How do you read?

I am at this phase where I no longer worry about how many books I read. It is, however true that reading is good for you: It’s been proven to improve people’s memories, increase brain power, enhance empathic skills, and it has even been linked to longer life spans.

However, as I read a lot, I now worry about how to retain the information and being able to access them easily. Think of it like having a supercomputer for a brain with an advanced search function, where you can have the information tagged and categorised and you can call with just a few syntaxes. I can easily recall what I have read in the middle of conversations, and being able to recite them before an audience within a few seconds.

As an academic, I have to do quite a number of literature review as part of thesis requirements. Being a voracious reader, I do not mind reading hundreds of articles and journals every year. I do, however, struggle with finding the most reliable method of note-taking and note-keeping, in a way — again —that will enable me to recall and cite any specific sections whenever I want to sit down and focus on writing.

My current method is quite archaic, for the lack of better words. It consists of a huge Google Spreadsheet with table of content, containing titles, authors, journals / articles / books etc., followed by subsequent tabs of notes. Recently, I discovered Notion and had been trying out its many templates and features, and was hooked specifically on its Reading List template for this purpose. It worked well so far, I even recommended it to a fellow academic.

I recently also came across Shopify’s Director of Infrastructure Engineering, Simon’s note-keeping setup on books he had been reading. It’s very very extensive and it seems to work very well with the idea of reading – retaining – recalling bit later, but at this point of time I could not afford to start a new system all over again.

I am always curious to know if everyone has any note-taking and note-keeping methods that have worked well so far for you. Let me know if you have any!

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