20 Apr How I Learn and Profit From Books, Podcasts and Training Material
I’ve previously talked about how I manage to consume so much content each week, from books, audio books, blogs, podcasts and training courses but the other thing people ask me is how I take all that information and turn it into something meaningful and actionable – well here’s how I do it so you can do it too.
The first thing to say is that I start by going through everything, if possible, from start to finish in one go and without interruption, or at the very least in a small number of sessions. Audiobooks are great for when I’m the car or travelling and why I do things in the evenings and at weekends at my office – the phones don’t ring then and at home the dog always wants me to play with him and I can’t say no.
I find that by going through things in one “bite” I can pick up the structure, flow and style of what I’m learning from. I don’t speed read by the way either, I know I should but I’ve juts not got round to it.
Next I make a note of all the major points I recall – I have a document called “Stats and Ideas” that I’ve used for years as a dumping ground for information but if I can’t remember it I don’t add it to that document.
The “Stats and Ideas” Word file is in no particular order, it’s just there for later reference and as I write this is around 24,000 words long which is quite something since I tend to just add things in a few words to remind me what was covered.
Next comes, if what I’ve gone through is worth it, a step by step re-learning process which I try to do in blocks of time.
I create a separate document so I can build as personalised set of action points, even if the piece I’m reading, listening to or watching comes with summary PDFs or checklists, that way I can add my own thoughts in and combine multiple things in one place so that I’m building on my knowledge, not taking what I learn in isolation.
As a general rule, if something last an hour on audio or video, I expect the time it takes to do this second step twice the time but it’s so valuable I highly recommend do this too.
As a third stage, and this is not always the case because some material just doesn’t justify the time, I will re-visit it, maybe 6 or 12 months later, particularly if I’m able to just listen to an audio file because I can then see if, as I’ve made progress, I get new meaning and action points from what I’ve covered in the past and maybe not applied or forgotten.
And then comes the final step in my process.
I have specific Word documents on specific topics and what I will do every few months is to take my “Stats and Ideas” document and transfer information and notes into topic based documents, this give me a quick reference for my own benefit and if others ask me for my advice – I see it as the ultimate collection of expert insight and personal experience all rolled into one.
So there you have it, that’s how I learn and profit from the material I read, listen to and watch and I hope you can benefit from what I do by following this process too.
By the way, if you have any comments on what I do or ideas on how I can improve my method of learning and applying what I learn, I’d love to hear from you.