I was asked last week by some friends about how many books I read per week. My reply was at least one book a week. Truth is I’m typically reading 3 to 4 books at the same time. I used to grow frustrated at my inability to retain and/or use what I had read.
As a speaker, blogger or author, your ability to retrieve quotes, stories, and examples at a moments notice is a must. We can waste more time than we care to admit fumbling between books trying to remember where that quote or story lives.
I want to challenge you to become an active reader. An active reader strategically catalogs his learning so he can benefit others in the future. You should always be preparing. Collect stories, quotes, and ideas as you read because you never know what the future holds. When opportunity arises, it’s too late to prepare.
Once I became more intentional, I created a simple system to help me both index and use what I’ve read. In this example, I’ll be talking about how to index physical books and then store them in Evernote for easy retrieval later.
A Simple Guide to Indexing the Books You Read for Evernote
The process I’m about to share with you works great for both fiction and non-fiction books. I’ve also used this when reading biographies. This guide will help you become an active reader regardless of what book you are reading.
Step 1: Build your index with a blank page in the front of the book
The first thing I do even before diving into a new book is to look for a blank page in the front of the book. This will be my “index page.” I also try to have a blank page on the next page in case I fill up the first page.
Step 2: Make an index mark in the margin
As you read the book, be sure to have a pen handy. Be on the lookout for the following items:
- An amazing quote
- A great list
- A inspiring story
- An interesting insight
Whenever I come across something noteworthy, the first thing I do is place an index mark on that page. This mark will easily show up as I flip through a book (see pic).
Step 3: Underline or highlight the quote, story or statement you want to remember
I also will underline quotes and statements or place brackets around stories. This step might be obvious but this helps me find my content faster.
Step 4: Record a brief summary statement along with page number on your index page
Once I find something noteworthy, I will also take a moment and index it on my index page. I will first write down the page number and then a brief summary. If it is a quote, I will try to write down the entire quote (see pic above under step one).
The important thing I try to keep in mind is to keep my summary shorter than a tweet. This way I don’t spend too much time writing or filling up my index page too quickly.
Step 5: Snap a picture of your index page once you finish the book
After I finish a book (whether I reach the end or not), I will take a picture of my index pages. I prefer to use a tag called “book notes” for all of my indexed books.
Step 6: Use the Evernote search function when doing research
Since the words in your picture are searchable in Evernote, you can find anything quickly. I will search just in my “tag” for the keywords I’m looking for. This allows me to drastically reduce my research time.
A few final tips:
- Make sure your handwriting is not too sloppy. Evernote does a fairly good job, but it cannot read bad handwriting.
- Go back over old books and index them. It is a great review and it will help you to catalog great info from old books.
- Create an Index Bookshelf that contains just the books you have indexed.
- When researching, you can also just pick from these “indexed books” and browse the idex pages for inspiration for speaking and writing.
Question: When it comes to reading books, do you have a simple way to capture what you’ve learned? You can leave a comment by clicking here.