10 Tips to Retain More of What You Read Online

In today’s society most of us read a considerable amount of information online on a daily or weekly basis. Whether you do business online, maintain a blog, read for your job, or just read for pleasure, I’m sure you could benefit from retaining more of what you read. The internet is a vast source of information that can be found and digested quickly, but how much can you really retain long-term? Here are ten helpful tips to try for yourself.

1. READ, RECITE, REVIEW

The three R’s will help you to engage in active reading that can help to increase how much you retain. Reciting refers to pausing periodically while you are reading to reflect on the information that’s being covered. Rather than rushing through the article, recite key points to let them sink in, and relate what you are reading to what you already know. The reviewing process involves going back to re-read parts that you may have missed or not understood. It also includes looking at the information as a whole and recognizing portions that relate to your purpose.

2. TRIM THE FAT

You’ll have a better ability to retain the important information that you’re reading if you can cut out some of the unimportant stuff. If you use an RSS reader, go through your subscription list and unsubscribe to any feeds that you really don’t need. Focus your reading on those sources that consistently provide you with the most valuable and relevant information.

3. TAKE ACTION

Most of us tend to remember things more accurately if we have a personal experience that helps us to understand and remember. When you read something that you know will be useful to you, implement what you have learned as soon as possible and you’ll give yourself a personal experience to go along with the information that you have read.

4. READ AT TIMES WHEN YOU CAN FOCUS

All of us have certain times of the day that are better than others for reading, retaining, and learning. If you allocate your most productive time to reading you’ll be able to have a sharper mindset and the material will get your full attention. Daily routines and schedules also influence your ability to retain. Read at times when you are not in a rush. Don’t force yourself to read at times that don’t allow you to give retention a shot.

5. BE AWARE OF VISUAL CUES

Writers use visual cues such as bold text, italics, lists, charts and graphs to cause certain content to stand out to you. Pay attention to these cues and use them to understand the structure and find the most important pieces of information. Visual cues can be especially helpful when scanning over content or reviewing after you have read. Not using the cues will lead to a lack of focus and decreased retention as the key points will not stand out.

6. MAP WHAT YOU ARE READING

Mapping involves a few basic steps that can drastically increase the retention rate of your reading. The first step is to understand your purpose. Know what it is that you want to learn or gain from reading. The second step is to pull out key words and phrases. The third step is to focus only on the information that matters to your purpose. With mapping you can achieve more in less time and retain more because less important details won’t be hogging your memory.


7. PRINT OUT PAGES OF PARTICULAR INTEREST

Sometimes the best way to keep something for future use is simply to print it out and file it away. Having a well-organized filing system can be a big help when you go back to look for specific information. For non-technical people that aren’t into online bookmarks, this is a realistic solution. Additionally, just reading something from paper rather than from the monitor can make a big difference for some people in terms of retention.

8. TAKE NOTES

Note taking is a common practice in a classroom setting or at seminars and conferences, but very few people take notes while reading online. Why? It’s probably not natural to most of us when reading online, but note taking has several benefits. First of all, the action of writing down the key points of an article will help to reinforce those ideas. Second, notes give you a way to go back and make use of information in the future. Note taking can also be combined with the filing system mentioned above.

9. OUTLINE THE ARTICLE

If there is a particular article containing a good bit of information that you want to understand and remember, take a pen and paper and jot down an outline of the article as you read. Writing the outline will help you to use an active reading technique that will increase retention, plus it will help you to understand and identify the relationship between key points of the article.

10. USE A BOOKMARKS MANAGER LIKE DEL.ICIO.US

As you’re surfing through the web you’re bound to come across certain pages and websites that you know you will have a use for in the future. Rather than relying on your memory to make your way back to this content, use a bookmarks manager (like del.icio.us) to store all of your bookmarked pages online in one place.

Simply using a bookmarks manager isn’t enough. You also need to be careful to accurately tag the page so that you will easily be able to find it later. When you go back to del.icio.us to find what you’re looking for, tags are probably the easiest way to browse through your bookmarks. Use tags consistently to mark the same types of pages and you’ll save yourself some time and headaches in the future.

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72 Responses

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  • Karen Zara, October 16, 2007

    I’m very forgetful, so this post came in handy for me. :)

    A method I’ve been using a lot lately is the last one: whenever I find an article I feel I’ll need to refer to later, I add it to my del.icio.us bookmarks. On the other hand, a method I’d rather not use is #7, because I tend to forget to check what I’ve printed out. Moreover, I don’t like having too much paper around, because it can easily turn into a big mess.

  • Mike C, October 17, 2007

    This are great tips. I do have a question about the bookmarking that you mention. Is there a good way to figure out how social bookmarking sites function and good ways to get your own articles bookmarked?

  • Vandelay Design, October 17, 2007

    Karen,
    Thanks for your response. I use bookmarks a lot too.

    Mike,
    I would pick one particular bookmarking site (at least to start) and use it a little bit yourself to get familiar with how it works. You can bookmark your own pages. On sites like delicious, pages that rack up a lot of bookmarks in a short period of time make it to the front page for everyone to see. Hope that helps.

  • My Forex Tools, October 17, 2007

    im a forgetful person also, usually after reading the article, if i feel that is useful for me then i will jote down in a paper, then i will put it somewhere, in future, if i need it, i will actually remember i have read the article and jote down something but the paper already in the bin…thats my bad habit…so, hopeful after reading your article, i can improve la..thx la..

  • Aurelius Tjin, October 17, 2007

    That was a very good post!

    We all experience this short-term memory loss at times, it helps if we have guidelines like these to enhance retention of whatever we have read online. :)

    Thanks!

  • WarriorBlog, October 17, 2007

    I usually bookmark really important one I don’t have time to read, but other than that I remember most of what I read…probably because I listen to brainwave entrainment music a LOT.

  • ReviewSaurus, October 17, 2007

    Ah! loved the post and your post on DBT. While reading that post, I thought it was done by daniel only and while reading it..that you were doing the exactly same thing…..but then finally I noticed that it was you only…who wrote the post…awesome work :)

  • Vandelay Design, October 17, 2007

    WarriorBlog,
    I wish I had your memory.

    ReviewSaurus,
    Thanks for noticing my post at DBT and for the compliments.

  • Jane, October 18, 2007

    I read out loud when I need to memorize either for a lecture or presentation and it works well. I read in a study that it helps when additional senses are involved in the reading process.

  • Vandelay Design, October 18, 2007

    Jane,
    I’ve heard that too. I found contradicting opinions when I was doing research for this post, so I guess it just depends on the person. If it works for you, keep doing it.

  • NsaneNoob, October 26, 2007

    My style of memorizing is to read and record down with my mobile phone. Then i will be again and again listen to what i’ve recorded. Even eat and sleeping i’ll be listening to it all day long. Although it feel lame, but heck it works.

  • Thatch, February 2, 2008

    Good list, with regard to No. 8

    For quite a while now I have used the scrapbook plugin for Firefox but recently discovered the Zotero (you first mentioned it in Oct 2006).

    It allows me to add notes, tags, related pages (you know how you find one page and then follow a few links save a page three away and forget to save the first one) all in the one place.

    I just checked and discovered I haven’t added anything to scapbook in months… now if only there was a quick and and easy conversion… sigh)

    Have a look at it, well worth the time.

  • pittsburghsue, February 2, 2008

    I’ve been using Google Bookmarks and Google Notebook for a couple of months now to manage bookmarks and add notes. I love it – and best of all, I can access them both from home or from work.

    I’m pretty good at remembering most of what I read, since I’m a visual learner, but I often can’t remember where I found it when I want to share it with someone else. The tags feature really helps me out a lot!

  • guest, February 2, 2008

    For #7,8,10: I use EverNote Free. Personally, I prefer to stay away from printing stuff and taking paper notes. Web clippings and electronic notes, like emails, are searchable. Also, a problem I’ve had with bookmarks is linkrot (see wikipedia).

  • Steve, February 3, 2008

    I’ve found that notetaking and the ability to use LOTS of keyword tags works best for me. I’m just not consistent with the use of the same keywords for the same topic area. However, if I clip something, make a notation about it, and then tag it, I’m more likely to remember it as well as locate it again. I also make a lot of use of bookmarks, even when offline, bookmarking a blank page and naming it “KEYWORD check this out”. I’ve tried evernote and some others and have finally settled on WikdPad as my notekeeper of choice.

  • Kumar, February 3, 2008

    Use Slacker to save the webpage on your drive. Bookmarking is ok but sometimes the content go away or the link will change etc. Slacker is a Firefox extension and just google to find it…

  • Russel Cheng, February 3, 2008

    Thanks for the tips! Since 2004, I have been sending the text of articles I read to myself in GMail. Set up asecond GMail account with something like “yournamenews” and send articles to it. When you want to search for something your read in the past, Google search your “yournamenews” account before searching the web. Fast, free and always on.

    I hope this helps.

  • Argyrios, February 3, 2008

    One trick that I use to remind myself of things that I read is to talk to other people about them. When the time is right (the conversation that you are involved in is relevant) try to mention those new things that you learned. Or find people with similar interests and share what you learned from a book/site/blog/etc.

    For me, it also helps if i read something more than once. I pay much more attention to details the second time I read an article.

  • opit, February 3, 2008

    I had a system – that hit a snag.
    Firefox has del.icio.us bookmarks in the browser. I also share bookmarks with another poster. Tagging is easy. StumbleUpon adds another possibility for extra special stuff. I keep a record of interesting websites as I go : and blog my finds.
    I still have most of that : but WordPress archived my blog! I do have Windows Live Writer files in memory – but share my information and have found people like an index of things to root around in that aren’t determined by the stupidities that define placement in the mainstream media.
    I’m up to my old tricks, however. I just have a new news stand.
    Check out Clipmarks. That’s another neat idea.

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  • Nadia Dxb, February 5, 2008

    Nice sharing, thanx for sharing

  • Jimmy, February 5, 2008

    Good List you did a grt job!

  • bob, March 27, 2008

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  • Large, April 21, 2008

    Great tipx, thx

  • Celebrity, June 12, 2008

    i will keep your insights in mind.

  • legal, June 18, 2008

    excellent tips

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  • lyric, July 21, 2008

    Read review recite, sounds like a better order.

  • americalandg, July 27, 2008

    look go red this global greed

  • meg, September 7, 2008

    Thanks for the clear orgnaizational information. Thing 1

  • meg, September 7, 2008

    Thanks for the clear organizational information. Thing 1

  • Ford chips, September 26, 2008

    one problem, i can never focus, so i cannot read at times when i am focus, for example right now, i am still not focus even when typing.

  • SMS Alerts, October 3, 2008

    Wow, fantastic tips! Considering most of my time online revolves around reading, i’ll be sure to use these!

  • Domain, October 12, 2008

    Nice article! Most people read many and often forget already after they read, this will help people to get useful information from what they read

  • Golfmitgliedschaft, October 12, 2008

    My style of memorizing is to read and record down with my mobile phone. Then i will be again and again listen to what i’ve recorded.

  • SBA, February 22, 2009

    Enjoyed the read, will bookmark.

  • IT Professionals, April 15, 2009

    I will keep these things in mind the next time i study for a test.

  • Compare Supliers, August 8, 2009

    I find taking notes works best for me when trying to remember a block of text. I just keep writing it out over and over again and eventually i memorize it

  • Mike-HID, October 12, 2009

    For #7,8,10: I use EverNote Free. Personally, I prefer to stay away from printing stuff and taking paper notes. Web clippings and electronic notes, like emails, are searchable. Also, a problem I’ve had with bookmarks is linkrot (see wikipedia).

    • Vandelay Website Design, October 12, 2009

      Mike-HID,
      Thanks for the feedback. I agree the web clippings are helpful, but I wouldn’t say that they help me to retain more of what I am reading. They may make it easier to go back and find it later, but if my goal is remembering more of what I am reading, writing it down does help.

  • Tony-Audio, October 26, 2009

    excellent tips thank you so much

  • durr, November 17, 2009

    great tips man

  • Jackwheels, November 19, 2009

    Thank you, I will keep these things in mind the next time i study for a test.

  • Mika2009Chips, January 8, 2010

    For #7,8,10: I use EverNote Free. Personally, I prefer to stay away from printing stuff and taking paper notes. Web clippings and electronic notes, like emails, are searchable. Also, a problem I’ve had with bookmarks is linkrot (see wikipedia).

    • Vandelay Website Design, January 9, 2010

      Mika,
      Just to clarify, I don’t print stuff out to keep in a notebook. I use a notebook for things like brochures, business cards, junk mail, things that are already printed and in my hand. I find it’s easier than scanning it and I like having some inspiration that isn’t on the computer. The most important thing, obviously, is that you do whatever works for you. Evernote is a great choice.

  • mp3runner1, January 12, 2010

    excellent tips. Thanks

  • Kathryn, June 23, 2013

    For me, these 10 tips were very helpful! This article was written very well: easy to read, and clear ‘tip headlines.’ Thank you Mr. Snell. =)

  • Kathryn, June 27, 2013

    Again, thank you Mr. Snell! I have memorized the 10 tips, and am using them as I read a book =) Very, very helpful!