George Ambler

Helping Leaders Grow


How to Retain More of What You Read

Effective leaders continually invest in their personal development and one of the best ways is by reading. Reading is critical for personal development and personal development is key to effective leadership. However reading only benefits you to the extent to which you’re able to process and apply what you’ve read.

“The only difference between who you are today and the person you will be in five years will come from the books you read and the people you associate with.” – Charles Tremendous Jones

One way to get more out of what you read is to develop the habits that help to retain more information. A great way to do this is to take regular breaks and write down the thoughts, ideas and your reaction to what you’ve just read. This approach is especially useful when reading for understanding as opposed to reading for information or entertainment.

Rather than reading a book straight through – from the beginning to end – pause and reflect as you read to organise and digest the information. Summarising each chapter in your own words helps you to get a deeper understanding of the key points from the chapter.

Every time you complete a chapter of the book stop and make notes on what you’ve read. Make a one or two page summary of the key ideas presented in the chapter as follows:

  • Think about what you’ve just read then make notes in your own words describing the main points from the chapter.
  • Then ask yourself. What are the key insights you gained from reading the chapter? Reflect on your summary of the main points, what are the key insights that stood out for you? Why does this matter?
  • What are the two or three things that you’re going to do as a result of what you’re read? This is about thinking through how you can apply what you’ve learnt to your life and situation.

If the book that you’re reading contains complex ideas or dense material then perhaps taking notes every 10 – 15 page may be more appropriate.

However you choose to implement this practice, the main idea is to stop and create a summary of what you’ve read at regular intervals. The benefits of this practice is that it encourages you to remember and understand more of what you’ve read. It also serves to give your brain a break and assists in helping to make sense of what you’ve read. It help you to organise, process and understand of the main ideas being presented by the author. The result is you retain more of what you read.

What are some of the habits and practices that you use to get more out of your reading?



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  1. These are some great tips. Not only do you retain the knowledge with these tips but they help you internalize the information as well. All the better for personal and professional growth and development!

  2. Amy

    Thank you for these tips on retaining more of what we read. I will begin using this strategy today while reading my text book for class.

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