Habits, Journal

My Information Consumption System

Since my higher education officially ended when I graduated from the University of Montevallo (UM) on May 5, 2005, I can honestly say I have learned more in the last seven years, than I did in the previous 17 altogether.

DISCLAIMER: This is no slight whatsoever to UM or Christian Brother’s Academy Prep (CBA) or Saint Matthew’s Prep School (SMS), which I know I am truly blessed to have attended all three of these wonderful institutions for my formal education.

Instead, this is a true testament to the fruit that has been bared from getting knocked on my butt in the real world with an on-the-job (OTJ) education, as well as an ongoing education from books, live events, automobile audio (audioU instead of Sirius), and personal coaching from my mentors (ie. Dan Kennedy).

The OTJ part comes from the head-strong pursuance of changing lives through business, which has been my M.O. for years now. Along the way, I have met some incredible entrepreneurs who I now call my mentors.

During my previous business venture(s) in the high school and college sports world, I was fortunate to get mentored by guys like Wayne Larocque, Peter Pfaff, and Ken Adams, just to name a few [of many].

I’ve always read books and magazines, occasionally listening or watching interviews  and speeches of respected figures in all genres of business.

However, just like pretty much everything else in my life, partnering with Forrest Walden has taken things to a whole new level, for me personally. We truly drive each other to be more efficient at everything we do in and out of the business, which in turn, has helped us grow faster individually and as a business!

TWO KEY QUESTIONS: With so much information out there, how the heck can you consume it all without feeling overloaded? How do you know you’ll remember what you’re consuming and actually apply it somewhere in your life?

These are really solid things to be asking yourself. Especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed in any way, by “the fire hose” of information that continues to come your way each and every day of this technological data storm that we live in.

I’ve created three TIERS that help me digest and then put into action, the productive pieces of info that I am consuming.

Many of you have asked me what books I’ve been reading here in 2013, so I’ll use those a few of those books as examples for each of these tier, to further state my information consumption system. But realize that this goes way beyond books, and really addresses any information we can consume on the web, in books, on audio/video, in person at consulting meetings or live events, and so on…

TIER #1 – TOP-NOTCH CONTENT THAT YOU NEED TO APPLY INTO YOUR LIFE.

 

Have you ever consumed content and said to yourself, “This content is so good, that I have got to soak it in and figure out how I can apply something this great, into my own life!”?

 

Alright, so all of us have read, listened to, or watched something that kept us engaged on such a high level, that we hoped it’d never end and admired (secretly or not) the subject(s) enough to imagine that somehow the scenarios embedded inside of the content consumed, could become a part of our own life.

If you haven’t, I am really sorry, but you probably will not enjoy the rest of this essay.

Currently, this is such a unique experience for me, that I’d say I’m blessed if it happens once a month.  However, through this 3-TIER system I’m writing to you about, my goal is that almost all of the content I consume is TIER #1.

Could you imagine that?

What if almost all of the content you were picking up and consuming was on the same level as the top two or three pieces of content you’ve ever consumed?

What if you had Tier #1 content radar!?!?

When I do get lucky enough to experience this kind of information, I’ve learned that the first thing I need to do is to slow things down and really digest the content into actionable items for me to apply to my own life.

How do I digest content into actionable items for me to apply my own life?

First off, if you’re not using it, GET EVERNOTE!

ft-evernote

It’s a great application where you can literally build a Greatest Hits library of your favorite content. All of my Tier #1 and Tier #2 content, lives in Evernote (you’ll learn about TIER #2 content in a future blog).

Second, if you are using Evernote, make sure you have all of the plugins you can download that work hand-in-hand with, such as the  Evernote Web Clipper, which plugs into your web browser to allow you to turn favorite web page content into a .pdf that you can then store, title, tag and categorize automatically into… you guessed it, Evernote.

Once you install this plug-in, it lives as a button on your browser, and with two clicks, you can send a web page (with a title) to your Evernote account.

Alright, off the technology piece and onto the content-digestion portion. For me, it starts with good ‘ole fashioned highlighters, pens and pencils, noting key content from the beloved tale of content that I am consuming. That is, if it’s on paper in the form of a newsletter, magazine article or book.

However, if it’s audio, you have several choices. First, if it’s already an mp3, you can upload it to your Evernote account and then list some notes about the content, along with noting timecodes of when these things are said on the file (this is important).

Your second choice is in regard to those files that are not already compressed as an mp3. If it’s on a CD, then slide your CD into a computer [that actually has a CD drive] and import the files as mp3’s, before following the previous instructions on uploading the mp3 to your Evernote account.

However, if it’s just an audio file your listening to somewhere on the web, and you can’t download it as an mp3, go ahead and utilize the Evernote audio recorder. This tool lets you record the audio at a high enough quality that it’s almost like it was an mp3 in the first place.

If it’s happening live, at an event or conversation, make sure you are cleared to record by asking the person in charge for permission, and then go ahead and use your voice memo recorder on your phone to your advantage! Then, yes, upload it to your brain, I mean, Evernote.

If it’s video, there are video downloader tools for every internet browser. Firefox has a great tool you can download as a plugin to your browser. Upon doing so, download any Tier #1 video and once again, upload it to Evernote. If the video is just talking, no visuals that really contribute, then you can go ahead and download the video as an mp3 audio file instead.

Next, it’s important that I take the time to create a bulleted outline of each chapter and how I can apply these key points to my own life. Even if that means re-reading or skimming back through the content, after I’ve gone through it one time, this stuff is good, right!?! It’s worth me documenting why it’s good, instead of just feeling like I’ve accomplished something because I finished it!

Finally, once I organize my bullets of key points and actionable items, I have several places these notes can go. You don’t HAVE to use all of these, you have choices.

a)    Evernote – title it after the book, with tags regarding the genre of things that these bullets fit within (ie. same categories as goal-setting – business, personal, spiritual).

b)   Hand-Written Journal – you set your goals for the year there (hopefully!! If not, click here to watch Forrest Walden teach you how to do that), so why not write about how this new enlightenment that has arisen from your content-consumed, can actually contribute to goal-CRUSHING success!

c)    Blog or Write About It – the whole reason that you and I are growing exponentially is because people are sharing content at an unfathomable rate that allows us to benefit from each other’s expertise. Don’t hog your new ideas. Write about them and make yourself an expert, along with getting interaction from others.

d)   Interact With Others – share your newfound ideas with those you have done the same for you – Give Back! Both (c.) and (d.) are the reasons that our future is so bright. People sharing information and content, has us on a path to grow faster and become smarter than any higher education program out there.

However, I’ve learned that the key with all of the things I am sharing, is that you actually go back to these data points as a reference to guide you in applying your newfound wisdom into an area of your life. If you’re not going to apply it, then what’s the point of consuming this Tier #1 content at this level in the first place? You may as well just watch television or play video games. Not that there is anything wrong with either, but you get the point.

As promised, here are some examples of books I’ve read in 2013, that fully fit-the-bill, as Tier #1 pieces of content I couldn’t just read and stick in the bookshelf.

The Explicit Gospel, by Matt Chandler

 Explicit Gospel

Multiply, by Francis Chan

 Multiply

Contagious, by Jonah Berger

 Contagious

I am actually reading a fourth Tier #1 book right now, Abundance, by Peter Diamandis that inspired this piece.

Abundance

Thus, I’m actually living out the (c.) initiative right now, because I’m writing this essay!

This piece of content went much longer than I anticipated, so instead of overwhelming you with too much content (is there such a thing?), I will end it here.

Remember, we all read, listen to, and watch some GREAT stuff, but if you don’t watch out, your education from these wonderful pieces of content, could turn out to be just like most of your formal education in high school and college; FORGOTTEN.

Document your takeaways and formulate a plan of action. Take benefit of new technologies like Evernote, while also utilizing traditional avenues of recording, such as journal-writing, audio recording and conversation.

I’ll be back soon, with Tier #2 and Tier #3 in the next month, as well as further utilizing my reading list from 2013, to illustrate just exactly how I’ve been able to leverage my content consumption into TRUE self-improvement on all fronts.

My next blog, however, will feature a video interview with a guy who is half a world away, in “the great down under.” Stay tuned!

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