Use the “One Thing” Rule to Get More Out of Everything

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| August 14, 2007

Use the "One Thing" Rule to Get More Out of Everything

One of my favorite communicators, Heidi Miller (aka, The Podcasting Princess) once shared a great tip for getting the most out of a book: instead of trying to get everything the author is saying, see if you can take away one thing from the experience.

At first, it seems nuts: I’m gonna read a whole book to learn one little thing?! Well, no—not exactly. You might learn a whole lot of stuff; you might come back to it later to learn a lot more.

But the “One Thing” rule means you don’t have to come back to it later—it frees you up to be in the moment and absorb what you will while you’re reading it, and also ensures that what you do read won’t completely evaporate once you’ve turned the last page. It gives you a small, manageable task instead of a huge, daunting one.

The rule changed my experience with reading (at least, reading for work) so much that I wondered if it might affect my experience with other types of communicating. Here are some other great applications I’ve found:

“One Thing” in class

If you’re taking a full, 3- or 4-credit hour course, you’ll probably want to get a lot more than one thing out of it. But for quickie, one-off deals, try letting the class wash over you, rather than obsessively trying to get down every word. Spend more time listening to the teacher, and, most likely, your notes will be fewer, but of higher quality: you’ll naturally wind up with a couple of things you’re taking away.

“One Thing” in networking situations

You know how some meatspace events feel like a school of sharks madly swimming around, eyeing each other as chum? Relax. As you’ve probably heard before, it’s generally better to make one (or two, or maybe three) genuine connections than to collect a bunch of business cards. And it’s a lot easier to navigate these situations as an introvert if you relieve yourself of the pressure to make it a numbers game.

“One Thing” in a blog post!

The nature of blogging is to go shorter and more focused with topics anyway, but sometimes you’ll run across something with a slew of tips. Hoarder types want to grab all of them NOW, but that’s usually not the best way to remember something. Relax, and look through the list of goodies for the best, most useful tip, and try to remember that. You can always bookmark the post in your del.icio.us graveyard for later perusal, anyway!

The general idea is to relieve yourself of the pressure to remember everything, so hopefully, you can remember (and/or have a quality experience with) one thing…or two.

Are you already applying the rule in other ways? Please share in the comments!

Want more tips like this? I send them out once monthly to all the hep cats who sign up here.

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