It’s safe to say we all know the benefits of reading. It’s also safe to say that sometimes while the mind is willing and even eager to acquire new information, the body is weak. Sometimes, the reading bug just disappears and while you may want to read, you just can’t bring yourself to do it for a myriad of reasons, many of them hidden even from you.
Enter audiobooks. They make it possible for you to ‘read’ even when you don’t necessarily feel like it physically and they make it possible for you to try out a new book to see what you think about it without necessarily having to make the time investment demanded by reading. If it checks out, then you can proceed to reading it, if it doesn’t, at least you didn’t waste your time. Win-Win. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of audiobooks.
- Download a dedicated audiobook reading application/program
Do not listen to audiobooks on general media players that you use to listen to music and watch movies. There are many free programs dedicated to audiobooks. Select one that has the ability to pick up where you left off, allows you to adjust playback speed and has a bookmarking feature. Five of the most common ones for people listening on their laptops are MusicBee, WorkAudioBook, Audiobook Player, Audiobooked and BookListener, all of which are free. There are many free audiobook phone apps most of which have free to download audiobooks. The only drawback when it comes to these apps is they mostly have older books. For those looking to listen to recent releases, you may have to fork up some cash for the premium apps.
- Listen with a pen and paper
There’s an effective reading strategy referred to as reading while writing. In this method, readers are encouraged to read with a pen and paper and take smart notes about what they’re learning or what insights they are gleaning. So when you read something particularly profound or insightful, you write it down in your own words, not the usual writing down of quotes. Yes, you can take down quotes, but priority is given to rewriting the new knowledge in your own words just to confirm you have understood it, not to forget the fact that your chances of recall increase when you put something in your own words. Do this with audiobooks as well. Pause and rewrite the new insights in your own words.
Make use of the bookmarks facility to mark the areas that were especially informative or entertaining for you so that you can review them and maybe take more detailed notes or take down some quotes or even just enjoy them again.
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- Eliminate distractions
Listening makes you more prone to distractions than reading so you have to intentionally minimize distractions as much as possible. If you must do something else while listening to the audiobook, make it a mindless task such as folding your clothes or taking a walk or sitting in a matatu on your daily commute.
Make every effort to focus on the book. This will improve with time but you have to be intentional about focusing and not allowing your mind to wander. Listen when you are relaxed and not worried or when your mind is all over the place. Our minds are already so prone to distractions and wandering off so listening when you already have a lot on your mind will not be as beneficial as it could be if you were relaxed.
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- Take Breaks
Audiobooks especially when the narrator is great simply feel like they are flowing smoothly on and you could get through the entire book in one sitting. It’s not a sprint. The goal is to get the most out of the books i.e. learn, enjoy yourself and retain the new information. Take your time. Breaks have been linked to increased understanding, recall and retention as Sohren note in his book, How to Take Smart Notes. Adjust the playback speed as you see fit and rest assured that when you come back after your break, the app will pick up right where you left off.
- Write a brief summary
When you finally get to the end, write a brief summary of the book, making sure to document what was especially salient for you. Our minds are not the best when it comes to recalling, so this will come in handy when you start to forget.
These listening tips will also serve you well when listening to podcasts and other audio talks.
Check out this piece on the benefits of podcasts and audiobooks.
Ahrens, S. (2017). How to Take Smart Notes. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.