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Always Have Your Journal With You When You Read!

January 21, 2013

by Kerry Kilpatrick

“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” Will Self

How many books have you read in your lifetime? Do you remember the titles or the characters in them? Do you remember the plot or if you enjoyed what you read? How about the author’s name? Would it be valuable to you to improve your comprehension while reading? Would you benefit from improved memory regarding the content of your reading? Would you like to dramatically improve your vocabulary? Would you like to get more out of the great books that you are reading now? How would you like to have a system in place that would help you answer all those questions with a resounding YES?

A journal is an amazing tool of leverage when it comes to reading. It has the ability to greatly magnify the knowledge that is acquired from taking in the written word. Once you get in the habit of reading with a journal close at hand, you will feel absolutely mentally naked and impotent if you are forced to read without it.

Although I will refer primarily to the reading of books during this discussion, the concepts can apply to the reading of any material. When you start reading a book make a note in your journal of the date you started, the title of the book, the author, the copy write date and how you happened to be reading that book. Did someone recommend it to you and if so note their name. If the book was a gift make a note of who gave it to you. In both cases having that information makes a follow up thank you card very easy. I often read books that were referenced by other authors and seeing the chain of connections that results, can prove very helpful or simply interesting in retrospect.

Make a note of any initial concepts or characters introduced in your readings and the page where they were first discussed. This can be very helpful when subsequent references throughout the book are only a first name, last name or, in the case of concepts, often only by initials. If there is any confusion you can clarify in seconds by going back to the initial reference. This massively aids in comprehension and helps those characters and concepts “stick” in your brain.

Your vocabulary will grow significantly by taking a few moments to jot down any unknown words you come across during your reading along with a definition. Chances are very strong you will come across that same word later in the book as the author writes from his preferred repertoire of words. You may have to refer to your written definition again but after a few reviews of it in context – you will own that word and never have to look it up again.

Resonate is an important word to know the definition of when it comes to reading and journaling. The definition that applies most appropriately is “to relate harmoniously or strike a chord”. When you come across a quote or concept that strikes a chord or resonates with you, jot it down. It will very effectively help you retain mental possession of that which you write down. More importantly you will learn a tremendous amount about yourself as you compile this rich pool of content that reflects what really connects with you at a deep level. This benefit alone is worth the seemingly extra effort entailed in journaling along side your reading.

When you finish a book make a dated entry of when you completed it as well as what you thought of it or a short critique. Would you read it again or recommend it to others to read? Did you like the author’s style and should you look for other books they wrote. Give a short synopsis of what the general theme or storyline of the book is so you can jog your memory if you ever want to refer to the book in the future.

And finally, what may be the most important component of journaling and reading, is the subsequent reviews of your journal entries. One of the most powerful attributes of the journaling discipline is reviewing what you wrote at a later date. I find it very rewarding, and highly beneficial, to review the entries of my readings of books from years gone by. Suddenly the book pops back in my head. The characters get reintroduced and I learn about what was important to me during the reading of that book. I can review the unique words the author taught me from their vocabulary or era and rekindle thoughts, impression and quotes that greatly impacted me. You will enjoy this one aspect of journaling immensely!

The use of a journal while reading adds a whole new depth, intellectual capability, and tool for self awareness, that is absent to a significant degree compared to reading without one. I trust that the implementation of this discipline will open up vast new benefits for you. I would greatly enjoy hearing any of the stories that ensue. You can contact me at


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