In today’s business world, nothing is more common than advice. Everyone knows exactly how to fix your situation. And you can believe them because of the number of followers they have, or the company they started, or the amount of money in their bank account.
The internet gives us all a pulpit to expound from, complete with a choir of ardent supporters reinforcing our beliefs. We quote CEOs from our entry level rung on the ladder. We cite self-made billionaires as we take that first step into entrepreneurship. Inspirational? Yes. Relevant? Perhaps. Helpful? Hard to say.
Because the value of advice can’t be realized until you use it to operate differently. TED talks, books, podcasts, and blog posts leave you with the work of deciding what’s useful, making a plan to incorporate it, and taking action.
Even if you are in the minority of people who do that work, sustaining the effort required to make the change stick is no small task.
A great coffee meeting with a senior leader in your company inspires you, leaving you with pages of great thoughts, relevant stories, other people to talk to–but you’re left with one big question: What do I do now?
So how can you bridge the gap between inspiration and action that leads to progress? Here are a few things that have worked for me.
Don’t just take notes during a talk–create a to-do list.
I actually make my list during the presentation instead of taking notes, but it works just as well to take notes and set aside 5 minutes (at most!) to make a list of at least three actions you will take based on what you heard. You can also do this with articles online. If you’re going to apply it to a book, I’d do it after every chapter or major section, depending on how quickly you move through the book. Creating the action at the moment of inspiration gives you the highest likelihood of carrying that momentum forward.
Ask for examples
If you’re having a great discussion with your mentor and she offers some advice on a situation you’re currently dealing with, ask for an example of a time she took her recommended approach. This will give you insight into how it might actually work in real life and keep you from having to do the hard work of turning a suggestion into an action.
Conduct a thought experiment
Imagine yourself back in a situation that you wish you would’ve handled differently. Try to recreate the entire scene in your mind–what day was it? What were you wearing? who was there? What was said? Then, run through the situation in your mind exactly as you remember it. Once you have it solidly in your imagination, run through it again, this time incorporating the new insight you just gathered from that presenter. What changed? How did it feel? What could you do to make the outcome even better? Then try it again. And again. And again. Soon enough, you’ll feel like you’ve actually had that conversation, and you’ll be ready to take action on your insight at the next opportunity. It sounds strange, but it works for elite athletes, musicians, and Einstein! With a little practice, it’ll work for you too.
How do you maintain your focus on progress? What insight or piece of advice could you take action on today?