Six ways to increase the value of what we learn

I’ve always got a lot of books, podcasts, articles, etc., on the go. It’s a habit I’ve picked up over many, many years.

And generally, this is seen as a good habit.

We’re learning things. It feels like we’re improving and getting better. And there certainly are worse things we could be doing with our time.

But reading something doesn’t mean we’ll remember it.

Hearing something doesn’t mean it will change how we think about things.

Knowing about a skill or strategy is different from being able to use it ourselves.

We can consume content for the sake of learning. Or we can consume content to move us towards a preferred future.

So how can we stop consuming so much and start taking action?

We can be more selective about what we read, watch, and listen to.

We can limit how many books we purchase each year. We can choose to read only books that have been recommended to us by five different people. We can only read books that fit our current goals, projects, or themes.

We can unsubscribe from podcasts when episodes are rarely interesting. We can pick the episodes with titles or descriptions that speak to us.

We can apply similar filters and criteria to the other content we consume: articles, movies, newsletters, etc.

We can be more selective about what we take notes on.

Quite often, fear guides our note-taking. I don’t want to forget this. It might come in useful one day. This is too interesting not to take note.

Instead, we can guide our note-taking in the desired direction.

We can highlight the things that serve our current and near-future projects.

We can take notes on things related to our 12 favourite problems.

With every highlight, we can note how we see it helping our work or transforming our thinking.

We can stop doing everything start-to-finish.

It isn’t a problem when your alarm clock wakes you up. It isn’t a problem to watch a few episodes and then pick it up again the next day. It isn’t a problem that you sip your morning coffee as your attention is elsewhere.

So why do so many of us see it as a problem when we don’t finish a book before moving on to something else?

We can choose to set books aside that don’t excite us. We can choose to read only specific chapters of a book. We can skim a paragraph until we find what we’re looking for… …and then consider the goal accomplished.

We can process our inbox of notes and highlights regularly.

We can set aside time each day to connect the notes in our inbox to the other notes in our PKM system.

We can organize our inbox as part of our weekly review.

We can process all our notes from one source before reading, listening to, or watching the next one.

We can track metrics that keep us on track.

If your goal is to write more often, keep track of how often you write something.

If your goal is to publish on social media consistently, keep track of when you post content.

If your goal is to deepen your thinking, keep track of how many links exist between your notes.

Measure what matters. It will increase your awareness of whether you’re making progress on what matters to you or whether it just feels like you are.

We can remind ourselves of our preferred future.

If we keep the destination in mind, it can keep us moving in that direction.

We hang up a sticky note or create a bookmark that says, “Write something each day.”

We can set our phone or desktop background to remind us that “I contribute by sharing twice daily.”

We can create a template so that every new note we create opens with “Every note I make contributes to my garden of ideas.”

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