June 7, 2021
You read a riveting book about productivity and you feel inspired to update your processes and to-do lists, or you read an interesting article about a new growth experiment that you want to try out for yourself; only to forget it after a week, or 2, or 4, or 8.
As it often does, life comes in the way. You might be in the middle of a big project at work, you might be in the middle of switching jobs, or you’re traveling and cannot execute on the idea at that specific moment.
The problem with that is that the ideas we have rarely see the light of day because they’re tucked away for “later use”.
As someone who enjoys learning new things, I consume a lot of content on a daily basis. Newsletters, blog posts, podcasts, audiobooks, etc. - I go through all of these formats daily. And I want to remember things I’ve learned.
You’ve probably found yourself in similar situations numerous times. Recently, I decided to develop a system that helps me remember important things or highlights from the things I read/listen to. And that’s what I’m sharing with you here today.
As usual in today's day and age, I use several apps to help me achieve this.
The apps I use to consume content are:
Instapaper is my “read-it-later” app of choice. Every time I find an interesting article or blog post that I want to read (but not immediately there and then), I save it to Instapaper and read it later when I have the time. It saves a simple text version of the article or blog posts without unnecessary pictures, links, and ads; enabling you to read it without distractions.
One great feature is the ability to highlight certain parts of the content that I find especially interesting, and write a note about it.
Airr is my go-to app for podcast listening. It has one great functionality - air quotes. If you press the quotes button, it will save the last 30 seconds of the podcast you’re listening to, and it will ~transcribe~ what’s being said. I’ll talk more about why’s that useful below.
I mostly read books on my Kindle. There's less friction to reading compared to physical books, so I prefer Kindle. Similar to the Instapaper feature, you can highlight certain parts of books and annotate them.
Readwise is a great app that consolidates all your highlights from previously mentioned consumption apps. Highlights from books, articles, blog posts, and air quotes from podcasts - all in one place.
The true beauty of the Readwise app is in its Daily Review feature. Every day, Readwise will email you 5 of your highlights to help you remember those interesting bits you once saved. (You can also use the web version or mobile app).
One more great Readwise feature is the ability to export all of your highlights to Notion, Evernote, or Roam Research, enabling you to build your own content library.
Of course, remembering all ideas you had or blog posts you read is impossible, and like David Allen famously said “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them”.
If we can’t remember things outright, we have to introduce them periodically to our life.
Think about it, how did you learn what a book was when you were a toddler? You were handed a book hundreds of times, and every time the word “book” was said to you. Over time, you learn to address that object you’re holding as a book. That’s one of the two processes of remembering that cognitive scientists call Recognition. The other process is called Recall.
As Scott. H. Young describes it: “It’s the ability to pull up the answer to a question, without looking at it. If I ask you the capital of France, and you know the answer, Paris, it’s because you recalled it from memory.”
The recall part is of course harder than the recognition part.
However, the solution can be found in one of the best evidence-based studying techniques called spaced repetition. Spaced repetition basically means you’re “repeating” the content you read throughout a prolonged period, by which you commit it to your memory.
In this system, that’s where Readwise's daily review feature comes in. It resurfaces older excerpts from articles, blog posts, or podcasts, that I once found particularly interesting, and reminds me of them. This way, I remember what I read a long time ago, and it offers an opportunity to act on the idea I forgot, or an experiment that I read about. Shout out to Ali Abdaal for introducing these apps to my life. :)
That’s it. I hope you found this system even remotely interesting, and thank you for reading. :)
See you in the next one!
A newsletter that goes out on Sundays, where I share things that sparked my curiosity that week. You can expect news, insights and interesting finds around the same topics you read about here.
Join now if you want to be among the first people to read it. 😊