Keeping up when you’re in front of the fire hose

Photo courtesy of Swift Benjamin (Creative Commons)

Picture flashing red lights and alarms blaring and a deep voice saying “caution, caution” – that is my brain on overload! I love to learn, and I will seek out books, conferences and conversations where I can absorb new information to make myself a better leader and a better person.

I have a huge pile of books (both literally and “stacked” in my Kindle Fire) that I want to read. Most are business/leadership books, like The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, How To Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere by Larry King, Love Works by Joel Manby and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. On top of that, I’ve been to 3 different conferences in the last couple of months.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been blasted by a fire hose of inspiration!

I have struggled with how to use all that information in the best way, and not be so overwhelmed that I let it all slip away. I’ve discovered a few tactics to help process and use all that  information effectively:

  • Take notes – your brain can’t possibly remember all that you heard or read, so notes, even references to page numbers, highlights or snippets of information can remind you later on.
  • Process – set aside some time a day or two after your finish the conference, book, etc. and think about and jot down what your biggest takeaway ideas were. What impressed you?  What made you say “aha”?
  • Share – if possible, talk with someone else, whether or not they were at the same conference or read the same book. Sometimes verbalizing your impressions causes you to remember things that would otherwise have stayed hidden. And if that person shared the experience, they might remind you of points you missed.
  • Decide next steps –what are the next steps you need to implement based on what you learned? Don’t hope that you get it done, write it down and add it to your calendar or task list right now so you will see it and DO IT.
  • Revisit – after a week or two, revisit your notes and next steps. Have you accomplished what you noted? What additional steps or tasks do you need to make progress? Are there additional resources you could seek to progress more?

It’s so exciting to come out of a conference fired up by the speakers and the new ideas, or finish that book with conviction of how you will improve. But we both know that when the routine and demands of your work and life press in, you slip back into old habits. By taking a few simple steps, you can keep the new information fresh, prolong that inspiration and stay motivated to make the changes you desire.

How do you take in and process a flood of new information and motivation?

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