The world is filled with more information than ever before. There are books on every topic from running businesses and self-improvement to becoming a better communicator or relationship partner. There are thousands of blogs written by very astute writers on a myriad of subjects many containing some very profound ideas or at least reminding us of good common sense.
I think I encounter a dozen good ideas in daily reading (it’s why I do it – and I focus my reading purposefully so) but when you encounter these great ideas what do you do with them? I think many of us simply acknowledge the idea and think some version of “That’s a good idea, I should do that.” Then we hope that the mere power of the “aha” will somehow profoundly affect us as people in such a way that we’ll remember to put the new idea into use. I think sometimes you can succeed at doing this. Especially if you encounter the idea and then shortly after have a moment to apply it. However life tends not to work so elegantly and what about changes that require more work than a simple one-time implementation? To really take advantage of all this learning you need an implementation strategy.
1. Make a Note
When you consume some new cool thing, write down what you want to glean from it in your own words. Always carry a notebook with you or use an app on your phone or tablet. I don’t recommend capturing the page for later reading in things like Evernote or Instapaper. This can be great for building a reading list but it will reduce retention of the pertinent information and force you to reread the article to have the ‘aha’ all over again and this reduces your likelihood of doing it all.
2. Put It on your Calendar or Todo List
As soon as possible – if you can’t do this immediately in the moment – take your note and turn it into some action. I do this in a few different ways depending on the type of information. If what you’ve learned calls for a specific action, schedule it onto your calendar right away and tell a friend to be involved. If you just learned a cool new cooking tip, schedule a dinner with someone right away.
If the information is more related to an ongoing practice – such as shifting how you think about defensiveness - then encapsulate the new thinking into a daily ‘todo’. Most good todo listing software will let you setup a repeating task. I use Remember the Milk and it does this very well. I will create a repeating task that simply reminds me of the new way of thinking I want to practice. I look at the todo each day, sometimes I have a phrase that I write into the note that I repeat to myself, and then I check it off to have it reappear again the next day. This kind of regular reminder can make a real difference in your ability to take on a new behaviour.
3. Bring on a Teammate
If you want to truly make a shift in your thinking, get a friend or friends involved. Many people have Mastermind groups that meet on a weekly or monthly basis to share ideas and help put new ideas into play. Put your network to use, share an idea, tell them how to intend to change your behaviour, and create a time to follow-up with them. This kind of accountability can lead to lasting change.