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 to learn this, that, and the other thing but you’re not really getting anywhere with it… 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 unavoidable. But sometimes…what we think is propelling us forward (“learning all this stuff”) is actually holding us back.
We all fall into “learning traps,” and that’s impossible to avoid because we’re exposed to hundreds (even thousands!) of content marketing messages every day–much of which focuses on educating and helping us solve problems.
When we have problems in our business that need solving, and 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!”
But here’s a secret: you don’t need all of that stuff.
Okay, you need some of it. 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 every day is a distraction. A lot of it creates problems instead of solves 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…”
When this happens, it’s easy to second-guess yourself and create excuses for not putting yourself out there.
What you spend your time doing online falls under three categories:
- 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 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, and you won’t know how to “get there.”
Map What You Do & What You Learn To Your Business Goals
Let’s assume your goals are:
- To grow your audience and get client leads
- To make money
Now, when you think about your online activities, how can you map those to one of these goals?
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 answer that, 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 something cool but didn’t give you anything you can take action on? 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, be aware of how much are you getting out of it. If it’s not helping you grow or profit, you must learn to filter out distraction if you want to get into action mode.
Become more aware of what a smart business action is (it directly relates to a business goal) and what is not. 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.
Be A Knowledge Seeker Rather Than a Passive Knowledge-Sponge
Make a list of those things you need to learn to grow or profit, get laser-focused and seek that knowledge out, and then — and here’s the key — IMPLEMENT IT.
Less time learning and more time implementing = making actual progress.
Here’s the beautiful part. When you stop learning all the random things, you’ll have time to actually implement things.
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.
Without implementation, you just have a lot of stuff in your brain and in your bookmarks that isn’t helping anything.
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’re busy learning but you’re not moving toward your goals, you gotta get to the root of whatever that’s about. Think about it: Are you keeping busy to avoid taking some risk? “I Just need to learn this one more thing…” can sometimes be an excuse that holds you back.
“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.Click To Tweet
If you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll remain invisible.
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 engaged in 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.
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 no 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. 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.
Create a strategy and then worry about the “hows”
I keep a Google Doc where I list my (growth & profit) goals and create a strategy for getting there, and I don’t worry about my gaps in knowledge while I’m planning it out and forming my hypotheses — I trust myself that I can figure it out. (As Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figureoutable.”)
It might look like this:
Goal: Grow my email list (growth goal).
Strategy: Increase my targeted audience on Twitter to drive more traffic to my blog & opt-in offers.
How: Not sure, will seek out information about growing a targeted Twitter audience. (Now I have a learning goal and can become a seeker rather than a passive learner of “whatever”.)
This slight tweak in thinking can help free up LOADS of learning-mode time by being strategic about where we’re spending our time.
What can you be doing that will move you closer to your goals today?
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.