This is the second post in a three-part series on learning new skills to boost your business success.
Imagine this for a moment: you find yourself in an online forum where small business owners and entrepreneurs are chatting happily about doing courses.
Everyone seems fired up about learning video marketing, Facebook advertising, SEO, Google Analytics—you name it.
That’s when you start looking around to see if you’re actually in a padded cell. Are these images of cheery, course-consuming entrepreneurs actually hallucinations?
Today’s world is one of frequent change. Sometimes it can feel like you’re expected to be a triathlete just wading through everything you need to know to succeed in business.
Learning for modern lifestyles
Thankfully, education and training have evolved to keep pace with our ever-shifting environments.
Online courses allow busy folks like you to upgrade skills on your own terms. They are designed for modern lifestyles. You pick the time and place where you learn. You decide how you grow.
Online learning platforms have changed the teaching game entirely. In the realm of the Internet, education now caters more acutely to the needs of the individual.
There’s just one hitch. It turns out online learning is great for convenience but falls short in the accountability department. There’s no grading. No professor threatening to bounce you out of the programme. So it’s no surprise the completion rate for online courses is abysmally low.
The going can get tough
Starting a course can be a lot like opening a can of soda. The fizz eventually starts to go out of it. Soon enough, you’re stuck with a can of flat soda. The fizz in your case is the motivation to keep going.
Learning isn’t always fireworks and excitement. Some of it can be a bit dry or even boring.
Not only can the going get tough, but life can get in the way. The result is your online course gets put on pause…indefinitely.
There are, however, small business owners and entrepreneurs who are applying new skills to their businesses every day. If they can do it, so can you. All you need is a strategy and some tips to make it to the finish line.
A graveyard of unfinished online courses doesn’t have to be your future. You just need the push.
So, here’s a look at how you can go all the way.
1: Why did you go to the refrigerator in the first place?
Ever go to the refrigerator and stand there frozen with the door open?
That’s right. At least half of us here have done that. You’re standing in the cold glow of the refrigerator light with brain freeze; you’ve forgotten why you came here in the first place.
Well, doing an online course can be a lot like that. You forget your why. This is a theme we return to regularly in our blog because it’s an important one.
You’ve forgotten the one thing that led you to pull your credit card out and sign up for that online course. It appealed to you because of the skills it offered to help you market your business, balance your budget or even balance your professional/personal life.
It’s important to keep picturing how your circumstances will improve because of those spanking new skills.
When you regularly play out in your mind the end result of sticking to a course, it will start to look worth it. And close the refrigerator door while you’re at it!
2: Prioritise your courses
So your inbox is filled to bursting with unfinished online courses. You’ve probably even bought more because you caught a limited time offer that will ‘vanish’ in a few days, only to return next year. Fair enough. But now you’ve got course overload.
Feeling overwhelmed is understandable, but it really isn’t necessary. If you feel as though you’ve gotten into deep water with your online courses then there’s nothing like a sound methodology to keep you afloat.
Tackle that course load in a systematic manner and you’ll get through them all before you know it. Just an FYI, the one thing you should avoid is trying to do several courses at the same time. Unless you like spending hours in therapy.
Ask yourself two questions:
~ What do I want most for my business or myself this year?
~ What skills do I need immediately to achieve that goal?
The answers to these two questions will help you determine which courses you should tackle first.
Many small business owners hover over multiple courses. It’s far more effective to do one course, absorb the material thoroughly, then move on to the next. You don’t want to overburden yourself by trying to ingest more content than is manageable.
Choose your courses according to where you are in your business or personal development and go forward from there.
3: Take it step by step
Very few people can claim to have succeeded with their course load by trying to swallow everything whole. Taking an online course, for example, with 40 video lessons isn’t made more effective by consuming them all in a day or two.
Trying to force feed yourself with course content in an impossible timeframe is a recipe for failure. It can lead to stress, frustration, procrastination, course fatigue and course abandonment.
Just as a house is built over the course of several months, so too should your mission to expand your knowledge.
Break up your learning goals into bite-sized sessions. Taking a phased approach whittles down the scope of what you need to accomplish and makes learning more manageable and rewarding.
4: Schedule time for learning
It’s the mantra of the harried business owner nowadays, “I just don’t have time!”
Every day, though, we make decisions about our time based on what’s important to us. Online courses are undoubtedly important. They just don’t get shuffled to the head of the line because, many times, there is no instant gratification involved.
Schedule at least one hour in each day to improve yourself or your business.
By putting learning into your daily schedule, it’s less likely to get brushed aside by something that seems more important.
5: Lead yourself not into temptations
If you’re going to be taking on new skills, it just won’t do to split your attention between online courses and hollow distractions.
Learning a new skill is going to take every ounce of concentration you can muster. For this reason, you want to create a distraction-free zone around your work area.
Keep your cellphone in another room for the duration of your study session. You don’t have to bury it in the backyard or anything so dramatic. Just keep that too-smart-for-its-own-good-phone out of sight and out of mind for at least an hour.
On your computer, open only the tabs directly related to your online course. You can look into apps that restrict access to certain websites while you’re learning. This will help you focus on building your expertise while blocking out the bombardment of Internet information unrelated to your goals.
Give yourself the strongest chance to make the best of the online courses you’ve bought. Put everything else on hold while you nourish your mind with the skills that can help you grow.
6: Learn everywhere
In today’s tech-driven world, you don’t need to be tied to a laptop or desktop computer to keep learning.
If you think about it, there are many places where time simply drains away. You can reclaim the minutes and hours of a missed connection at the airport or a lengthy commute to work by using your smartphone or tablet device to catch up on your online course.
Most online learning platforms like Udemy, Skillshare and Teachable have mobile apps. So, you can continue your learning wherever you are rather than wait until you get back to a computer at home or the office.
7: Reward yourself
It’s important to reward yourself for achieving a milestone, no matter how modest.
Always remember a journey is marked by a series of milestones. Taking time out to appreciate every inch of progress can give you a psychological boost to make it to the end.
So, reward yourself for completing a course module or reading another chapter in an ebook. How you do that is entirely a matter of preference. It could be an ice-cream or a trip to the cinema.
Either way, the point is to acknowledge you’re making progress. This will keep you committed to reaching the finish line.
8: Get you a squad
Upskilling through online courses can be a very lonely activity. Feelings of isolation can become deep set, leading you to become discouraged.
However, you are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of people out there trying to better their businesses and lives just like you.
Many course creators set up Facebook groups for their students. Join them! They are amazing communities of support and virtual pep rallies.
The idea behind these interactive groups is participants can expand their knowledge and find comfort in shared experiences. As we speak, there are people trading stories on how to make their blogs more reader-friendly, write bestselling fiction novels or be more confident in their marketing videos.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional athlete or operate a small real estate business; success is often rooted in the quality of support behind you. This is particularly true when it comes to doing something new.
Family and friends may not be able to relate to your entrepreneurial journey. They may zone out when you gush about sales funnels or Google Analytics and all this.
That’s why online groups of like-minded individuals are so invaluable in keeping you motivated. Everyone has a similar goal—finding the best way to go about absorbing and applying new skills to improve their lot in life.
Don’t underestimate the power of sharing the experience of learning new skills. You can have a laugh at your mistakes and even learn some workarounds for any challenges you encounter. You don’t have to go it alone. Community support can rev you up and get you in course-completion mode.
9: Get busy with what you’ve learnt
Attach a project to your online course. It will give you the purpose to power through to the finish line.
If you’ve been learning about video marketing get out there and shoot some videos.
It could be a video diary of a vacation or day trip to the zoo. Shoot your videos, put them together, and then shoot and edit more videos. Soon enough, with regular practice, you’ll be more at ease with the format.
The point is you want to start bringing what you’ve learnt to life while still doing your online courses.
Get to work on creating your first online coursework exploring engineering solutions for contractors or other small business applications. It doesn’t have to be perfect out of the gate, it just needs to be a start.
When you see the value of busting your brains in a practical application, it makes the benefits of an online course less abstract and more real.
10: Don’t let hard earned money go to waste
An online course can run you a couple hundred dollars. Sometimes you can spend as little as 11 bucks. Either way, you haven’t invested so much that you feel dreadful for not making it to the end.
It’s true online courses won’t put you tens of thousands in the hole in the way a college degree can. The costs for online courses, though, do add up.
Unless you’re independently wealthy like Bill Gates or Batman, you’ve worked hard for that money. There no sense standing by as it’s frittered away on courses you just don’t have the stomach to see through.
Besides, you deserve all the benefits that online courses can send your way!
A contract for change
Online course creators make a contract with users of their materials. They promise to give you valuable information and skills to help you with your business. On the other side of that transaction, though, you have entered into an agreement with yourself to open doors of opportunity by expanding your skills.
Many of us purchase online courses because we see in them the knowledge that can make our businesses more competitive, streamlined or profitable.
We’re willing to bet that few of you spend hard-earned money on courses just on a whim. This isn’t a box of chewing gum from the impulse display shelving at the Shop ‘n’ Go.
However, online courses aren’t likely to be of any help if they are only quarter way completed.
There are lots of training opportunities out there for people who want more from their lives.
With the click of a mouse, you can build your skills in the convenience of your own home at times that suit you.
To make the best of this brave new world, though, you need to dig deep for the motivation and inspiration to go all the way.
The course you take today can help determine the course of your business future.
Read the other blogs in this series
~ Part One: How to Motivate Yourself to Learn New Skills for Your Business
~ Part Three: Take Action: How To Implement What You’ve Learnt