How to get 10x more out of your reading

written by  Ryan Seamons

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“Our brain can only store a few thoughts at any one time. Our brain is for having ideas, not storing them.”

– Tiago Forte

I’ve been learning about how to make the most of the time I use consuming content. If you spend time reading or watching videos, you’re probably wasting a lot of that effort.

Progressive Summarization is a simple way to avoid that waste. It can be difficult to remember exactly what stood out to you in something you consumed in the past. But if you take a marginal amount of additional time to note important sections while you read, you unlock a lot of value for your future self. It works like this:

  1. Note sections of articles/videos that stand out or seem important

  2. Bold passages of those noted sections that are particularly impactful

  3. Highlight parts of the bolded sections that are the creme de la creme

  4. Summarize what a piece (or pieces ) of content was about

  5. Remix into new knowledge

All put together, it looks like this:


As you get into higher layers, you’re doing less and less work (and oft times not doing anything at all). This enables you to pass relevant knowledge to your future self.

This same concept of summarization can increase your influence in emails, roadmaps, marketing, presentations and anywhere else you need to remind yourself or teach others about information. The ability to summarize and enable a double-click if desired creates far more value than only communicating lots of details that need to be sifted through. (tweet this)

I highly encourage you to read Tiago Forte’s full article about progressive summary. I’ve already felt its influence on my work as I’m more mindfully consuming.

I’m noting relevant sections using Instapaper, then pulling those noted sections into RoamResearch to add highlights/bolded sections, write summaries, and then compose original articles/videos/social posts to share.

Here’s an example of my progressive summarization I used this week for a potential product we’re researching (let me know if you’d like early access to the prototype):


This gives me a 1-minute and 5-minute way to remind myself of 12 articles I read in a little over an hour.

Easily 10x more valuable than, “Hey, I read something about that last week … can’t remember exactly where.”

What have you been learning about? I ask this of my kids every dinner and love to hear from other avid learners.

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About the Author

Ryan Seamons
writes about more human approaches to modern management.

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