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Read and Retain Books Without Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out - (Speed Reading + Mind Mapping Guide)

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Ethan S

Contributor
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Sep 27, 2019
33
52
First off I want to say thank you to @Dan_Cardone and @GoodluckChuck for inspiring me to write this thread. (Based on an original post I did in “Reading Habits, Suggestions?’ thread).

Before I begin I also want to say that you might not be here because reading makes you want to poke your eyes out.. But I had to get attention somehow right?

Aside From Making Reading Less Boring Here are Some Things I think I Can Help With:
- How to decide which book to read next and get yourself to actually read it
- Cut your reading time back dramatically (but not through comical speed reading techniques)
- Retaining the information that actually matters so you don’t forget an entire chapter minutes after reading
- Training yourself to go from information intake to output quickly (a critical skill in entrepreneurship)

So how am I going to do all of that with just one lousy forum post? Well I personally have used the process I’m going to show you with 50+ books over the past year or so.. Constantly refining and upgrading the techniques! (Plus over 20k people have watched my process online and some seem to even like it).

While I’m sure it’s far from perfect it’s worked well for me.. Which is saying something because previously when I would read books was probably similar to a lot of you!

For one thing, I would never finish the book, but also I would forget what I read almost immediately and get no tangible benefits so eventually I stopped trying all together.

Finally I was fed up. That’s when I decided to come up with a system.. One that would make reading books worthwhile!


A system with three objectives; make sure my ROI on reading was as high as possible, make the process more stimulating so I was more likely to do it and finally make sure that every piece of information I found useful was put into practice in the real world.

So what did I come up with? Well it’s kind of a bastardization of Speed Reading and Mind Mapping.. Sure to make some Zealots from either side angry!

Why would it make them angry?

Well I don’t follow Speed Reading ‘Techniques’ because as far as I can tell they haven’t been proven to be useful.. Instead I rely heavily on the 80/20 principle! Ruthlessly cutting out anything I don’t think will be valuable.

Plus Mind Mappers have a set of ‘Rules’ that I basically said no thanks too.. Instead I take great ‘thinking models’ from people much smarter than me and make my Mind Maps fit that model instead of vice versa.
(Que The Hate)

Okay with all of that out of the way let’s get into the system!

(The Beginners Guide to Speed Mapping) *I just made that name up what do you think?*

Here is the basic process that I find cuts back my reading time but makes it much more effective. (Each book takes 3-5 hours max but it's also training my thinking).

1. Only read books that relate to topics I'm interested in.
- Quick tip here is not to ask for recommendations from just anyone.
- Reach out to people who you admire and would change lives with and ask them for 3 books.
- Follow up w/ them to discuss those books afterwards to keep you motivated to read them.
*Scripted people who read one book a year will tell you every book was their favourite.. Most of them suck.

2. Whenever I pick up a new book I immediately start a Mind Map of the book.

- This again increases motivation but it also gets my mind thinking about the contents of the book.
- What do I want to learn? Why am I reading this? What do I expect from the book?
- Personally I’ve used many different Mind Map Methods from paper to tech each has their advantages
*Bonus if you can immediately create an introduction and colour code the Mind Map it creates buy in and sunk cost will help you finish.

3. Read the intro and conclusion and study the table of contents.

- This is the 80/20 principle at work.. Most of the info is in these 3 places.
- Most people skip the table of contents.. That's like starting a journey without a map.
- Read deeply into the conclusion.. Can you see how they got there without reading it?
- If you can.. Maybe it's not worth it! Unless you are interested in cementing beliefs.
*Bonus if you can only read the first sentence of each paragraph and understand the point do that!

4. Start my Mind Map w/ the first nodes being the chapters or topics I'm interested in.

- This might not be smart.. But I don't read every chapter in the book! On purpose.
- Imagine reading or listening to a book all the way through.. Your brain is in processing mode for 5+ hours. How is that going to be useful?
- So after every chapter that I read I stop reading and go back to Mind Mapping instead.
*Bonus I try to name my nodes not by chapter name (boring) but by some sort of funny, thought provoking or weird connection to the point which helps memory.

5. Finally when I read over the chapters/key points I identified in the book and I use the 4MAT learning model.

- Generally what I do while reading the chapter is highlight 1-4 paragraph I think give 80% of the info and copy that directly into the Mind Map.
- While I read the chapter I try to keep in mind the 4MAT learning model and how I can apply each part of it to this information. (more about the model below)
- This creates what Benedict Carey called 'Desirable Difficulty' in his book ‘How We learn’
- Basically we are trying to take the authors information and directly apply it to ourselves..
- Something much more difficult than reading itself! This requires thinking and stimulates learning.
*Bonus while you’re reading you already have the 4MAT points you’ll put in the mind map that shows active learning as opposed to passive learning. (more on that in ‘How We Learn’)

4MAT Learning Model
Why
- Why is the information important?
What - Theoretical breakdown of the information.
How - Create a process I could use to implement it.
What If - Where else could this information be used?
Ps. This is great when used in any area of life not just reading. I believe copywriters use it too.

Below I will attach one of my Mind Maps for you guys to see.

Plus here is a link to all of my 50+ Mind Mapped books (need XMind to open).
There is also a YouTube channel that has all of them on video (teaching is another level of desirable difficulty) but I won’t link it unless I’m aloud.

28034
*This is the overall Mind Map (Gold ones are most important points IMO)
28035
*This is a single node which encompasses authors points (why+what) and my own (how+what if)
 
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Bertram

Silver Contributor
Read Fastlane!
Speedway Pass
Oct 25, 2015
574
829
Virginia
I really think this is the wrong approach my friend.
This is a valuable skill - reading.
So is reading Cliff notes in the form of diagrams. Summaries suit a purpose.

But there's a difference between reading book summaries and fooling yourself into the belief that writing summaries yourself will somehow improve your ability to read and engage content.
Bad news: it makes the problem worse.
Sell your book summaries to people who trust and engage in your way of thinking. There's a value in them.
But don't have people waste hundreds of hours thinking this book summary process will help them with their obstacles to reading with comfort and proficiency. It's another ball of wax.
For that purpose all this is a waste of time.
When we use your method the best points are lost or generalized, by necessity.

There are other ways to achieve your aims here I promise. Read on.
Writing idea maps translating another's messsage means using a simple and therefore dulled down level of language.
Our own shorthand ways of note-taking do not capture the essence of what we read.
Instead of this approach we need to focus on listening to and retaining what we overhear when we read. We need to focus on making it interesting and even necessary.
The skills to get readers further into building comprehension are reflection, engagement, and improving memory.

Your writing tasks focus too much on regurgitation. That's what kills engagement. It's like the school assignments students complete to demonstrate that they completed their homework reading the night before, nothing more. That approach only produces evidence that the reading assignnment was done.

Evidence is right here in your summaries. They are a bit boring and they read like you've completely missed the deep, zesty content of the books summarized. There was no time to get into the heart of the matter within these books, of course. There is some level of value but for people who really want to read deeply and well these summaries are missed opportunities and a sorry substitute.

Engagement in reading,deeply linked to pleasure, has to be the top priority. Ask your self how you would find enjoyment reading books? The answers will differ.
Discussing the book with someone you like.
Teaching the content to others.
Thinking it over.
None of these activities require producing a deadening book outline.
Go to book groups even if you can't deliver like the rest. I find half the book group members are actually there because they're struggling.

Improving memory doesn't just require language writing tasks, fortunately.
Have more spoken conversation. Play piano. Do word puzzles. Listen to audiobooks while walking.
Bit by bit the skills at reading comprehension and retention increase through pleasurable engagement. The processes look different than your approach.

Seriously, writing book reports is what killed the pleasure and stunted reading aptitude for most of us.

Taking on the challenge of reading well and usefully is related to success in life. Audiobooks will get us there if we have trouble scanning pages.

Reading is much like the act of overhearing, not the act of hearing, A different, deeper thinking happens. That's why humans need this skill.
Think of the best ways to overhear, or spy on communication. That's a reader's mind.
At face value this means start by turning off music with verbal content.

Here's the "one neat trick" to boost reading comprehension: read while standing up and pacing. Walking moderately with an audiobook is similarly effective.
Wait, what?
We use our lower body major muscle groups to encode memory tasks.
Mammals are that cool.
So get up and pace the room when you read. Your ability will zoom up like a fever.
 
Last edited:

Ethan S

Contributor
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Sep 27, 2019
33
52
I really think this is the wrong approach my friend.
This is a valuable skill - reading.
So is reading Cliff notes in the form of diagrams. Summaries suit a purpose.

But there's a difference between reading book summaries and fooling yourself into the belief that writing summaries yourself will somehow improve your ability to read and engage content.
Bad news: it makes the problem worse.
Sell your book summaries to people who trust and engage in your way of thinking. There's a value in them.
But don't have people waste hundreds of hours thinking this book summary process will help them with their obstacles to reading with comfort and proficiancy. It's another ball of wax.
For that purpose all this is a waste of time.
When we use your method the best points are lost or generalized, by necessity.

There are other ways to achieve your aims here I promise. Read on.
Writing idea maps translating another's messsage means using a simple and therefore dulled down level of language.
Our own shorthand ways of note-taking do not capture the essence of what we read.
Instead of this approach we need to focus on listening to and retaining what we overhear when we read. We need to focus on making it interesting and even necessary.
The skills to get readers further into building comprehension are reflection, engagement, and improving memory.

Your writing tasks focus too much on regurgitation. That's what kills engagement. It's like the school assignments students complete to demonstrate that they completed the assignment. That approach only produces evidence that the reading assignnment is done.
Evidence is right here in your summaries. They are a bit boring and completely miss the deep, zesty content of the books summarized. There is some level of value but for people who really want to read deeply and well these summaries are missed opportunities and a sorry substitute.

Engagement in reading,deeply linked to pleasure, has to be the top priority. Ask your self how you would find enjoyment reading books? The answers will differ.
Discussing the book with someone you like.
Teaching the content to others.
Thinking it over.
None of these activities require producing a deadening book outline.
Go to book groups even if you can't deliver like the rest. I find half the book group members are actually there because they're struggling.

Improving memory doesn't just require language writing tasks, fortunately.
Have more spoken conversation. Play piano. Do word puzzles. Listen to audiobooks while walking.
Bit by bit the skills at reading comprehension and retetention increase through pleasurable engagement. The processes look different than your approach.

Seriously, writing book reports is what killed the pleasure and stunted reading aptitude for most of us.

Taking on the challenge of reading well and usefully is related to success in life. Audiobooks will get us there if we have trouble scanning pages.

Reading is much like the act of overhearing, not the act of hearing, A different, deeper thinking happens. That's why humans need this skill.
Think of the best ways to overhear, or spy on communication. That's a reader's mind.
At face value this means start by turning off music with verbal content.

Here's the "one neat trick" to boost reading comprehension: read while standing up and pacing. Walking moderately with an audiobook is similarly effective.
Wait, what?
We use our lower body major muscle groups to encode memory tasks.
Mammals are that cool.
So get up and pace the room when you read. Your ability will zoom up like a fever.
Thanks for taking the time to write out such a thoughtful reply!

I think we're on exactly the same page so I'm unsure where the dissonance came from..

My entire point is to cutback on amounts of information.. And look at how it can apply into your life.

Spending more time thinking than reading.. Taking breaks to think while reading.

Maybe the screenshot at the bottom I shared looked like regurgitation but it definitely is not. Perhaps it wasn't the best one to choose. But I felt it was simple.

Basically what I do is take a snippet of the main point and copy it into the map for context (I wouldn't do that unless presenting to others) and then think it out using the 4MAT model.

Getting me to do all of the things you said. Namely reflecting and engagement.

This doesn't require you to Mind Map for sure.. But for me it's a way to collaborate and teach which helps learning as well.


Again thanks for your input. I think you're right. And I think I do the same thing you're speaking about. But maybe I haven't been able to articulate it well..

If the process sounded like a book report it certainly wasn't supposed to be.. I hated those too!

But moreso it's a process or a system for getting you to reflect and be creative around what you're reading about and spend less time just processing and storing for later.

Either way! To each their own I suppose. Thanks for responding.

I will attempt to improve on my explanation and your feedback has helped.
 

Bertram

Silver Contributor
Read Fastlane!
Speedway Pass
Oct 25, 2015
574
829
Virginia
For those who didn't care to read all the way to the 'one neat trick.'

Reading is much like the act of overhearing, not the act of hearing. A different, deeper thinking happens. That's why humans need this skill.
Think of the best ways to overhear, or spy on communication. That's a reader's mind.
At face value this means start by turning off music with verbal content.

Here's the "one neat trick" to boost reading comprehension: read while standing up and pacing. Walking moderately with an audiobook is similarly effective.
Wait, what?
We use our lower body major muscle groups to encode memory tasks.
Mammals are that cool.
So get up and pace the room when you read. Your ability will zoom up like a fever.
 
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Last edited:

GoodluckChuck

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Feb 2, 2017
659
2,593
my house
What a great conversation so far. Thank you @Ethan S for your great post and thank you @Bertram for your thoughtful reply.

I ran into the issue Bertram talks about but from the opposite angle.

I spent a few months trying to outline my business processes and theories using mind maps and outlines. I kept running into this issue and it took me to realize what it was.

What was it?

Lack of context...

I finally figured out in my own slow way that there is no substitute for the written word. That's what makes books so amazing. A writer can get into the nitty-gritty areas of their thought by use of language. It truly is the essence of what it means to be human. Our brains are literally built to use it, so why was I trying to get away from that?

Since having this authentic realization in my own practices I've gone back to writing out my thoughts and processes. It takes a lot longer but again, there is no substitute for words.


As far as your mind maps go I can see how useful they are to you as the author. You can look at a mind map like looking at notes and review material in your head. I think that the reflection process is where the true value comes from.

My main concern with your technique is that you pre-judge what content is important before you've consumed the content. I take somewhat of an opposite approach that I learned from Bill Gates. I usually finish every book I take up reading. That's because I believe that a good author doesn't write useless words, so if there is a chapter in a book, it's probably pretty important.

This makes me a lot more selective about books I commit to. I'll spend 20 minutes or so reading the table of contents and scanning the contents of a book before I put it on my list. A lot of times I'll decide I don't need to read it if I already know the material well or it's not the kind of information I'm looking for.


I'm curious, what do you use for mind mapping? (Apologies if you said it already. I didn't see it.)

I have been using a program called Simplemind for 7 years or so and I love it. It is cross-platform meaning I can use it on my phone, tablet, and computer. It's also a one time purchase. I think it was $60 and they update it quite frequently. It's customizable and allows for searches across all mind maps.

Another thing I want to point out is the value in your mind maps and summaries for others thinking about picking up a book. I think there's value in having a sneak preview of the contents for someone trying to decide whether or not a book is worth reading. Similar to the way I skim a book, one could check out your mind map and get a general idea of the content.
 

Bertram

Silver Contributor
Read Fastlane!
Speedway Pass
Oct 25, 2015
574
829
Virginia
My main concern with your technique is that you pre-judge what content is important before you've consumed the content.
Very useful comments, thanks @GoodluckChuck.
Writing is great for all kinds of development. I think it's easy for people to think the writing process and the reading process are the same thing. Becoming a better writer doesn't mean someone gets better at reading.
I'm going to have more to say on this in another thread one of these days.
 

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