Daily Thoughts

The Art of Action: How to Apply What You Learn

How much content do you consume every day? Perhaps, ten pieces, twenty, or more.

The University of California discovered the average American consumes 35 gigabytes of content daily. That roughly represents 100,000 words a day. We can safely assume similar behaviour can be found across cultures.

We live in the greatest time in history for access to any information we want. But, what do we do with all this information?

The master of nothing

You may have heard the saying “paralysis by analysis” and I feel a lot of us experience this.

With so much knowledge at our fingertips, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. In today’s world, I feel we have too much knowledge and not enough action.

We can all be guilty of not taking action on the things we keep saying we’ll do. 

Even though we’ve read hundreds of articles, books and YouTube videos, which would probably equate to a PHD level of understanding in most cases. We fail to take the ultimate step – ACTION.

Some of us spend our lives amassing a wealth of knowledge. In fact, amongst my generation (the millennials) it’s become somewhat of a trend. The “I’ve read 100 books this year” post is often a badge of honour on social media, yet it feels like the opposite of what we want to celebrate.

Would you rather read 100 books and still be in the same position you’re now 12 months later, or read 5 books, apply what you’ve learnt and advance in your life?

Hopefully, this is an easy answer!

More is not always better, as the old saying goes. If it was, then data suggests we should all be living our best lives with the knowledge we’re hoarding in that brain of ours.

You either do or you don’t

The focal message of this piece is those who do something vs those who consume the content of those who’ve done something. A cycle of content madness, if you will.

It’s an odd behavioural black hole we all fall into.

We want to learn x and do z, but we often get so absorbed by the gathering of information, we don’t make the time or put a plan in place to take action.

 I’ve worked to combat this in my learning practice.

Last year, I limited myself to reading 3 books specifically focused on one area I wanted to improve my skills to improve. I would spend the year digesting the most valuable points for me and apply these in my work. I was inspired by a post learning note taking system from Matt D’Avella.

My approach doesn’t involve cards. I open up a doc and convert all the highlighted parts of a book, podcast or experience into a set of notes I’ll categorise for future use. 

A lot of my writing comes through small insights I’ve noted and categorised from years gone by. The action might not always be immediate in some cases, but it’s still here to help me.

How to consume less and practice more

For this section, I wanted to reference some really smart people giving some equally smart advice. Sadly, there was none!

So, what did I do? I asked AI instead.

Here’s what the almighty digital hivemind recommends in the pursuit of more action with knowledge and learning:

  1. Set specific learning goals
    Have a clear idea of what you want to learn and why. It’ll help you focus on relevant content and avoid getting sidetracked (hopefully).
  2. Limit your sources
    Don’t try to learn everything from everyone – this is madness. Choose a few trusted sources which are relevant to your goals and stick to them.
  3. Take notes
    This feels obvious to say, yet I’m still surprised at how many believe they’ll just remember that thing.
  4. Practice what you learn
    If you do nothing else than this after reading these words, then you’ve won, my friend. Put what you’ve learned into practice. Otherwise, what the hell did you invest all that time for? 
  5. Reflect on your progress
    Reflect on how you’re applying what you’ve learned often. Be flexible in how you deploy your insights. There is no one way to do it.

That’s not bad, right? It had some finessing from me, of course. But I give it a B+ at least.

Your ultimate reflection question is this. Are you just consuming lots of knowledge to no end or are you applying it towards something bigger? 

As the wise Bruce Lee said “Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Willing is not enough. We must do.”

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can join me every Tuesday morning for more tools, templates and insights for the modern L&D pro in my weekly newsletter.

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