7 Ways to Make Sure You Apply What You Learn

What’s the secret for getting ahead at work?  Or in your life?  Or in your relationships?

It’s continual education … with a twist.

In other words, you can’t expect to achieve tomorrow’s goals with yesterday’s skills.  You need to keep on learning.  After all, if your competitors keep on learning and you don’t, guess what’s going to happen when the two of you meet? You lose.

However, continual education, in and of itself, is not enough.  It’s not enough to simply go to seminars. As I said, it’s continual education … with a twist.

The twist is you’ve got to learn something at those seminars, remember what you learn, and apply what you learn. And many people don’t.

In fact, research says that if you merely sit in a seminar without getting involved, three hours after the seminar you will only recall 50% of what was said. And one month after the seminar, your retention rate will be less than 5%.

As an educator, I found that totally unacceptable.  So I began to teach people how to learn, remember what they learn, and apply what they learn.

Here’s my 7-point system.  If you’re an adult in an organization … using this system … you will excel. And if you’re a student using this system at school, you will make the Dean’s list.

=> 1. Take notes.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you will remember what was said. You won’t.  As I tell my audiences, “The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory.”

If you’re in a seminar or listening to a podcast, write down what the speaker is saying, writing as much as you can as fast as you can.  Don’t worry about neatness.

Within 24 hours, re-read all your notes. And then, in your best handwriting, summarize all the key points you picked up.  Focus on those things that inspired you and that you want and need to remember.

=> 2. Turn your notes into “I learned” and “I will” statements. 

Turn your key points into “learning” statements. When you specifically tell yourself what you learned, your mind tends to hold on to those learnings.  So write out three to five sentences starting with the words “I learned…”

Then turn your “I learned” statements into “I will” statements.  In other words, write down what you’re going to do with what you learned.

Just make sure your action statements are specific.  Instead of saying, “I’m going to be a better communicator,” write something like, “I will take time to listen fully and completely to what others say before I respond to their comments.”

When David Sleigh, an Account Manager at Lloyds in the United Kingdom, applied this step, his results were incredibly positive.  David says, “After taking your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program and turning my learnings into I-will statements, I was amazed at how much I achieved in just one month.  My list of accomplishments could go on and on, but to name a few, I …

  • took on an appointment within the Scout Association that I have been thinking about for some 12 months,
  • re-gained my self-confidence in work so I could say ‘no’ and decline sessions that don’t add value,
  • brought my work week down to a more reasonable hourly rate,
  • implemented a plan for my life and work, rather than rush around unplanned all the time, and
  • booked holidays for next year to ensure work-life balance is a part of my schedule.”

David continued, “The benefits of your Journey experience are immense.  Some of your exercises are still beyond comprehension.  And the subtlety and practicality of the concepts you discuss are unbelievable.  Just to have a basic insight and awareness into these subjects has a value beyond measure.  This teaching should be given in high school as it would change the face of the world.”

(F.Y.I.  If you register for either one of my upcoming Journeys by August 31, 2018, you save $500.)


=> 3. Review your notes.

Don’t make the mistake of taking notes and then pile or file them.  Because 85% to 95% of what you put in your files will never be seen again. And if you don’t review your notes, you will forget 70% of what you heard within four days of the seminar.

The good news is … when you review your notes, your “I learned” and “I will” statements, you reverse those figures. You retain 70% or more of what you heard and automatically implement a great deal more of what you learned. As my Dad taught me, “When you read something often enough, no one can take it away from you.”

=> 4. Teach your notes. 

Go through all your notes and select a few insights that were especially important to you and would be valuable for someone else to know. And find a way to share them with other people.

The process could be as simple as sharing one or two items with a fellow seminar attendee or a friend, or it could be as structured as taking an hour-long staff meeting where each coworker shares all the lessons he/she learned at a particular off-site training event.  In fact, that’s what many people have done after they’ve attended my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program.

Quite simply, when you tell somebody else what you learned, your retention increases.

=> 5. Visualize your “I will” statements.

In other words, picture the end result of each of your “I will” statements.  If you wrote down, “I will give more praise and recognition to my coworkers,” picture yourself doing that and picture the positive response that will elicit from your coworkers.  The clearer your picture and the more you picture it, the more likely you are to get it.

Dr. Terry Paulson talks about the power of mental pictures when he refers to an African tribe that names all their kids after the day of the week on which they are born. So you see a lot of little Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and other days of the week running around the village.

But this is the intriguing part. The word “Monday,” in their language, stands for peace and calm, while “Wednesday” means quick tempered and angry. And 50% of the crime in their village is done by Wednesday children. Somehow or other, the name plants a mental image that the kid tends to fulfill.

So plant an image in your mind for each of your “I will” statements.  Visualize the things you learned and the actions you’re going to take. Visualize the success you’re going to have.

=> 6. Catch yourself applying your learnings.

Quite often, people make progress, and they don’t even know they’re making progress. All they see are the obstacles and setbacks.

That’s why journaling is such an effective, powerful strategy. When you write down what you learn, when you write down what you’re doing with what you learn, you’ll be amazed when you look back at what you wrote two, three, or four months ago. You’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come … even though you may still have a long way to go.

So catch yourself applying your learnings. Take note of what’s working for you. And take note of any corrections you need to make so you become even more effective in the future.

=> 7. Ask others to hold you accountable for your learnings and action statements.

As I said before, don’t keep your learnings to yourself. It’s a good idea to teach others what you learned.

But you take a huge step towards greater success when you ask others to hold you accountable for what you learned.  So ask your manager, spouse, or friend to watch you … observe you … and tell you … how well you’re applying your “I learned” and “I will” statements to your job or home situation.

You see … privately-held goals are nothing more than good intentions that are easy to cheat on. But when you tell others what you’re going to do, your chances of following through rise dramatically.

Final Advice: Don’t just learn … DO.  As an old Chinese proverb states, “Man who sits with mouth open waiting for cooked goose to fly in waits for a long time.”

Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 949 – 7 Ways to Make Sure You Apply What You Learn