Have you ever had the experience of reading a book, listening to a presentation or watching a TV programme and discovering at the end that you could hardly remember any of the points made? If someone had asked you to summarise what had been said, you wouldn’t have known where to start.
Well, if that has happened to you it’s nothing to be surprised about … it’s a common enough experience. It’s due to the fact that our brains are excellent filters of incoming information and only let through what is of interest to us. It has to be that way or we would be overwhelmed with information. But it causes a problem when the filter isn’t set quite right and filters out material that we really do need.
So say for example that we have a textbook to read for an exam. How do we set our filter so that the information goes in, rather than getting ejected because our brain thinks it’s dull or uninteresting?
The answer is to ask ourselves questions about it. Before starting to read the textbook, spend a moment or two completing the sentence “Questions I could ask myself about this material include…. ”
Then take the 4 or 5 best questions you have come up with and jot down some answers to them off the top of your head. Don’t worry about whether the answers make sense or not… the important thing is to get your brain engaging with the subject. Only then start reading the text.
Once you have finished reading, you can go through the same procedure quickly again. That will help to fix the material in your mind.
In this way you can engage with the material both before and after you read it. If it’s a really complicated document, like the textbook in my example, you could repeat this procedure before each chapter or section.
There are many other ways that you can use this method…. before a client interview, before taking a test drive on a new car, before visiting a famous tourist site and so on ….. use your imagination!