How To Get Most Out of Book Summaries With This Color-coding System

Date published
Aug 5, 2021
Last updated
Aug 5, 2021 8:10 AM

Over the last few years, books have been the main source of practical knowledge and a cornerstone of my personal growth.

Most of its practical value I attribute to the system behind reading.

I read around 40 books every year. And for each of them, I make notes and summarize in a special way. So the process more looks like studying, not reading.


Note-taking system to change the world

One of the parts of the system I find particularly helpful is the color-coding method for note-taking.

The purpose of this method is to make books easily digestible. Additionally, it allows you to condense all the meaningful insights from reading that you could quickly revisit and reuse later.

As I consume most of the books in audio format, sometimes it's pretty difficult to absorb everything an author has to offer. Audiobooks are great because you can listen to them while doing errands, during sports or commutes. But it also means that not always you can make notes.

That's why I have a habit to re-read and quickly skim through the digital copy of an audiobook some time after listening. During that process, I go through the most recent chapters, draw on particular insights, and make notes.

I'm used to copying quotes directly from the book, but you can also write them in your own words.

Having a system to highlight the notes really helps.

It's quite easy to set up if you are using Notion for library management. Notion's text editor offers a choice of 10 different colors for highlighting the text.


The logic behind it

For highlighting notes, I have 5 different categories based on their relevance and importance: Black, Blue, Purple, Pink, and Yellow.

  • Black/gray — default text of Common importance
  • Blue — interesting insight, valuable piece of information, Rare finding
  • Purple — powerful insight, important information, Epic value
  • Pink — mind-changing insight, exceptionally valuable information, Extreme Epic value
  • Yellow — 🐉Legendary insight, the ultimate value, the most golden of all nuggets

I drew the inspiration for the color ranking from the common rarity system of items in various online games (e.g., CS:GO, Dota, WoW)

Using this system of colors, I highlight notes from the book based on their value. This way, the giant wall of text is transformed into an easily skimmable format, which you can conveniently revisit later.


Before color-coding
Before color-coding
After color-coding
After color-coding
Before color-coding
Before color-coding
After color-coding
After color-coding

Value source

By doing this a few times a week, you achieve two important goals:

  1. You consolidate the acquired knowledge. 1-2 days after reading, I often forget many details from the recent chapters. Practice makes perfect, and by repeating what you've already read, you can learn much more.
  2. You condense the book's contents into a practical set of insights and principles that you can use moving forward. The most value from many books you get after the behavior change. But first, you want to identify what to change and practice it repeatedly. This realization is what also lead me to develop my own system of insights and principles.

It is worth noting that the value you assign to a particular insight is arbitrary and subjective to your judgment. And that's okay — you are doing this for yourself, and you should highlight whatever you find insightful.

To define the importance of insights, you can also use a different set of colors that resonate with you.

With that said, I hope you enjoy using the system!


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