Learning something new shouldn’t be easy. If it feels effortless, you’re probably not actually learning anything. In order to get better, you have to reach. It needs to be a little bit difficult.
Research shows that people who follow strategy B [read ten pages at once, then close the book and write a one page summary] remember 50 percent more material over the long term than people who follow strategy A [read ten pages four times in a row and try to memorize them]. This is because of one of deep practice’s most fundamental rules: Learning is reaching. Passively reading a book—a relatively effortless process, letting the words wash over you like a warm bath—doesn’t put you in the sweet spot. Less reaching equals less learning.
On the other hand, closing the book and writing a summary forces you to figure out the key points (one set of reaches), process and organize those ideas so they make sense (more reaches), and write them on the page (still more reaches, along with repetition). The equation is always the same: More reaching equals more learning.
You don’t have to write a summary in paragraph format either. You can simply write bullet points. And while you can use the author’s terminology, it’s much better to use your own.
This is part of the idea behind our blank sheet approach to instantly improve your ability to retain, connect, and use the information you’re reading.