How To Get Maximum Value Out Of New Information
Information is as close to free these days as it’s ever been. The days of I didn’t know and nobody told me as an excuse, or reason for lack of results, are slowly quickly going away.
Having so much of it presents a new set of questions, though.
- What information matters and what doesn’t?
- Where and from whom should you get information?
- What to do with this plethora of material?
This article addresses that last question: What to do with new information that you’ve decided is useful for and relevant to you.
Apply new information immediately in your life to make it stick
Understand: We all know lots of stuff.
There’s enough information stored away in the recesses of your brain for each of us to create our own set of encyclopedias (though each set would be wildly unique, for sure). The human focus limitation still exists, however: We can focus on only one thing at a time.
Things that we merely know (or know about), but have never used or applied, are the mental version of empty calories: It feels good to consume, but ultimately does nothing for us.
The vast amount of material that many of us takes in each day means the less time we spend with each thing we learn. The easiest way to make something stick in our minds — meaning it’s something we not only know, but also know what we can do with it — is to take action with the knowledge.
Actions impress themselves on the subconscious mind in a stronger way than mere words. Did you learn how to drive better from reading the driver’s manual, or from actually being behind the wheel of a moving vehicle?
Find or create a way to use what you learn to make it real to you.
Relate this new information to something you already know
The way our minds naturally work, we’re always looking to make associations.
When an amateur athlete is considered a prospect for the NBA or NFL Draft, analysts and prognosticators describe the prospects by comparing them to current, known players to help fans understand who is who and what they can (or we should hope they can) do. Some newbie drivers are told to place their hands at “10 and 2” on the steering wheel, a reference to those numbers’ locations on a clock.
The easier we can relate new information to something already known, understood and accepted, the more easily we find closet space, so to speak, for the new information in our minds. This is the reason humans evolved to use analogy the way we do. Someone whose process is “like clockwork” means a consistent, predictable and non-varying system. A competitor who is “a dog” is more focused on achieving an outcome than how it looks or feels to anyone else who is involved or watching.
This relating is a step that your mind does instinctively, without your even thinking about it — but the more associations you can add to what your instinct delivers, the better and more seamlessly you’ll accept and apply new info.
Come up with 5 (new) ideas for how you can use this new information
Referring back to the first point of acting on what you’ve learned, come up with some new ways to apply new information that’s different from what you’ve done before.
The human brain is such wired that new knowledge and new experiences create new synapses (connections) in our minds. The more synapses, the more we know, the more we can do, the more things we notice, the more options we see, and more problems we can solve.
Basically, every new idea + action combination makes you smarter.
After opinions, information is the easiest thing to get (too much of) from people who you don’t even know. No need to be overwhelmed by it — first filter out which info you actually need, then use the above steps to make it provide some ROI on your time and attention.