If you’re struggling to make strides in your business, and if you’re spending a great deal of time clicking on blog posts, taking courses, signing up for this, that, and the other thing but you’re not really getting anywhere… let’s talk about how you can get out of learning mode and into action mode.
Most online business owners spend at least some of their time learning how to do things. We’re not born knowing how to do all this stuff, and technologies and tactics are constantly changing, so it’s natural. But sometimes, what we think is propelling us forward is actually holding us back.
We all fall into traps. It’s impossible to avoid because we’re exposed to over 10,000 messages a day! And when we have problems in our business that need solving, when we lack confidence in our skills and knowledge, and when we have a lot of questions… there are endless choices:
“Click here to discover 17 ways to ______!”
“Sign up for my course and learn this exciting thing!”
“Join my free webinar to learn the secrets you don’t know about!”
Here’s the secret: you don’t need all of that stuff.
Okay you need some of it, maybe. But you have most of what you need already and you’re not focusing enough attention on that.
When is all of your business magic going to happen, exactly? It doesn’t happen when you’re in learning mode, it happens when you’re in action mode. (And as it so happens, the best learning happens when you’re just doing it.)
Overwhelm is caused by trying to process too much information
Most of what you’re exposed everyday is a potential distraction. In fact, a lot of it creates problems instead of solving them. If you didn’t know you needed “17 ways to _____” before you clicked on that blog post, you went down a rabbit hole to solve a problem you didn’t even have. “Add this thing to the billions of things I need to learn…”
Your mind easily slips into overwhelm mode, you second-guess yourself, and create excuses for not putting yourself out there. It feels like you’re taking a step forward, but it actually set you back.
Identify your goals and be laser-focused on them
What you spend your time doing online falls under three categories: work, pleasure, and a complete waste of time. I’m going to say right up front that you have my permission to goof off, use the internet for pleasure activities, and escape, avoid or procrastinate. I’m here to talk about your work activities, not to judge your whole life.
When it comes to online work-related activities, MOST of what people think they’re doing for work really isn’t about work, it’s just “doing stuff.” If you want traction from your efforts, you have to be strategic about it and be working toward your big-picture goals (which for most of us is to get clients, have an audience of prospects to sell things to, and to make money).
If what you’re doing does not support your business goals, file it under “pleasure” or “I’m just here to waste a bit of time” and be super clear about that in your head. Otherwise, it’ll all blend together and you won’t know which things are helping you and which things or not. You won’t know where to put your focus and attention, you won’t know how to “get there.”
I call it stab-in-the-dark marketing, and it’s at the root of most overwhelm.
Be intentional in all your actions
Let’s assume your goals are:
- To grow your audience and get client leads
- To make money
Growth strategies include things like: any actions that will grow your audience on social media, build an email list, get targeted traffic to your website, and optimize your point of sale (your website) for conversions
Profit strategies include things like: building and promoting your services and getting your “actual work” done and giving your customers phenomenal service so they tell all their friends and leave you 5-star reviews
When you do something, ask yourself, “How specifically will this action help me grow?” and “How specifically will this action help me profit?”
If you can’t map it out and directly connect that activity to something that will help you grow or make money, it’s not a business action.
Gazing at your Twitter stream is not a business action.
Writing a blog post based on a random idea that popped into your head is not a business action.
Spending more time in that Facebook group you’ve been a member of for the last year but you’ve not gotten one single client lead, referral, connection or even question answered will not move you closer to your goals.
Is what you’re doing strategic? Or are you just doing “whatever” and hoping for some result? Twitter and blogging and Facebook groups can all help you grow, but only if you’re doing them with intention.
The same goes for learning. Is what you’re learning directly related to a specific thing you need to learn that’s part of your growth or profit strategy?
Or is it yet another webinar that promised you the secrets to explode your traffic / get organized / launch your thing … that didn’t give you real clarity? Or yet another blog post about a thing that mostly says the same thing as the other billion blog posts you’ve already read?
We all do this. We all need answers, and education is crucial for our development… what I’m getting at is, how much are you getting out of it? How much time have you lost? What are you doing to filter out distraction so you can focus and get actual work done?
Once you organize your actions around your goals, and start questioning where you’re spending your time and the messages you allow to filter through — it becomes pretty clear that we pay attention to and do a lot of dumb stuff that’s only eating up our precious time. Overwhelm happens when we process too much information and try to do too many things that don’t lead us anywhere. We’re unfocused and flailing about.
The point is to become more aware of what a smart business action is (it directly relates to a business goal) and what is not.
Start to get real with yourself in your awareness… “I’m doing this thing and I know it’s just wasting a bit of time.”
And that’s… okay. You can make that choice. Make it knowing that you only have so much mental bandwidth and time in a day and then live your life, yo.
Knowing what you need to be focused on will help you focus. (AHA! Simple thing, that!) Wouldn’t it be nice instead to know if you’re taking the right actions? If you’re spending your time on the right things?
All you need to do is to map your actions back to your goals. Always. Every webinar you sign up for, every email or blog post you read… how will it help you grow or profit? Does it fill in a knowledge gap you already know you need? Or is it some new thing that seems interesting and you’re putting off working on that “big thing” you’ve been meaning to get to?
Without mental awareness and discipline, your days will fly by and you won’t be able to say you’ve accomplished all that much, despite how “busy” you’ve been. And most importantly, those big things that need to happen to take your business to the next level (the things you can never “seem to find the time” to do?), will just never get done. Ouch.
Know your goals and the strategies you’ll use, create a list of the “how to” things you need to learn to make it happen, and then be a seeker. Seek out only what you need and filter out everything else. Do this with intention and awareness and you’ll actually learn how to do things (because you’ll be focused on them), your overwhelm will go away, and you’ll have the time you need to build that thing and get out there already.
I’m not asking you to master self-discipline overnight, it’s very hard when our brains become accustomed to a certain way of doing things — today, I’m only asking you to think about your goals, think about what you need to make them happen, and become aware of what you’re spending your time on. It helps a lot.
When your “learning mode” means you’ve got a deeper problem to contend with
Some of our activities online fall under the category of “numbing yourself with activity” — otherwise known as avoidance and escapism. I’m not a psychologist, but I’ve been there. I go there sometimes still. But, I’m aware of it now and I don’t let myself dwell there for too long (which is only possible if you’re aware).
If you truly want to move forward, get things done, get into ACTION MODE… you gotta get to the root of whatever that is. If your activities are not yielding you some good result, and if you’re doing them to avoid taking some risk, putting a foot forward, making a change — “I Just need to learn this one more thing…” — then your “learning mode” is an excuse that’s holding you back.
If you’re not suffering from deeper things, if you’re just doing “whatever” because you’re not really sure what you should be doing… no excuses for you. Cull the unnecessary things you know are wasting your time and get laser-focused on goal-related activities instead.
Culling the things
I experiment with just about everything, it’s part of learning to market my own business better and it’s part of my duty to understand these things for my clients. (“I go first.”)
A recent example of an activity I’ve culled is participating in Facebook groups. I join lots of them, but I don’t stay if there’s no value (and mostly it’s a needle in a haystack). If there’s drama, bad energy, crappy information, sad-sack people who only want to bitch and moan … I leave the group. I don’t have spare energy and time, and you have to know when something isn’t serving you that needs to be removed from your field of vision.Guard your focus like it's your most valuable possession. Treat it like the business asset you know it is.Click To Tweet
Other useless things to get rid of:
If you ever find yourself participating in comments or discussions that create a psychic “pull” that makes you feel icky and takes up bandwidth — don’t do that anymore. Sometimes drama happens and we can’t control that, but showing restraint is a major way to guard your focus. You don’t have time to get involved, you’ve got goals and a to-do list to follow.
If you ever find yourself thinking:
“This person only seems interested in pushing their content at me so they can sell something, it’s so annoying ” OR
“This person is always posting cheesy quotes and memes and I don’t have time for all this crap” OR
“This person is always negative, it’s so irritating”…
You have my permission to know longer allow that stuff in your field of vision. Tighten up your bubble. Every single piece of micro-information that you allow through is energy better spent in focus on your own business.
These are your besties when it comes to distraction and overwhelm avoidance:
You don’t have to unfriend your family or anything like that, but you don’t have to expose yourself to messages that aren’t serving you.
“But I genuinely need to learn so many things!”
No, you don’t. You already know enough to get started with something today. Is there one thing you can focus on that will move you toward your goal that you can focus your attention on? We don’t have to do it ALL RIGHT NOW. We can start with where we are and grow. The fact is, that most successful online entrepreneurs started out only knowing a fraction of what they know today, they spent time doing, figuring it out, making mistakes… and then added knowledge as they needed it. They learned through action mode, and they weren’t successful or perfect out of the gate.
Remember: when you see something that would be nice to learn and you give it your attention, the chance that you’ll walk away with some life-changing tip or hack or skill is incredibly rare. You might collect some useful nuggets here and there… but what’s the larger cost of going around collecting little nuggets?
When you really need to learn something, you know what to do: you do the research, get recommendations, read reviews, and find the best resource that fits your purpose, and then you focus your attention on it intensely. You don’t need to click on every enticing Facebook ad offer. When you need to learn something, you’ll seek it out and find it.
Besides, you’ll find it hard to put the stuff you learn into practice if you spend all your time learning even newer random stuff. Or stuff that kinda looks like the other stuff you learned but maybe slightly different. Stop collecting nuggets. If you’ve got a pretty good grasp on a subject but you haven’t implemented any of it, just start doing it. That’s the only way you’ll really understand what your real knowledge gaps are.
Always know exactly what you need to learn, and stop learning random stuff.
Go back to your goals: “What things do I need to learn in order to grow or profit?” List those things out.
I keep a Google Doc with all of my goals, strategies, tactics, hypotheses and metrics I want to keep track of. I’ve found that using Google Docs for anything related to online activities is most helpful because I can just set it as a tab while I’m working; easy peasy.
I have goals — money goals and audience goals. Then strategies for how I intend to accomplish those goals. I don’t worry about the “how” in that moment, I just jot down: “No clue, need to learn how to do this.”
Never let the “how” slow you down when you’re creating a strategy, it doesn’t matter, you’ll figure it out. I don’t go down a rabbit hole every time I have a thought, I plan out the things I need to learn ahead of time and when I’m sitting here wondering “what should I do next?” or when I have some time to fill, I go back to my document, put my head on straight, and I take actions that will help me make progress toward my goals.
Here’s an example of how that might look:
Goal: grow my audience and email list
Strategy: Increase traffic to my blog from Pinterest
How: : No clue, learn more about this and spend 1-2 days researching and optimizing Pinterest
Now there’s a clearly-defined learning need that relates directly to a business goal and a time frame. Now I can seek out that specific information only, clear some time and do a deep-dive and focus on it.
So many things we need to learn to operate and market online businesses can be learned when we shut down the distractions and focus with intensity and purpose. Things get done, stuff gets learned, and you go back to the list and move on to the next thing that will move you forward.
All the other stuff that comes into your line of sight that’s not related to your learning goals IN THIS MOMENT is stuff you don’t need to be distracted by right now, scroll on past it.
“I KNOW BUT IT LOOKS SO ENTICING, IT’S PROMISING YOU THE SECRETS OF SUCCESS!”
But you don’t need it right now. If you ever do, you can find it later.
Less time learning, more time implementing
Be honest — how many awesome blog posts have you read and thought, “I should really do this!” and then you NEVER DO IT. Pinning it or bookmarking it for later doesn’t count.
Pick the thing you need to learn, go out and find the information you need, and then implement it. Don’t just skim the article or watch the webinar and think, “Gee, that’s so brilliant!” and then forget about it… clear some time in your schedule and DO IT.
Focused. Undistracted. IT GETS DONE. Then on to the next learning goal.
Implement more + skim and bookmark things for later less = making actual progress.
Without implementation, you just have a lot of stuff in your brain and in your bookmarks that isn’t helping anything.
“Learning mode” can be a sign of underlying fears
If you’re stuck in learning mode and can’t get out, it could be that some fear is holding you back. “But I don’t know how to do it, I need to learn more!” can be an excuse for not putting yourself out there.
Why isn’t it out there already? Because you don’t know how? Can you learn how? Do you already pretty much know how?
Come on be honest. If you really want to learn something and you really set your mind to it, you can learn it. You’ve learned other things before, you’ve conquered challenges, you’re smart and capable enough. The key is: learn it, implement it, and get out there with it.
What’s stopping you?
Money? (Seriously! Lots of entrepreneurs have money mindset issues, I know I do… ugh!)
Looking stupid (*raises hand*)
Being ourselves and being seen
I’m not a psychologist or a coach but I have been in business for a long time and I’ve had to grapple with all of these things, and I still struggle. Here’s all I know:
If it’s not scaring you at least a little bit, it’s probably not going to bring the change you want to see in your life or business.
If you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll remain invisible.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
What’s the one thing you’re pretty sure would take your business to the next level but you’re not doing it? You’re reading a lot about it, you’re watching trainings about it… but you’re not actually doing it?
If you were to succeed in your business, what would your life look like? What would you be able to do? (For yourself, your family, the world.) Is your fear of _____ worth not having all of those things? Seems silly when you put it that way right?
Critics? Well, they’re not the ones who count. I can laugh at them from my beach home on the seacoast.
Public speaking? Well, if that’s what’s standing in my way, and it feels terrifying, maybe it’s something I should try… I want to be able to donate money to causes I believe in.
Being myself and being seen? Well, what’s the worst that can happen — some people won’t like me? That’s fine, they’re not my people.
You get the point.
You’re already enough.
You already know enough.
You know how to figure stuff out and you’ll seek out that information when the time comes.
What can you be doing that will move you closer to your goals today?