If you consume a lot of media across a variety of formats, there’s a good chance you’ll forget what you thought about a book, movie, game or anything else. To help you remember, you can take philosopher Michel de Montaigne’s advice and write small notes to yourself in your collection.
In his essay “Of Books”, Montaigne describes his reasoning and technique:
To compensate a little for the treachery and weakness of my memory, so extreme that it has happened to me more than once to pick up again…books which I have read carefully a few years before. I have adopted the habit for some time now of adding at the end of each book the time I finished reading it and the judgment I have derived of it as a whole, so that this may represent to me at least the sense and general idea I had conceived of the author in reading it.
If you start a book and quickly put it down, you can make a quick note in the back with a list of reasons you didn’t like it. If you loved a book, write down two or three sentences that describe your opinion. This will help you in the long run when you’re staring at a bookshelf and trying to remember if you read a book and what you thought about it. The key with these notes is to keep them to just a few sentences with some thoughts about the book or maybe a summary of you think happened — whatever it takes to help you remember. It’s helpful to include a few pieces of information to help you recall your thoughts better:
- When you watched/read/played it.
- Why you picked it up initially.
- A quick summary and your knee-jerk reaction.
- Where you finished it and who you were with (if you were someone).
But it’s not just about books. What about the rest of the media we consume? Here’s a few ideas for quickly chronicling your opinion on a variety of media.
Make Notes for Your Physical Media
If you buy a lot of physical media, it’s easy to directly take Montaigne’s memory advice and make a note on an index card and slide it in the case. Better still, if you have the receipt you can write a few short sentences on the back so you not only remember if you like the media, but also the day you purchased it.
It might seem excessive, but it’s a great tool to remind yourself why you purchased something to begin with or, in the case of those of us who buy too much media in bulk shopping sprees, whether or not you enjoyed your purchase.
Make Notes on Digital Media
If you’ve abandoned the very idea of physical media, you can still make notes through a number of the programs you use, it’s just not quite as convenient.
One of the lesser used in features in music players is the Comments field on most ID3 tags (iTunes: Right-Click > Get Info. Winamp: Right-click > View File Info). For the most part, the Comments field is limited to contextual notes about a recording, but it’s a great place to stuff your judgments in case you need a reminder later on as to why you own a song or album in the first place.
If you’re using a Kindle, iBooks or almost any other ereader, you can take notes directly in the book. Generally, you can select any text and make a note, but to keep things simple and easy to find, your best bet is to make a note on the book cover.
Use a Cross-Platform Journal to Track Everything in One Place
This might border on excessive if you only watch a couple movies a month or only read a few books a year. But if you’re consuming massive amounts of media year-round, you probably get a little lost trying to remember if you enjoyed something. The solution? A journal you can update anywhere.
It’s not about the feature set as much as it is a simple way to quickly make notes, so any journaling app will work. The key is having instant access so you can make a note without thinking much about it. You can use any to-do list, journal program or task management tool you like, but Evernote works exceptionally well for this since it’s available on nearly every platform, supports URL dropping for IMDB or Wikipedia notes, and has a simple way to quickly upload an image along with your note.
If you’re diligent about your notes, you’ll have better recall of the plots you encountered and your opinions on the media you consumed. It also serves as a quick guide if a friend mentions a movie or book in conversation and you’re struggling to bring back your thoughts on it.
Do you find yourself forgetting whether you liked a book or not? Or even worse, if you even read it?