I’ve been setting goals for close to a decade. In the beginning, I always had a goal related to self-education. Since it was something I could measure, I usually set a goal for a specific number of books to read. As each year came to a close, I found myself scrambling to finish these books, breezing through important details, and forsaking other important parts of my life. After a couple years of this pattern, it occurred to me that I could potentially get more by reading less.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter how much content you consume unless you’re implementing these lessons into your life. It could be more effective to read one really great book (like one of these 7 must-reads) and focus on making it part of your life than reading a new book every week. That’s what I’m going to cover in this post along with some personal examples you can start using today.
I am a big proponent of consuming positive, uplifting, and educational content. I’ve experienced firsthand the life-changing benefits of books, podcasts, and other positive media. Every aspect of my and my husband’s life has been influenced by virtual mentors. And while simply consuming the content has the power to shape you over time, I’ve found ways to enhance my results by implementing what I learn.
If you’re anything like me, you probably consume a lot of content. I start each day with 15 minutes of reading. Throughout the day I often read articles and research about projects I’m working on. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts while cooking, cleaning, driving, and exercising. And in the evening, one of my favorite things to do is enjoy quiet time with a book.
Even on a light day, that’s a fair amount of content. It’s easy to fall victim to information overload and feel confused about what’s important. It’s easy to feel like I have so much information that I don’t know what to do next. Then I stall, become more indecisive, and maybe even start to seek new knowledge.
I’m naturally curious and want to know all the things and put them together to make something new. But at a certain point, I realized that all I was doing was collecting information. I wasn’t actually using it to move forward.
From that moment on, I stopped collecting information on subjects that weren’t relevant to my current situation. I wasn’t creating content for Linked In or YouTube so there was no need to listen to podcasts or read articles on the topic. I got really good at asking:
What do I need most right now?
Most of us have plenty of things we’d like to work on and improve. But it won’t happen all at once. Learning to be self-aware about where your strongest needs lie will ensure you’re narrowing down the right things. This applies to your career, family, personal growth, health, and more. Before you start consuming everything you can get your hands on, ask what do you need the most right now?
What are you passionate about?
Do you need one more question to narrow your focus? Ask yourself what you’re passionate about. Not quite sure what topics and interests ignite your soul? Check out this list of 45 questions and start exploring your wonderful self today.
How to get more
You don’t need to consume massive amounts of content to start enjoying a better personal, career, and family life. You simply need to take action and make this new information part of your life. And that can start with the way you read and listen.
Much of what we read and listen to is nice and entertaining, but not necessarily life-changing. I’m not saying that it’s not phenomenal information. But it’s not always the right time.
Then there are other times we find ourselves consuming the right information we need at just the right moment. We hang on to every word. We may even read a book, or listen to a podcast, two or three times in a row. This is when it’s time to slow it down and experiment with these two tips.
I’ve been a highlighter all of my life. Highlighting serves several purposes. It’s easier to go back and review the highlights for research or studying. And it also helps commit the passages and ideas to your memory.
I do this more with podcasts than with books. If I’m listening to something filled with information I can implement in my life right now, you better believe I’m taking notes. I use Evernote because it’s available wherever I’m listening. The search function allows me to access the information when I need it later.
Get more when you take action
Over the last decade, I’ve learned that it’s not as much about what you read, as what you do with what you read. Had I read all those books and not taken action, I imagine my life would be similar to how it was before I read them.
I don’t imagine this is a groundbreaking discovery. We read these books and listen to these podcasts because we want something different for our futures, right? But at the same time, it can be scary to take action because these big changes feel overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to start where you are and just take one small step every day.
Let’s use personal finance books as an example. Imagine you just finished a highly recommended book about creating financial freedom. You’re excited and feel hopeful that you might finally get your finances in order and no longer worry about your compounding debt and minuscule retirement savings. You convince your spouse to sit down with you one Saturday morning so you can go over the numbers. A few minutes into your discussion, your heart sinks. You feel a pit in your stomach and you tell yourself it was too good to be true.
We’ve all been there and felt this. When you do the math on how long it will take to shed those extra 50 pounds or pay off $200,000 worth of debt, your goal can feel impossible. I remember exactly how this feels.
However, when you start to take that big goal and break it down into how much you can accomplish each year, month, week, and day; it will begin to feel attainable again. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or pay off debt, experiencing small successes in one area will help your confidence carry over into other areas of life.
Simple ways to take action
All of your future success and confidence starts when you take action. Here’s a recap of what we’ve covered so far:
- Start where you are. Ask what do I need right now?
- Check in and ask if what you’re consuming lights a fire and is truly important to you.
- Break out your highlighter.
- Take notes.
- Break your goals down to attainable annual, monthly, and weekly targets.
Here are other ideas to get more from your content.
Complete the activities.
I love books that include action items at the end of each chapter. It takes me longer to finish these books but when I’m done, I usually have made massive progress on several personal challenges. Here are a few great books that could help you too:
In addition to activities, most books come with links to additional resources that are available for free on the author’s website. For example, the book How Not to Die, is filled with additional resources. And the author’s website, Nutritionfacts.org, is jam-packed with great resources like this Daily Dozen Cheat Sheet.
Follow up and review.
Don’t just complete the activities and move on. Schedule a time to review weekly, monthly, or annually. For example, a few years back, I was inspired by a podcast to write my 10-year plan. When I finished, I scheduled an annual review in my calendar so I can assess my progress and make adjustments each year.
Create your own strategy.
I often take broader ideas, like my friend Ashley’s practice of selecting a word of the year, and build a personal strategy to improve my odds of success. You can learn about my word of the year strategy here. Then consider how you can apply this process to the ideas you’d like to incorporate into your life.
As we learn better we can do better. Don’t get stuck in a plan you created five years ago that no longer fits who you are and where you’re going. We’re constantly changing and evolving and that means we need to give ourselves the grace to change our plans to meet our current needs.
Sharing is caring.
When you find something that works for you, share what you learned with others. When it comes to personal growth, we tend to forget how much more challenging it was when we first started. Thus, it’s important that we’re not waiting until we’ve “made it” to share our stories, but rather sharing our journey along the way. Sharing our fears, struggles, and failures could be the support someone else needs to keep going.
Whether we’re in the midst of a global crisis or a time of peace, the media we consume affects our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Positive media always makes a positive impact. Consider taking it a step further by using these ten tips to take action.
Ten ways to get more:
- Start where you are.
- Check in and ask.
- Break out your highlighter.
- Take notes.
- Avoid overwhelm by breaking it into bite-sized goals.
- Complete activities and download resources.
- Follow up and review.
- Create your own strategy.
- Be flexible.
- Share the love.
How do you incorporate the things you read and listen to in your daily life? Share in the comments below or come share your wisdom on Facebook.