Deciding to start a business or creative endeavor is often followed by something I call “I don’t know overwhelm.” This is when you start to think about the things you need to learn and areas you have no idea how to tackle. Though there’s a world of knowledge available at our fingertips, it does you no good if the anxiety of feeling like you should know it all keeps you from getting started on your business.
Before you rush out to buy every book, download all the PDFs and watch hours of YouTube videos to fill gaps in your knowledge, check out these five tips to maximize your learning experience without sacrificing meaningful progress:
Identify how much you need to know
First, make a list of the things you need to know or would like to learn. From there you can determine how much studying you’ll need to put into play. A blogger will need to know the ins and outs of content strategy and promotion because it’s a core function of their business. Though designing custom graphics would be helpful to a blogger, it isn’t something to focus on above and beyond content strategy.
Once you’ve identified topics that align with your core business functions, run a quick Google search for the best pieces of content created around the areas you need to know well. Read summaries and reviews on a book or course to make sure the information presented is what you really need. Select one main source, such as a book or a short course, to focus on at a time and supplement with shorter blogs or podcasts throughout the week. In the information age, it’s easy to try and read everything. However, the best way to tackle new information and put it into practice is to work through the new material in batches.
Your list of things you need to learn will evolve over time, so keep it handy and update it as you go.
Learn the way you learn best
As an entrepreneur, time is a precious commodity. You want to make the most of your time, and you can do this by figuring out the best medium for your learning style. Finding resources that match the way you absorb information is a time saver and spares you a lot of frustration. If you know you learn best by reading, a podcast may not be the best way for you to retain information if you space out when people are talking.
Look for webinars, online courses, and books that include a workshop or “now you try it” features as this will help you continue building your project as you go. If you decide to take an online course, you’ll want to look at how it is run and if it matches your learning style. For example, sites like Udemy, Lynda, and CreativeLive allow you to learn at your own pace. If you prefer to learn in a more structured/deadline driven environment, then a Coursera course may be better suited for you.
Experiment with different mediums and see what combination works best for your learning ability and your schedule.
Optimize your time
If you’re working or in school while building your business, it may feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to work on your idea and learn new concepts. This is where learning on the go comes in. Listening to a podcast during your daily commute to work is a great way to schedule time for learning without sacrificing evening hours you could spend working. Read articles or watch TED talks during your lunch break. Create a document where you keep track of things that are particularly helpful or encouraging so you can easily find it later.
You can use email subscriptions to get the information you find most valuable into your inbox regularly. However, when you give your email address to a site or service you know you won’t use–you just want the freebie they’re offering–make sure you unsubscribe so your inbox isn’t flooded with the information you don’t necessarily need.
For dedicated research, block off chunks of time in your schedule to sit down and focus on expanding your know-how. It can be 30 minutes or 2 hours, but it’s important to make this a part of your entrepreneurial routine. During your day, if you come across a longer piece of content you’d like to engage with at a deeper level, add it to your list of resources and pick it up once you’re done with your current source.
See what you can delegate
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to understand things, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything.
Once you have an idea of what you need to do to maintain your business, identify things that you can delegate to a freelancer. If you need graphics and design for your site, that doesn’t mean you should learn the ins and outs of color theory. Figure out what your goals are, and then use a service like Upwork or Fiverr to scratch smaller items off your to-do list.
Work as you learn. Don’t hoard information
You’re never going to know it all and there’s always going to be someone who knows more than you. And that’s okay! The most important part of learning new things is to put the things you learn into practice as you go. Practical application, including experiments, successes, and failures, will get you a lot further than theoretical knowledge alone.
A problem many entrepreneurs run into is hesitancy to leave the learning phase. They hoard information and promise themselves they’ll get started on their business after they read just one more book. This is the fear of getting started hiding behind a preparatory mask. Refrain from starting a new book or course before you’ve finished one and dedicate time in your day for learning and application. Doing both consistently will allow you to build your knowledge base while taking meaningful action towards your goals. Once you get going, you’ll find out that you knew a lot more than you thought you did.
Learning new things will always be a part of your entrepreneurial growth, and it’s important to make time for this valuable practice. These tips will help you learn new things efficiently without sacrificing valuable time you should spend working on your business.