I consume a lot of information, and try to write a summary of this information in some digital form so I can:

  1. Refer to this information when I need to make decisions in the future
  2. Retain the information better through the act of summarizing it
  3. Share it with others, who can then benefit from it
  4. Use snippets from this easily when making my own content in the future

To do this, I use a number of techniques

1. Progressive summarization for digital books and articles

This was a technique pioneered by Tiago Forte. It involves 5 steps. I'm going to use my summary of Almanack of Naval to illustrate the technique

  1. Highlights/notes: When you're reading a book, highlight anything you find useful and take notes liberally. Then, export these notes to a page on Notion, Roam, or Evernote. An example of this is the "Highlights" section towards the bottom of the Almanack of Naval page
  2. Bold Passages: Then, go through all of your exported highlights/notes and bold the passages that seem relevant
  3. Highlight Passages: Then go through just the bolded bits and highlight the bolded bits that seem like they are really speaking out to you
  4. Mini-summary: Take the highlighted passages, and write a mini-summary based on them. An example of this is the "Summary" section in Almanack of Naval
  5. Remix: Lastly, when you are writing your own documents for planning or something else and want to refer back to something you read, you can simply come back to the document and paste in the most relevant bit! To make this easier, you can add tags and keywords to this page

This is summarized in the image below:


The same technique can be applied to articles. This is particularly true if you are reading a series of articles which all lead up to a larger theme. An example of this my summary of Shipping things sustainably, which was a summary of 4 articles from the amazing Commoncog blog

That's it! Do this, and you'll realize that the value you get from reading books will increase substantially and that you'll retain learnings much better

2. Highlights for podcasts and audiobooks

Whenever I'm listening to an interesting podcast or audiobook, I try to take down interesting notes on my phone. This can sometimes be difficult if you're on the go, but is worth it. Podcasts, in particular, have so much knowledge can can leave through the cracks. I would recommend getting a pair of earphones that have an option to pause and resume the podcast/audiobook for this (Airpods are great)