How To Apply What You Learn?

Learning new things is fun. But it’s no good if you cannot apply what you learn in real life. 

In today’s day and age, it’s much easier to consume a lot of information thanks to the internet. 

You are just a Google search away from learning anything known to humankind.

Because of that, it’s easy to consume a lot of information without putting it into practice.

That’s why you need a solid system you can rely on for the application part.

Application is important for 2 reasons –

  1. It can speed up your entire learning process. 
  2. It can shorten the feedback loops to help you execute your ideas.

And eventually, it’s what translates an idea in your head into something that has a shape.

Here’s a quote from a best selling author, James Clear

“If you’re not working hard, ideas don’t matter. The best idea is worthless without execution.

If you’re already working hard, ideas are crucial. Most effort is wasted on mediocre ideas.”

This article is for those who struggle with putting ideas to practice. Here’s a simple 3-step process you can follow:

3 Step Process To Apply What You Learn

Follow this process whenever it comes to learning something.

1. Collect your ideas

This is an essential step to start, given the amount of information available. It’s preferable to collect these ideas in a notebook, a note-taking app, or even Trello.

2. Take the smallest step towards executing them

Often, big steps freeze us from taking any action. They leave us feeling challenged. That’s why aim to take the smallest possible step when it comes to executing your ideas.

For instance, let’s say you are a working professional and you learned a productivity hack about creating templates for repetitive tasks.

Now the whole process of making a template can seem like a big task. 

But think of the smallest step you can take towards it. 

Maybe it is just listing out the repetitive tasks you do on a daily basis. 

Create a list out of that. It should take you less than 2-3 minutes and you don’t even need to list each and every item.

You can always come back to it and add more stuff.

Once you begin to take the first step, often you’ll feel compelled to finish it. It’s a bonus if you can complete it right then and there. But if not, that’s a good outcome as well as long as you are taking the smallest step.

You can be happy that you took the first step and made progress. Just make a mental note of it or even better, put it out on a Kanban-style board like Asana or Trello.

Then comes the most important part:

3. Be Consistent

If you apply an idea once, it can help you get short-term results. But if you want to continue applying that idea on autopilot mode, you’ll need some consistency.

That’s the reason why it’s important to start with something small. It helps you keep pace.

For instance, imagine you learned about the awesome benefits of meditation and decided to commit to it. 

You spend the first few days practicing it, but soon you get so busy and forget about it. (Don’t worry, it happens to a lot of people. I’m guilty of it too!) 

This is a common learning stage and you’ll learn about it soon in the later part of the article.

The key in such situations is to keep your mediation routine small but still commit to it.

So let’s say on a busy day, you could reduce your meditation time to 2 minutes but do it anyway. 

Remember, execution matters

Here’s a small note I made on Trello while I was writing this article.

On the other hand, there are ideas that have a one-time execution and payoff and which don’t require consistency! 

Like for instance, discovering a technology that automates your tasks or blocks you from using addictive apps. 

Once you set it up, it handles the rest. You can reap its rewards for a long time.

4 Models of Learning

Learning is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight which is why staying consistent is so important!

Whenever you learn something, you pass through this 4-stage process:

  • Unconscious Incompetence
  • Conscious Incompetence
  • Conscious Competence
  • Unconscious Competence

Let’s talk about it step-by-step.

1. Unconscious Incompetence

This is a stage where you are unaware of the skill you need to develop to become competent.

Let’s take the example of someone who’s new to cooking. They probably have no idea of what skills they should develop to become a good chef. 

So for them, their first hurdle is becoming aware.

2. Conscious Incompetence

At this level, you are aware of the fact that you lack a certain skill, and you need to learn it. 

For example, a beginner in cooking might know that he doesn’t have the skill to cut vegetables properly, mix the right ingredients, etc.  

The good thing here is that you are at least aware of what you lack. As a result, you can start gaining knowledge to build the skill.

3. Conscious Competence

In this stage, you apply what you learn, only if it is in your conscious attention. 

Think of the latest things you have been learning but need reminders to apply them.

For instance, let’s say you learned about creating to-do lists. You might need daily reminders to continue doing the activity until it becomes automatic.

4. Unconscious Competence

These are the things you do that don’t require any conscious attention. This happens when you have mastered a particular skill and it has become a habit.

For example, think about brushing your teeth, having a shower, etc. At work, there might be many such skills that you do unconsciously.

This is the stage where you should aim to be at because here you can do them without even thinking.

2 Bonus Hacks You Can Use To Apply Your Learnings

Here are some other hacks that can make the learning process easier.

1. Get an Accountability Partner

An accountability partner can help you stay on track. The most useful thing they can give you is regular feedback

It helps to know what mistakes you are making and how to correct them. They can also remind you whenever you slack off. Also, having a little competition is always nice since it forces you to stay active. 

Find a partner who’s also on the same journey as you and keep each other accountable.

2. Write in The Learnings in Your Own Words

This may not work for everyone. But for some, it gives them more clarity and helps to create a structure for their thinking. 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the application of what you learned matters the most.

If you don’t execute your ideas, you’ll have regrets.

Here are some concrete steps you can take – create a Trello account and put some of the ideas you learned on the board. 

Next, spend not more than 2  minutes putting it into practice!

And if you already have ideas, check out how you can speed up the learning process by shortening your learning curve!

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