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Focus Fuel: Replace a Learning Addiction with Action & Output

For years, I described myself as ‘a student of learning’.

I loved learning new ideas and approaches. I joined courses & cohorts, listened to podcasts, and read countless books & articles. Always looking for an edge. But I felt like I was always behind, and there was so much to do.

The problem?

I had a knowledge imbalance. I was hiding behind learning and waiting until I knew everything. I was perfecting, NOT practising.

The truth is you learn more by doing. Good or bad outcomes provide a feedback loop. To confirm if something works [Outcome] how you imagine [Theory], you must try it [Action].

“Don’t let learning lead to knowledge. Let learning lead to action.” — Jim Rohn

Now, I describe myself as a ‘student of action’.

This subtle shift in framing changed how I view and use knowledge. The point of knowledge is to use it.

Let’s dive into how to fix the Knowledge Imbalance.

What is the Knowledge Imbalance?

Which feels right? ‘Just Do It’ or ‘Just Learn It’?

Knowledge Imbalance is an unhelpful ratio of gaining versus using knowledge.

Creators tend to have a Knowledge Imbalance towards learning.

They invest too much time and energy in acquiring information. But they fail to apply what they already know.

This imbalance can lead to:

  • Procrastination: Learning becomes an excuse for not taking action.
  • Cognitive overload: Leads to decreased ability to keep and process.
  • Uncertainty: A “learning loop” of seeking new information to feel more in control.
  • Sunk cost: Continue doing the wrong thing because of the effort already invested.
  • Imposter Syndrome: Believing that you still need to know more before you can begin.
  • Choice paralysis: Fear of making the wrong choice can lead us to keep looking instead doing.
  • Distraction: The need to know more can take away from the focus and direction needed to complete a task.

Many highly productive people have emphasised the importance of taking action for progression.

Different Cognitive Efforts

We use different cognitive efforts when ‘learning’ versus ‘applying’ knowledge.

Learning uses:

  • Attention focuses on incoming information.
  • Encoding pushes information into long-term memory.
  • Working Memory holds and manipulates information temporarily.

Doing uses:

  • Recognition identifies information.
  • Retrieval accesses information stored in long-term memory.
  • Decision-making applies information to solve problems and make decisions.

What: Two Distinct Focus Modes

The Focus Drivers framework includes two modes to help you balance knowledge. Sports and Off-road mode.

If you’re unfamiliar with Focus Drivers, feel free to call them “Do” and “Learn”. Or whatever makes sense to you. The key is to group tasks into separate modes.

Sports mode

Use “Sports” mode with your existing skills and knowledge.

It’s perfect for when you have a specific task at hand. Make the most of what you already know.

Off-road mode

Use “Off-road” mode to learn new skills, try new things, and gain knowledge.

It’s great for exploring new topics, gathering information, and experimenting.

You will gain:

  • Progress: Stay aware of when to use your skills.
  • Prioritisation: Focus on what’s most important.
  • Productivity: Time in each mode leads to efficiency.
  • Focus: Create different triggers and habits for each mode.
  • Clarity: Understand when to figure something out versus when to take action.

How: Emphasis on Action

Having two modes of knowledge will changed how you view information.

Stop collecting and start applying the knowledge you have. Take action and make the most of what you already know.

Here’s everything you need:

  1. Two modes of knowledge (Sports + Off-road).
  2. Group tasks into modes to complete them efficiently.
  3. Set the outcome and find the fastest route there.
  4. Aim for a 1% improvement from what you learn.
  5. Work in blocks (max. 90 mins) for a specific group of tasks.
  6. Break/Rest between focus blocks.
  7. Review which modes you spend most of your time.

My genius friend, Laura Evans-Hill says, “Exploration of different avenues destroys focus”.

Learn or do for a fixed period. Then, stick to it until the end. Encourage doing as soon as possible. That’s literally it!

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