I devour leadership information. I read a ton of books – there are usually at least five or six on the side table by my favorite chair in the living room. Every chance I get, I attend leadership seminars and conferences.
But I’m not changed by the truth I know, I’m changed by the truth I apply.
It’s tempting to put down one book and immediately reach for the next one. It’s difficult to come home after a 3-day leadership retreat and not forget everything I learned.
The question is – how do you practically apply what you learn from all the different sources of learning that you have available to you?
1. Take notes as you go.
This may seem like a no-brainer. But I’ll be the first to admit – I used to shy away from taking notes, especially when someone was speaking. Why? Because I thought I would miss too much while I was writing. Turns out I miss too much when I don’t write anything down.
When you listen to a speaker, write down the things that strike you the most. Don’t try to capture every word. As you read a book, highlight the passages that jump out at you. Write your immediate impressions in the margin.
This is a side note, but I used to hesitate to lend anyone my books, because I was afraid they would get annoyed at the way I mark in them. Then someone told me that lending a book that is marked in is a gift. It allows the other person a sneak peek into your brain and what the book meant to you.
2. Within a few days, go back through your notes.
Set aside 30 minutes, and read back through the notes you took. Write down your top 2-3 takeaways from each speaker or each chapter. These might be things that inspired you, challenged you, or affirmed you.
3. Choose one or two ideas to focus on.
From all of your takeaways, identify the one or two that you can start implementing today. Maybe it’s a task you want to integrate into your routine. Maybe it’s a character issue that you need to address. Maybe it’s a truth that you want to teach others. Take those one or two ideas and write each one on a piece of paper. Now brainstorm ways you can start integrating these ideas into your life.
4. Set goals and a timeline.
Some of the ideas will be simple, and will only take a short amount of time to implement, with few steps. Others will be complicated and may require buy-in from your family, your boss, or your team. Take the list you created of ways to integrate the idea and identify the end goal. How long do you think it will take you to reach that goal? Write that down. If it’s a bigger project, create smaller goals along the way.
5. Seek accountability.
Tell someone about your goals! Ask them to keep you accountable. This may mean checking in with you weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, depending on your timeline. They need to be willing to ask you hard questions, and to seek evidence of the progress you are making.
6. Celebrate your progress.
Along the way, celebrate the progress you are making. Maybe you’re wanting to become a nicer person. Celebrate when you handle a situation better than you would have the week before! Take the opportunity to look back and see the progress that is happening, no matter how small.
7. Do it again!
Every time you reach a goal, don’t stop! Use the momentum to carry you forward into doing it again. Go back to your notes and look at your takeaways again. And get ready to conquer the next thing!
Every book or seminar or conference you go to has the potential to help you grow – as a person, as a team, as a leader. Stop ingesting information and start investing your time into making lasting change!