Four Steps To Put Learning Into Action
As we’re continuing to grow as creatives, what we do with what we learn, is more important than what we learn.
So how do we make sure what we learn sticks?
I’ve wrestled with this for years trying to recall what I’ve learned on a subject I’ve barely practice because at the time, I thought hell yes this is going to mean so much to my business, but sooner than later I forgot the techniques. I forgot what I had learned.
Luckily I’ve been practicing and figuring out methods to help with this problem. I can share some tips to help put your learning into action.
First we gotta rid the mindset that reading something once or doing something once is the solution.
But I get it. When you’re reading there’s that one sentence you read which changed the game for you—in that moment only.
What happens when you don’t practice? To bring it back, what happened when you didn’t revise for your school exams?
Learning in whatever form—reading or watching—is only the first move. We solidify what we learn once we are able to find our own answers. The real-life experience means more than a few memorised quotes.
Action beats everything.
So speaking of action, let’s make this article practical by forming new habits so that you can leave today and help create awesome work.
1. Take Notes
Like with saving bad ideas, saving notes will have the same impact on your growth.
Stop reading when you come across a sentence that makes you go, “Ah-ha!”.
Write it down, copy to your documents, whatever method, be sure to store this piece and understand it.
I’m kind of crazy. Sometimes I’d read a sentence 5-6 times then say the sentence back to myself. But have a routine for storing information because your brain won’t be able to handle the vast amount of content you’re already consuming. Referring back to your page of notes will save a lot of brain power.
How do I take notes? I simply use the notes on my iPhone to grab quotes and bits of information I’ve read for repurposing. I also have a swipe file (inspired by Austin Kleon) where I store important information, which is usually business notes. Separating your notes into categories can be an added benefit too for time and organisation’s sake.
2. Rewrite What You Learned In Your Own Words
Who has time for this? Hopefully you’re not one of those people. Any sort of success is built on regular, consistent steps taken each day and writing helps to give this new information personality—because it’s your own words!
Memorising is great too, but eventually you want to be able to explain and teach in your “style”. So rewrite as if you’re explaining the concept to a friend.
If writing does’t accomplish anything for you, alternative is to talk about your newly acquired knowledge with someone by introducing them to the topic you just learned.
By writing or talking about it, you start to build confidence.
And we all wish we could be a little more confident and writing will help the topic become more ingrained.
3. Practice Routinely
Practice makes perfect, right?
It’s a no brainer if you want to become great at what you do. What would be the point of reading about learning a new skill if you’re not going to try what’s being advised?
I’ve been practicing brush lettering and calligraphy for two years, making time each week to get my letters looking all clean and fancy. And it’s paid off. I’m also able to talk about how to learn brush lettering because I’ve wrote about my struggles (which I’ve yet to share) and tips to help become a better letterer.
Whether it’s a skill or a new topic you’re learning, creating the space to practice will also build the confidence you need and ingrain the new information.
4. Reflect On What You Learned First Thing In The Morning
How’s this article helping you so far?
You were probably expecting to go right into this point, but asking this question was deliberate.
We consume so much information on a regular basis (and this blog post is probably part of that) we tend to just skim and move onto the next topic.
So little of the information we take in actually sticks and for most of us, we usually have a morning routine we get into right away.
What if we stopped to reflect on what we learned the previous day?
While we have that charge of energy in the mornings, the chances of remembering information increases when we process and internalise what we had learned. It’s a waste if new tips just gloss over your head.
That small amount of time just to think, reflect, consciously process our learning will payoff. Plus, we’re filling our minds with value which gives us a positive start to do the day.
It’s not as easy as flipping a switch and I know working a full-time job leaves you rushing to get out the house. That’s why there is no bold step you need to take here.
All you need to do is reflect—reflect while brushing your teeth, while eating breakfast or even in bed. This processing will payoff as I said.
I try to remember this every time I finish reading a book. I get excited and I want to move onto the next book on my shelf right away. However...
We have to slow down, take our time and really process what we are learning.
Despite my thoughts on the importance of learning, it’s always going to be action over everything. With these small actions discussed here, you'll solidify new bits of information every time.
It’s not going to apply to many, but if it applies to anyone at all, I’m thrilled. There is a system out there that will work and hey, maybe it’s the one you just read. Remember, to pause at one point, then put into practice what you’ve learned so that you can create more great work.
Three Actions You Can Take Right Now
- Next time you read, stop and take a moment to process this information.
- Store any gold nuggets into your notes for reference which in turn could be used to develop into a blog post, share a tweet or continue exploring the topic.
- Slowly but surely, begin using your mornings as a way to reflect on yesterday’s details.
What are some of your go-to design blogs for industry and business advice? Share your thoughts on Twitter, would love to hear!