method seems to be the most effective for my needs.

  • Ch77hall

    Thanks for the information. I too am a former Campus Crusade guy – early 1980s at the University of Georgia.

    I buy e-books from Amazon (using my Kindle app on my iPad) and highlight passages as I read. You can access and copy those highlights to Word. My blog post explains how:

  • Danny Zacharias

    Not sure if you’re aware but there are bibliographic management software – Sente on Mac is the best. This saves on the endless excel sheets and allows for a lot of tagging, etc. while the formatting of citations and bibliography is the ultra useful part of bibliographic management software, notetaking and organization is also great

    • Michael Hyatt

      I wasn’t aware of this program. It looks great.

  • Mrodberg

    What wonderful ideas. I will begin implementing them. However, I may need to borrow Vickie, Please? :)

    • Dwayne Morris

      That can be arranged…all she needs is a finished book with key words noted and she can work her magic.

  • Dave Arnold

    Really enjoyed this post. Reading is crucial to growing. And your steps allow you to not only retain what you read, but to embody it. Thanks so much!

  • Mary Lu Saylor

    I had no idea you had such a sophisticated system!  I am even more impressed with all you do. 
    I like to think that I am super organized but you’ve challenged me to “kick it up a notch.”   Thank you for all your helpful suggestions and to the dialogue that this has created in other comments.  I am sharing your blog with others so we can accomplish maximum impact for the King!  :)

    • Dwayne Morris

      All kinds of tricks up my sleeve. I just strive to establish disciplines that will allow me to earn the opportunity to be heard. Thanks for your kind words!

  • Ricardo Diaz

    I thought I was pretty organized with things. I really liked your last tip about bookmarking things so if you need to answer a question online you can find it easier. 

    I happen to use my iPad a lot for reading but I never took advantage of the bookmarking feature it has. I think I am going to start today.

  • Brian Osburne

    Mr. Morris, this is fantastic approach to remembering and applying things.  Too often we have too much to fit into our too tired brain and thus we can’t remember anything form the book we read other thank the title.  I linked on to MorrisMatters blog today and enjoyed some of yoru other posts.  Thanks

  • Dr. Jason Cabler

    Wow!  I use the heck out of a highlighter when I read a physical book, but that’s a whole other level.  I usually have a general idea of what I read and where, so when I need it I retrieve the book and scan through all my highlights to find what I need.  I find that doing that is also helpful when I’m stuck and can’t find anything to write about.  

    I highlight when I’m reading books on my Kindle as well.

  • Gordon S. Hale

    Excellent!  Another tip.  I use a green pen and make check marks above catchy phrases and/or words.  That way I can flip back through the pages for information.

  • Joshuacliston

    Great ideas! I’ve just started a basic version of this type of system myself when I re-read certain books. Nice to know that it’s not crazy to be scribbling all over my books – so thanks for that :-)

    Is there a process for Audible books that could work (as I listen to many books as well as read)? Some kind of Pause Button > Evernote

    • Dwayne Morris

      That’s a good question. I typically have avoided audio books, but Michael has challenged me to be more open about that. I’ll need to work on that next.

    • Tim Watts

      I too would love any input on this.  I spend so much time in the car, I get most of my “reading” done through audio books.

  • Bobbie Cole

    I think this is a hefty task you’ve given yourself, Dwayne, good if you had an essay assignment – important, I suspect, if you’re referring to this or that person’s ideas when you speak or write.  I take notes on topics I am researching. I find the act of taking notes helps me remember. I’ll refer back to my notes before defining a strategy (such as a book outline). At that time, I may edit down to items of particular interest for what I’m doing and cut and paste those into categories. 

    • Dwayne Morris

      I know this seems like a lot, but the actual practice of it all isn’t too bad. My motivation is the need for good content for writing, speaking and content development. If I can get to information quickly, I can keep on task.

  • HomemakersDaily

    When I read paper books that I purchased, I always read with a highlighter in my hand.  Now that I’m reading pretty much all Kindle, I do use the highlight feature.  But I’ve found myself at a huge disadvantage by not having paper.  In the past, when I wanted information, I always remembered which book and where in the book the information was.  Now that I’m using Kindle, every page looks the same and I can’t find anything!  I didn’t know I could print out my notes.  I’ll look into that feature and see if it helps.  I really miss being able to retrieve information. 

    • Jim Martin

      I had some of the same thoughts about my Kindle.  Eventually, I learned that I could print out my notes.  This has been a huge help! 

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  • Timtchan

    Wow, that is alot of work. I’m impressed at your discipline in doing this.

  • Tim Chan

    Wow, that is alot of work. I’m impressed at your discipline in doing this.

  • Footprints of Giants

    I practice the” See One, Do One and Teach One” principle of learning by sharing a couple of nuggets with close friends as soon as possible.In this case the shared knowledge is quickly replicated and preserved.

  • Barryburnett

    Great stuff, Dwayne! I’m pretty diligent about highlighting and scribbling notes in the margins. I also will typically go back through the book and create an outline. I love the idea of using a master index. Thanks for the ideas!

    • Jim Martin

      Barry, I like this idea also.  For the sake of time, the index would have to be streamlined.  However, this would be better than no index at all.  Thanks.

  • Sonia Winland

    Thanks for the reminder because I haven’t used a highlighter in years. I am in the middle of reading a book now and I love being able to go back to key sections that I want to remember. There are sections I will go back and re-read all over again to make sure I understood the authors direction, but it has to be super good for me to read it all over again. 

  • ChadMillerBlog

    Mr. Morris,
    I found this post intriguing. I have to admit, I believe myself to be a slow reader, and my list of books I’d like to read continues to get longer and longer. I do average about 25 books a year, but I’m curious, with the amount of time you put into your process, how many books are you reading? How much time do you put into the average book?
    Again, fascinating post. Thank you for sharing.

    • Dwayne Morris

      Chad, thanks for the affirmation! We’re on the same
      schedule. My goal is two books a month. 
      This process varies based on how much content you mark in your books.
      The most tedious part is creating the index. It’s like a lot of things in life.
      If the cause is great enough, the cost is irrelevant. In other words, what I
      gain from this is well worth the time. 
      Hope that helps.

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  • Andypeck

    Some great tips here. I now deliberately buy a book via kindle, highlight parts and then go to to retrieve highights and copy into a Word document. Its great when I want to quote people directly in talks.

  • Rick

    Thanks for the information.I always hear something that I know I can reference in a book I read. Just finding the page is the hard task. Any thoughts on ways to do the same while listening to a podcast or audio book while driving, walking, etc? Thanks Michael. 

  • Victoria

    Thank you for the wonderful tips. Along with a highlighter,
    I always have colored tabs nearby when I begin reading. I highlight key phrases
    and then write the key word on the tab and place it on the edge of the page.
    This allows me to easily go back and find what I need when I need it.  This method applies only to books I own. If I’m
    reading content on my iPad, I copy and paste sections into Evernote where I have
    a notebook dedicated to each electronic book I read.

    • Rick Gray

      Thanks for great idea to copy and paste into Evernote! 

  • Andrew Chalmers

    These are some really great tips! Some of these things I already do but I really love the idea of even taking it to the next level by keeping a good resource within the book that I can go back to in order to find stuff on certain subjects.

  • Joespu

    I really enjoy this article, really give me a new perspective, thanks for sharing this great method

  • Micah Choquette

    I have to admit that I nearly gasped when I read the whole “never read a book without a pen and a highlighter” – I mean, what if I have loan it out? But as I began to think it over, I realized three things: 1) most authors would probably be thrilled to hear you were highlighting and studying their words beyond just skimming them over to get to the end, 2) Business books are primarily meant to read and used, not loaned out. 3) If I do loan them out, I’ve just helped my friend gain insight into the super important parts!

  • HMengoli

    My system is voice notes using an “old style” digital recorder.  I find this device easy to use and more practical than a phone with voice recording. It is great for that long walk we should take time for everyday.  I leave my phone at home.  I read the book either in paper form or e-book make voice notes and go back reread the section I where I was unclear and then bookmark it.  

  • TroyD

    I am assuming you build all your indexes on separate tabs within the same excel file.  This is the Master Index you speak of, where you can do a word search that would cover all index sheets….  I am early enough in my reading/learning I will definitely take on these ideas.  Thanks for sharing.  I wish I would have read Platform with a highlighter, the chapter titles don’t always direct you to the exact content you remembered reading, and there are several chapters that cover the same basic topic.  Loved the book for sure, guess I will have to read it again…  Do you use Pinterest to keep a library of blog posts as well, how would you suggest tracking and making these searchable?  The note you would put in the margin of an blog post may not be in the article itself to be found in internet search engines.  Just a thought, any ideas?

  • Tulio

    Great tips Dwayne! I liked a lot the Evernote comments from other readers as well.

  • Jesse Thomas

    Good topic. I’ve been guilty of reading just to say I read it. Not so helpful. What I do to remember now is write a statement from each chapter I read (or more if it’s helpful). Then at the end of the book I read through them all and write a summary similar to the one Michael talks about in his post “How to Retain More of What you Read.” It also helps to bring it up in conversation a lot. If I never talk about it I don’t remember it. 

  • Christopher Battles

    I always read with a pen.
    Thank you for these tips Michael.
    Utilizing the blank pages is a great idea.

    K, bye

  • Esi Mathis

    Yes, my method is much simpler, since I had brain surgery 3 years ago. Now that I can read again, I (1) underline (with pencil), (2) use a highlighter, and (3) make a list of words I don’t know.  Since I did not grow up with books, and I’m now able to read with comprehension, I set a goal to read 12 books by the end of 2012. My progress record is an Excel spreadsheet which lists: book title, author, # of pages, date completed and comments.  Your article gives me tools to make the reading & retention experience more meaningful.  Thanks!

    • Dwayne Morris

      Way to go Esi!  You could have made excuses, but you chose to rebound strong!

  • Brandi Clark

    Hi Michael,
    Do you have images of this process?

  • JustinRFoster

    Dwayne and Michael, thank you for this terrific post. I appreciate the practical tips. For me, this really serves as a much needed reminder. I have so focused on consuming great resources and knowledge that I know I have not made the most of what I’ve read. My plan is to begin to right the ship by the first of 2013 by processing some of the wonderful books I’ve read this year. In my work, having those tidbits, stats and quotes at my fingertips is most valuable. Thanks for the encouragement and to all who have commented for all the great ideas to help me develop an efficient system that works for me.

  • Pam Dean

    I love your idea of pasting the notes in the book on the blank pages.  That is powerful for me!  I highlight my books also and will revist them when needed but the extra step of having it posted would really help me retrieve the information.  Great tip! Thanks.

  • DS

    I have enjoyed this post and all the ideas and comments concerning the best way to keep track of what we have read or are reading.  I find myself reading more and more in the digital format because of the ease of use and the ability to take multiple books with me wherever I may travel.  

    It has been mentioned multiple times in these comments but I have discovered the best way for me is to take my highlights from my amazon account and copy and paste them to an evernote entry.  This way I have each book I have read in its own separate notebook in evernote and I am able to search it easier.  

    If you copy and paste from your amazon account it also provides the link from the section you copied from which enables you to click on that link and it opens your book to that area on your kindle app.  This is excellent if you desire to reread a section or see the context of the highlight you have selected.  

    Hope this made sense but it is the best way for me to be able to keep all that I have highlighted or commented on in the books I am currently reading in digital format.

  • Jgarner

    Great idea about adding the index to the inside of the book. However, I ask my admin to type up the notes I have hightlighted from my readings, and I keep them as “synopsies” on my computer. I also use a Kindle, so now as I highlight text on my Kindle, it keeps a record of those notes and hightlights. I can pull them up off the Amazon page (Kindle Highlights and Notes) and I can use them as I need them.

  • Glen Andrews

    Great tips Dwayne!

     I write in a journal as I’m reading. I place the title of each book at the top of a page. Then I try to pull as much useful information from the book as possible.

    When I want to recall any notes from the book I go straight to my journal. Although your tip on categorizing each book is helpful.

    I tend to waste lots of time trying to locate the book titles within the journal.

    These are awesome tips – thanks Dwayne!

  • Tufail Shahzad

    I am not a good reader, but I love to read recommended authors by my friends. Just taken your recommendations for making an index of keywords and books I have read and maybe one day I will be able to share what system I have created.

  • Michael Hyatt

    I have written on this as well: How to Retain More of What You Read.

  • prophetsandpopstars

    Absolutely Fantastic post. Thanks for the clear suggestions for keeping track of all I’m reading. Luckily I’ve marked up previous reads, but that’s alot of back tracking. I know it will be worth it. 

    Thanks for the help!

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  • Lynne

    Great ideas and information especially on ebooks.  I don’t do any of this and I’m always reviewing books I’ve read to find stuff.

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  • Mike Hansen

    Great post and great info! I have highlighters just about anywhere I might spend time reading-office at work, desk at home, center console in the car, in my computer bag.

    One thing I do that’s probably not nearly as efficient or systematic is to hand write a line, or paragraph into my journal. I then spend time thinking it over on paper to see how it might better help me.

    I will also take a picture of a highlighted portion and share it on Facebook for others to see.

  • Tracey L. Moore

    This was an interesting concept. I ususally highlight and write the insight that I get from the passage in the margins. However, I have not gone the extra mile and developed a way to organize and retrieve the information. Thanks for the tip.
    Tracey L. Moore
    Author of the upcoming book, Oasis For My Soul

  • Keith Godfrey

    Your ideas for retaining and being able to retrieve what you’ve read are outstanding.  Although a task that takes a lot of time, the process itself provides such an incredible amount of knowledge as you interact with the text.  I am curious about how you manage your reading time.  I have a tendency to pick up a book, read for a few days and then put it back down.  I am constantly going back and forth between books.  It seems the “busy”ness of the week takes it’s toll on my reading plans. There is always an interruption – the to do list, children’s needs/wants, other obligations, work, etc.  

    How do you manage your reading time?  What are some steps you have taken to build that habit into your life?  Do you have a set time each day that you devote to reading?

    Thanks for sharing!!

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  • CJ Fritsch

    Great article.  I do most of my reading on a kindle.  This allows me to make digital highlights and copy those into Evernote once I’m done reading the book.  I will peruse the highlights once I get them dumped in Evernote as a review of what I just read.  I will often add additional notes as I review.  Evernote also makes it easy to quickly find nuggets of information.

  • Leon Poplawski

    I remember the content better when I read it as if I were going to teach it to someone.
    Then if I actually do consider it worthwhile and teach it, I not only remember it but I frequently personalize my applications and illustrations.  This makes it life changing.

  • Sam Weisz

    With ebooks most things are searchable and markable.  This streamlines the process for me.

  • Coach

    yes Evernote makes this wisdom simply