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Consuming knowledge is only the first step. Actually retaining that knowledge is the tough part. Especially since there’s two types of memory: Recognition, and Recall.

Recognition is like when you can’t remember the name of an actor from that one movie, and then someone says the name, and “Bingo!” that’s the one. You can maintain a very high degree of accuracy etc, but only if someone else says the name first and you confirm that’s the correct one.

Recall is when you’re asked what’s the actor from that one movie, and right away you know and say it. Of course other people around you steal your recall and turn it into recognition by saying “Bingo!”.

Recognition is good, and it can help. But even though it’s easier, it has a lot less benefits and utilities. Recall is the goal. Which means that you have to increase retention of high profile memory chunks, so that when needed, you can recall the right information correctly.

Since the benefits of reading have been well lauded everywhere else, I won’t do that here. But reading is an example of an activity that without retention is a much lower ROI activity than reading with high retention. So some of the ways I’ve found to massively increase retention is to:

1. Use pen or pencil and mark up the book a ton. Underline, add stars next to important paragraphs, question marks to stuff you don’t understand or maybe disagree with, write notes in the margins, bracket important stuff.

2. Highlight, preferably with a couple colors for different types. The goal is high visibility on important ideas so that you can come back easily.

3. And most important, write the most impactful, important, ideas down in a journal or notebook (preferably paper, but Evernote or Google Docs works as well).

4. Then re-read the book and only read the highlighted or marked up segments.

5. Then periodically re-read your written notes in the notebook or software to make sure the most important stuff is ‘sticking’.

Interestingly, the best frequency to do follow up “Retention Maintenance” is the Fibonacci Sequence.

Here it is in days (0 is the day you finish the book): 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377

For example, after reading the book on the first of the month, you would review your summary notes on the days with red dots:

Fibonacci Calender