The One Idea

Magnifying glass

We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge. ~John Naisbitt

How many pieces of information do you go through in a day? More importantly, how much of it do you use in your life?

I ask myself these two questions every day.

There is an overload of information out there. I read at least 5 blogs posts a day and later in the evening I read part of a book for about an hour.

Most of the stuff I read is very useful to me. The thing is: what do I do with all this information?

Gathering or reading a lot about a subject doesn’t make us knowledgeable, unless we use this information.

I can’t tell you how many articles are bookmarked with a note that says interesting, check it out and do later. The same applies to books. I start a text file for all the stuff I think I want to use from a book.

A few notes about books and articles are not a problem. But when the pile of notes keeps getting bigger and bigger, the interesting information becomes a drag. Nothing gets used and the stuff just sits there.

The one idea

After feeling overwhelmed with all the information I have to process, I decided to just pick one idea and forget about the rest.  I created an archive folder and moved all the old notes to it so I don’t have to worry about them. I figured if I haven’t dealt with them, they were not that important to me. I deleted the archive folder later.

How does the one idea work?

Once you read an article, and it may have 10 things you can do, pick one and run with it. You may say but I want to keep going and apply the rest. How many can you apply at one single attempt?

Pick one. Write it down. Reflect on it for a few minutes. Does it excite you? Do you feel it’s something that you want to use in your life?

Go for it and forget about the rest. As you use it, you’ll know when it’s time to pick a new idea. You may also find out that this idea is not working for you. And that’s okay. Now you know, because you used it.

After mastering an idea or dropping it, move on to the next one. And repeat the same process.

A note about reading

Before moving further, I’d like to share with you something about reading that makes a big difference. Read with a purpose. Engage with the material you’re reading. Why are you reading an article or a book? Is it for entertainment? To learn a new skill? To solve a problem (what’s the problem)?

The more specific you are about your purpose, the more your subconscious mind will guide you as you read.

When you read with a purpose, you become an active reader. You will be open to the ideas the writer is sharing with you. You will become more skillful at picking ideas that suit you.

What happens to all the other useful information?

As you read more articles and more books, you will have more ideas than just the one you want to start with. What do you do with the rest of the ideas?

Keep a log of ideas

Write down the idea you’d like to use in a notebook or a log.

I created a log as a word document you can download here. Use it if you like or create your own. I also attached an example here. (Right click and download the files to your computer).

Please keep in mind, with every tool you use, you need to keep things simple and maintain your system.

Guidelines for keeping ideas

In order to get results and avoid shuffling things around, create your rules for keeping ideas and stick to them. Consider the following:

  • Write the idea in the simplest form possible with the least amount of words.
  • Limit the number of ideas that go into your log. Mine is set right now at 20. If I need to add more, I’ll get rid of one (usually the oldest).
  • With every idea you add, include the date. If the idea stays in your log for a long time, let it go.
  • Review your log on a regular basis and clear out old stuff.

What to do with your reading material

Instead of having countless articles and books, you’ll have one document with the information you want to use.

You can safely get rid of all the articles and just add a link to them in your ideas log.

When it comes to books, it’s a bit harder, especially if you don’t own the book or you’re planning on giving it away after you’re done reading. In this case, write the idea, the book title and page number. Even if you give the book away, you can find it at your library or borrow it from someone else. Resist the temptation to hold on to books—I admit I’m still working on this one.

Trust your intuition and inner guidance. Keep the ideas that you want to work with and let the rest go.

Imagine if you just implemented 12 ideas per year (one per month) what a difference this would make in your life. Of course, you can do more or less. It doesn’t matter as long as you do something.