3 tips to turn ideas into practice:

Introduction

Let’s get you warmed up with a few quotes about turning ideas into practice:

The greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing.‘ — John Maxwell.

Or as Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton say:

‘The gap between knowing and doing is more important than the gap between ignorance and knowing.’

Or metaphorically:

Reading a book without using the information is like preparing a five-course meal and not eating it.‘ — Avil Beckford.

I’m sure you understand the message. Information is only useful if it’s applied. Think about all the time we spend reading. Wouldn’t it be a shame if the only thing we gained from it was knowledge? Of course, knowledge is great. It’s power. Strong habits and decisive action built on top of that knowledge, however, are even more powerful.

Would you like to learn how to absorb information easily and bridge the knowledge-action gap? We’ll give a few tips and tricks to get you started, but in the end, it’s all up to you.

Tip 1: Be picky about your books

One of my biggest frustrations in life is that I might never be able to read all the books I want to. Even though speed reading without comprehension loss might help, there are simply too many books and there is not enough time. So It’s extremely important to be selective and choose the right book or article.

A good starting point to select a book is the ‘just in case vs. just in time’ concept. When you pick a book, ask yourself if the information provided will be useful now. Do you think you’ll be able to put advice into practice right after completing the book? If your answers is ‘yes’, you’ve picked a ‘just in time’ book. Well done! If it isn’t, you’re reading it ‘just in case’. And that, quite simply, is mostly a loss of time.

If you can’t get anything out of a book at this time, don’t start it. It’s not about the quantity your read, but about the quality of your choices. Read about things you can put into practice right now. In doing so, you will read with greater concentration and interest, enhancing your overall reading comprehension.

Being picky about books doesn’t mean you should focus on one topic only. Reading books from different disciplines has proven to enhance pattern recognition. People who read across disciplines are better at making mental maps and connecting ideas. Their brains are consistently triggered to find and construct new pathways. As a result, they are often more creative and come up with new ideas more easily. If you think about it, your problem has likely already been solved in another industry.

Pick the right book. Read the one that is the most applicable to your life right now.

Tip 1 Bonus: Read the best books more than once

Why would I tell you to read the best books more than once if I just said that life is short and there’s not enough time to read all the “good books”? You probably think I’m nuts. I might be, but trust me, there’s nothing crazy about this tip.

As pointed out by the famous contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton, repetition is key to retain information. That’s why so many of the world’s successful religions focus on doing repeated actions several times a day. If you pray several times a day, you just can’t forget the important teachings. 

On the other hand, no one knows all the prayers from day one. It’s the same with a book. Don’t expect to know the book after reading it once. As David Cain puts it, it’s very rare that people turn information into practice after the first read. And he goes on: first, we feel enlightened and inspired to adopt these new teachings. Soon enough, we’ll lose that enthusiasm and before we know it, we’ve lost all the actionable advice. We’re left with the main idea of the book but can’t remember any of the tips and tricks.

Read the best books again and again. If you don’t get any change from the information you received, that information might be useless.

Tip 2: Turn important takeaways into actionable notes

If you’ve read our reading comprehension article, you’ll know about the importance of taking notes. Note-taking is key to understanding and remembering ideas. Start by highlighting or underlining what’s applicable to you. Revisit it later and turn this information into notes. How? Use a notebook, get an Evernote account or use simple post-its. The medium doesn’t matter as long as your system is organised and searchable.

Although you’re going to choose a ‘just in time’ book, not all your notes will be put into practice right now. So write a summary of the key takeaways afterwards. This helps to retain information. Having this information somewhere in the back of your head will remind you to go through your notes later when you’re looking for related information.

Organised notes also make it easier to connect ideas. And you’ll probably remember that this helps to find creative solutions.

What can be used now is best taken down in actionable bullet points. State clearly what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. But don’t forget about the why. If there’s no why, the how and what don’t make sense. 

For example, one of my favourite lessons from The 4-hour Work Week is this one: ‘Ask for forgiveness, not permission, if the potential damage is low or reversible.

  • Why? If I really want to get something done, I’d rather not miss the opportunity because I need to wait for permission that I might not get. Besides, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness. 
  • What? Take bold action if there isn’t too much at stake. 
  • How? Take the risk or the opportunity and tell people what you’ve done once it’s done. The worst possible outcome may be totally insignificant in the long run. Trust me, it’s far more likely that you’ll be rewarded for your proactivity than that you’ll have to undo your actions.

Take notes to keep track of your ideas and the actions you want to undertake.

Tip 3: Revise your notes and start moving

Words are often more measurable than actions. They give an immediate idea of your qualities. That’s why the conversion rate from knowledge into action is rather low. However, words are very deceitful. It’s easier to tell how it’s done or how to improve than actually doing it. We’re well aware of this at Top Three Guide. That’s why we always try to put things into practice ourselves. 

As you’ll notice in the sources, we’ve gathered information from a wide range of experts. Writing this would have been a lot more challenging if we hadn’t worked on an extensive note-taking system and list of articles to read ‘just in time’. 

Once a decision is made, we often forget that extra work is needed. Think about the beautiful vision and mission statements companies have. Do they act upon it? Again, words are easier and more beautiful than actions. Be different. Read a book and walk the walk. 

Visualise yourself as someone who will do it. There is this study by Akerlof that I once read about in a book. He says that it’s all about identity. What makes a plumber a good plumber? Repeating to himself every day that he is a good plumber. This leaves him no choice but to do a great job every single time. 

Do the same! Tell yourself that you’re someone who turns ideas into action. If you want to be true to yourself, you’ll need to grab your notes and take action.

Don’t be afraid and don’t be a perfectionist. Everything starts with a first step. Did you ever see a baby fall over and think this isn’t for me, I’ll never be able to walk. No, right?

Go beyond your knowledge and notes. Visualise, take the first step and turn your ideas into something meaningful.

Conclusion:

Do you feel inspired to change your reading habits? Start by reading the tips again. You’ll probably remember that it’s very tough to turn advice into something real after reading it just once. Or can you prove us wrong? Answer these questions for yourself to check your comprehension and motivation for change.

  • What is the difference between ‘just in time’ and ‘just in case’?
  • Why is it important to take notes?
  • How can visualisation help you to become better at turning ideas into action? 

Did you find a useful answer to all questions? Brilliant, you’re ready to absorb a book and turn it into something meaningful. If not, we strongly recommend you to read the tips again.

And then, go buy a book! Read it, devour it, use it. When you’ve fully digested it, come back and tell us about your experience. We’d love to hear from you! 

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Written by Kjell

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Sources and further reading/watching about turning ideas into action: