Better Retention by Applying Experiences
Hello. My name is Jacob. I have a reading problem. Well, I used to.
I love to read. I have numerous Bible versions and even far more books about the Bible than I can count. This is no exaggeration. I am known to pack my recent reads before my change of clothes. Books are a priority to me. I even have a monthly budget for them, right next to groceries.
But the love for reading is not my problem. For the longest time, my problem has been retention. In any given week, I am reading 4-6 different books. Often they vary in subject matter, literary form, page number, chapter size, bounding, color, cut and thickness. For me, variety is good, but it can bully the mind. I get mixed up. I confuse story lines. I forget prior chapters and principles. This is the problem.
How do I make my reading habits better? How can I retain more while reading just as much and as often? How can I get the most out of my full reading schedule? I answered this dilemma with what I call contextual reading.
Have you ever noticed that particular times of the year stimulate particular emotions in you? For example, when Spring has arrived, the air is cool and thin, the sun is bright, the trees are sprouting buds and the flowers give off refreshing aromas. These experiences bring back a number of memorable feelings and attitudes.
I have learned that these experiences are not restricted to just seasons of the year. Rather, we have them quite often. When we walk into our church sanctuary, there might be a measure of excitement or solemnity. When we walk into our bedroom, there might be a sense of rest and tiredness. When we sit outside in a swing and the wind chimes sound to a tune altogether different from the birds chirping. Yet they seem to be unified and appropriate together. These are experiences that move us one way or another. They stir up feelings and attitudes.
These experiences naturally trigger certain feelings. They put our mind in a certain frame. They are more or less contexts in which we enter and exit. And, since they are naturally changing us, why not use this to our advantage?
This is what contextual reading is. It is consistently reading in an intentional context. I believe it brings better retention by applying consistent experiences.
Put a book by your bedside. Make sure that is not too academic that you will require additional reference material. Then read it before you go to bed only. Likewise, put a book in your car to read while you sit in waiting rooms. Put a book in the nearest restroom or on your office table. Put a book next to your computer. Put a book at the kitchen table or next to the couch.
The point is to create a context for your books. Create an experience for your reading. This way, your mind can enter and exit the context that is appropriate for the book that you are reading. And hopefully, as you enter the context, your mind returns to where you left it.
Put books with short chapters in the places where you have little time. Put the devotional books in places where you tend to be during morning or evening hours. Be creative. Associate literature with times of the day, places in the house, schedules that you have, people that are around.
You know your schedule best. Put it to work.
By doing so, I have been able to read through books more quickly and retain their subjects more accurately. I have even noticed that it is sometimes easier to convey the books’ subjects while in the context which they are read. It is amazing how the mind and body works this way.