When you’re reading to learn, the note-taking options seem endless.
Is highlighting or underlining enough?
Should I jot down notes in the margins?
What should I do at the end of each chapter?
What should I do at the end of the book?
While there’s no one right way to read and process a book, I do have a strong recommendation: engage with the information while you’re reading it. Don’t wait until the end of the book before you start processing what you’ve read.
While I was reading the The Psychology of Money, I focused on one chapter at a time, first with reading and underlining, and then with a single page of notes to capture the key ideas from that chapter with short phrases and little sketches.
Here’s what those chapter-by-chapter notes looked like:
When you look at that pile as a whole, it feels a bit overwhelming. That was precisely my experience when I was reviewing those notes with the plan of making a video sharing some of my favorite ideas from the book.
So I decided to take the filtering process one layer deeper, with some new materials (sticky notes) to provide the useful constraint of size.
As I looked back on those chapter notes, I pulled out the ideas (usually just one per chapter) that still resonated with me, and gave each idea a single sticky note.
The resulting 16 sticky notes made my task of video creation much more manageable. I simply pulled out the ones that I was most interested in talking about, knowing that around six is all that’d I’d reasonably be able to fit within the constraint (there’s that word again) of a single piece of poster paper.
Here’s how that video turned out in case you missed it last week:
One of my goals in creating that type of visual artifact is to be able to retrieve those ideas from memory in the future, whenever I’m considering a big financial decision.
As we learned from the book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, that act of retrieval is one of the three ingredients to sticky learning. In this video from last year you can watch me sketch out and talk through all three:
As I now look to the book that I’m currently reading and sketchnoting, The Creative Act by Rick Rubin, my plan is to try skipping the larger sketchbook pages and going straight to the sticky notes after reading each chapter. I think that applying a bit stronger of a filter earlier in the process will be helpful, especially considering how short each chapter is within that book.
In a recent livestream on YouTube I was asked about the process of sketchnoting a book. In this clip from that livestream I share some additional thoughts that you might find to be useful:
As I share in that video, I encourage you the leverage the energy of the first read. Do something with those ideas while the excitement of the first exposure is still fresh.
If you’d like to experience the book sketchnoting process alongside me and other visual thinkers, come join us for our upcoming Sketchnote Book Club!
Throughout February we’ll be gathering to discuss The Creative Act and share our visual notes of it, and along the way I’ll be teaching the fundamentals of visual note-taking so that you can start using these skills in other areas of your life as well.
I’ve got a handful of other live workshops coming up as well. Here’s the full list:
- February 1st – Mark Making: From Verbal to Visual Thinking
- February 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th – Sketchnote Book Club: The Creative Act by Rick Rubin
- February 8th – The Visual Thinking Process: An Actionable Framework
- February 15th – Build Your Visual Vocabulary: The Language of Visual Thinking
I’m looking forward to connecting with you live!
If self-paced is more your thing, check out our library of courses.