Remember What You Read by Using SQ3R

Remembering what you have read is crucial if you try to learn something. Just reading through the text passively is not usually enough. Active reading means that the reader actively thinks about what (s)he’s reading, and marks & makes notes of key ideas.

SQ3R is an active reading-comprehension method that helps remembering the key points. It converts your notes to Q&A format. SQ5R was introduced by Francis Pleasant Robinson in his 1946 book Effective Study.  The name comes from the words Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review.

Skim through the text: look at headings, pictures, charts, summary etc. (If studying for a test, check also what the teacher regards important.)

Turn the headings and other material into questions, and write them down. You may also create more generic or your own questions, depending on the situation (e.g. the reason you are reading).

Read & Recite
Read the text. After each paragraph, try to answer the questions. Write down the answers and key points using your own words. This forces you to engage with the text, instead of just passive reading.

Read the questions and try to answer them. Try to remember the key points. Check the answers from your notes. If you have trouble remembering, review your notes and repeat later.

Cornell Note Taking System

Cornell notes is a structured note-taking method, that makes SQ3R’s review process easier. Notes are arranged on a (paper) sheet:

  • Questions on the left
  • Notes on the right
  • Summary at the bottom

To review, just cover the notes and summary.


John Ramos: Guide to Effective Note Taking – SQ3R and Cornell

Virginia Tech: SQ3R – Reading/Study System

Saddleback College: SQ5R (PDF)

Learn Efficiently With Deliberate Practice

Expertise it not dependent on talent, but largely the result of efficient practice. Merely performing a skill multiple times is not an effective way of learning, because learning has more to do with how one practices. Deliberate practice is a way of learning as efficiently as possible.

“… the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.” [1]

Deliberate practice has five essential components:

  • Have a Goal. Be specific on what you are learning. Split large and vague skills (e.g. be a better artist) into concrete chunks (e.g. learn to draw portraits, understand perspective…).
  • Be motivated. You must be motivated make and effort to improve. Practice isn’t inherently fun, but the results are rewarding.
  • Customized to challenge, but not overburden you. Take into account what you already know and can do. Understand your weaknesses and practice those areas. Practice at more challenging levels as you learn.
  • Immediate feedback. Get feedback on how well you did and what to improve. It will make learning much more efficient.
  • Repeat. Repeat the same or similar tasks. Becoming an expert will take time and perseverance, but don’t burn yourself out either. Make a schedule.

In the end, motivation dictates who will become an expert.


K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer: The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance

Corbett Barr, Expert Enough: Deliberate Practice

Create a Productive Organization in Modern World

The world has become more complex, so cooperation has become more important and the “holy trinity of efficiency” less so because they don’t promote cooperation.

So, ignore these outdated “rules”:

  • clarity: everything is not clear and simple, but may change case-by-case
  • accountability: creates complexity
  • measurement: if single worker’s effort is measured, (s)he will concentrate on that and not on cooperation

And, in order to be productive in modern world, create organizations that:

  • make cooperation useful and desirable from an individual’s point of view
  • has not complex structures and measurement systems
  • go for fuzziness instead of clarity
  • remove most measurement systems, and instead look for cooperation


Yves Morieux: How too many rules at work keep you from getting things done


Embrace Failure to Develop Personally

For professional success, people usually make themselves known (or brand themselves) as:

  • Something unique
  • Recognizable by others
  • Better or more distinctive than others
  • Someone who is repeating success, without failures

This way you will become a sought-after specialist for your niche.

But then again, you may get bored of doing the same thing over and over again. It can also make you stuck in your niche, and not develop yourself further.

For personal development, failure is the key for learning. You should try out things that you are unsure about, because that makes you

  • Aware of what you are able to do
  • Discover and learn new things

So, embrace failure.


Milton Glaser: On the Fear of Failure