Can you remember what you read?  I have a large library, but looking at it I often feel like the speaker in the opening lines of Billy Collins’ poem Forgetfulness:

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of

The painful truth of this fun poem leads me to wonder what’s the point of all this reading if I can’t remember any of it?  And it’s not just me. There’s oodles of research out there that says we will forget most of what we’ve read.


Save It Into Evernote! It’s a good start, but storage and recall are different things.

unlimited storage

Well-organized storage isn’t enough. Your recall problem is directly proportional to the number of notes you save.

I don’t know why I once thought that saving my book highlights into a note-taking app like Evernote or OneNote would solve my recall problems. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that there’s no difference between doing that and simply tearing the pages out of the book and putting them in a filing cabinet. Where would that get me? (At one time I actually used to photocopy favorite book passages. All those photocopies are in a filing cabinet somewhere in my parent’s garage.)

Storage isn’t recall. It doesn’t matter whether I store thousands of notes in my parent’s garage, or if I carry them around on my iPhone: I can store a near unlimited number of notes, but storing them doesn’t get me an inch closer to what I really want: a mobile app that will serve up notes the way my mind serves up actual memories–automatically handing me the information I want at the perfect time without my having to look things up.


The More We Store, the More We Forget

Think about the hundreds or thousands of photos we have stored on our smartphones. When I got my first iPhone I loved having all those photos at the ready to show around. But then after a while, I had so many photos that I never bothered browsing through them. And the more photos I stored, the less likely I was to remember any one of them. At this point, the photos I take are technically saved, but once they fall into that ocean of other photos I know I’ll never see them again.

Look at the picture above.  It’s not a bad representation of my Evernote database, with each box representing another tag or notebook.  What good does it do me to put one more soon-to-be-forgotten note in one of those boxes?  The problem isn’t storage.  The problem is how to get the right notes out of storage after we’ve forgotten them and have no way of looking them up.


What the Best High School Movie Ever?Breakfast Club

You might have seen a hundred high school movies in your life, but without thinking your mind just served up one or two movies the moment you finished reading the question. No search lists, no tags, no notebooks. It was just Question —> Answer. You have so many memories connected to that movie that your mind just serves it up, almost without thinking. Perhaps you saw that movie on a big first date, and so you always associate that movie with that date.  Perhaps that movie was the first time you ever saw Bill Murray, and so you always associate that movie with the world’s greatest comedic actor (seriously, it’s beyond debate). The point is that your mind served up that movie because of the connections you make.

What all this means is that if your note-taking app could record the connections you make between the notes you save, it could serve up notes just the way you did when I asked “What’s the best high school movie ever?”


Crusoe Remembers Your Memories Even After You Forget Them

In Crusoe, you don’t store notes, you link them. When our mind recalls a memory it creates a connection called a synapse. That synapse is a link between something in front of us at a given moment and something we remember from before. Our minds use these connections or synapses to serve up memories like our favorite high school movie. Crusoe lets you easily record those connections as links between notes. Crusoe then uses those connections to serve up the information an individual user wants to see at a given moment. Depending on how many connections you make, Crusoe will be able to serve up notes as if you had perfect recall.

landscape copy

You Can Start Reading Again

Let’s go back to all those book highlights I mentioned earlier.  Let’s say you read a scene from Macbeth you liked and saved it into Evernote. Then sometime later you read Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men and it reminded you of that scene in Macbeth. Crusoe lets you record that connection by linking the two notes with the tap of a finger. So now, when you pull up one of those notes, Crusoe will automatically serve up the other—just like you remembered it.

As time passes, the connections or synapses you make in your mind begin to break if you don’t use them, and memories are lost. But Crusoe goes on remembering your memories even when you don’t. So let’s say a year from now you read something else that once again reminds you of that scene in Macbeth. When you pull up that scene, Crusoe will serve up the passage from McCarthy’s book, just the way you remembered it.

So my advice: Read It. Save It. Link It. Do that and Crusoe will remember everything just the way you did—even after you forget.