Using Apps and Checklists to Learn More, Faster, Deeper

After years working as a journalist, I’ve now got a new job as a startup CEO and there’s a lot to learn. I’ve been using a number of new apps, all together, to speed and deepen that learning and I thought I’d share my new routine here in case of interest.

  • First, I use our own service Little Bird in order to view the hottest news among leaders in fields like Human Computer Interaction, Neuroscience, Sales and Marketing. I’ve got Hot News pages bookmarked for a variety of topics and I visit them regularly on my phone or iPad.

  • Then, when I find something that looks valuable – I save it in my beloved Pocket for later reading, generally on my iPad.
  • When I read the articles, if there’s something worth sharing I publish it out over Buffer.
  • Later, if I read those articles and find that there are in fact valuable insights – I want to make sure they don’t just dribble out my ears but that they stay inside my head. Mind mapping expert Chuck Frey says that learning consists of 4 steps: gathering, discerning, assimilating and utilizing. What I do is add any important lessons I learn to a mind map in Mindjet.
  • When I get around to processing updates to that mind map, what I do is put those lessons into a flash card app on my iPhone.
  • I flip through those flashcards daily as one of many different habbits supported by a routine building app called Lift.
  • One additional step I’m trying to add is to fill out this Evernote template to further explore the new lessons I’m adding.

It’s kind of a crazy detailed process, but just like I did when I was working as a journalist – I tell myself that if pilots on airplanes can run down a huge checklist of buttons and dials, I should be able to do something as simple as the process above. I probably need to turn it into a checklist – perhaps even in paper.

Above, my most recent lessons learned mind map, now featuring pictures of the people I learn the lessons from.

“Success is something you attract, not pursue,” argued personal development guru Jim Rohn. “Work hard on your job and you’ll make a living – work hard on your self and you can make a fortune.” I found that via a video that showed up in Hot News in a Little Bird report on Personal Development; I’ve put it on my mind map of lessons learned and in my flashcard app too. I’m not only focused on making a fortune, of course, but you get the idea: opportunity comes to those who have made themselves attractive to it through hard work on the self. That seems to be the idea, anyway.

As they’ve found at Khan Academy, explicit recognition of the plasticity of the brain – for example putting the words “the more you learn today, the smarter you’ll be tomorrow” on the top of a web page – leads to an appreciable improvement in learning. Metacognition.

I thought others might find that useful and interesting! May our learning help us all rock!

  • I love this list! Thanks for sharing, Marshall. I hadn’t heard of Lift before, but now I’m going to check it out.

    I’ve been trying to work up a similar process for myself, mostly just to make sense of all the articles and things I come across during the day that I want to spend more time with. I’ve been playing with Pinboard, IFTTT, Buffer, and SoundGecko, but I don’t quite have a process to loop back through and make sure I’m soaking in everything.

    Thanks again for sharing your ideas! Next I’ll be bookmarking this post on Pinboard, sharing it via Buffer, and perhaps letting the robo-voices of SoundGecko read it back to me. Haha!

  • Thanks Mike! I gotta check out SoundGecko. Good luck in your efforts!

  • If you want to set-up repeatable checklists and routines you can use this web application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

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