Get the Most Out of Every Book You Read and Every Conference You Attend

When you attend a conference, do you make lots of notes to take action later – but most of them don’t get done?

Or do you read a great business book and intend to put some of the ideas into action – but never find the time to do them?

The trouble with having one big list of actions is that it’s not easy to prioritise. If your list says “Do the laundry” and “Find a cure for malaria”, it’s not very useful. And yet that’s usually what happens with a To Do list from a conference, workshop, or book.

You could try to solve this by only writing the things you will do now. But then you’ll only end up doing the laundry, getting milk, and sorting e-mail. Those things might be useful, but you’ll miss out on the really big opportunities.

For example, some years ago, I spoke at a conference for dentists, and one of the attendees, Jamie Harris, got my book “Fast, Flat and Free”, and had an innovative idea when he started reading it. He wrote to me later, saying:

“I only read one paragraph but l was a changed man. Made me realise that public were purchasing on recommendations of friends before even getting to us. I applied this to social media and created the fastest growing dental practice in Australia in 2013. We grew 6-fold in 7 months … To put it mildly, l was blown away.”

If Jamie had just implemented the small ideas from the conference or the book (and there were plenty of them), he would never have achieved that success.

So what about the opposite approach – where you only do the big stuff? That usually doesn’t work either, because there are a lot of other things happening, and it’s too easy to postpone the big goals until you have the time (which never happens).

Here’s a better plan …

Obviously, the answer is to prioritise. But how do you set the right priorities?

I’m glad you asked!

When you consider all the things you on your list, some of them will be more valuable (that is, have a higher impact) than others. Some of them will also be easier than others.

I suggest you set your priorities in this order: Start with simple things for quick wins, then tackle some more challenging things, and then take on at least one wild and crazy idea.

Put another way, you will implement, initiate and inspire:

  • Implement: Build momentum by looking for easy (but valuable) things that lead to “quick wins”.
  • Initiate: Identify some more challenging things you can’t complete immediately, but are worthwhile projects.
  • Inspire: Find at least one big thing that might even seem crazy to most people, but you think is worth pursuing.

I haven’t even mentioned the bottom-left quadrant: the things that are easy to do but don’t really add value. These are the Bright Shiny Objects that come your way – whether it’s new technology, a management method, or a new business superstar everybody wants to emulate. It’s easy to be distracted by them, and they might seem enjoyable to pursue, but they can quickly take you off track. So don’t be tempted by them!

Implement: Find the quick wins

Start with the things that are both easy and valuable, which are opportunities for “quick wins”.

Look for things you can do in the next few days (or a week at most).

Initiate: Plan the big wins

Look through your list for more things that are valuable, even if they aren’t easy. These are still wins, so they are still worth the effort, even if they take more resources to achieve.

These could stretch out to a few weeks, a month, or even up to three months. Because they take time and effort, you will have to fit these in with your other priorities.

Inspire: Do something crazy

Finally, look for at least one idea that would light your fire, seems beyond your reach, and might even appear crazy to most other people.

Sam Schillace from the cloud storage company Box puts it this way:

“If 80% think it’s the dumbest idea ever and should die in a fire, and 20% think it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen, then you’ve probably got something.”

So the next time you read a great business book, watch an interesting video, or attend a conference or workshop, make a list of all the great ideas – and then prioritise them in this way.


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