The Cure to Shiny Object Syndrome: "Just In Time" Learning

The biggest challenge as an entrepreneur or solopreneur is juggling all the responsibilities required to run a business. Especially in the online world, you have to have the skills to act as customer service rep, CEO, and everything in between.

The typical online business owner has a steep learning curve to implement the appropriate systems. For example, Anna works as an executive assistant at a large corporation and designs jewelry on the side. She has a unique talent for designing beautiful, wearable art. She sells her jewelry to friends, and occasionally at local art festivals. Her dream is to make a full time income from her jewelry sales.

Anna decides to open an ecommerce site to sell her jewelry. She buys her domain, gets a Shopify account and creates her website. A few friends buy from her site, and of course her favorite aunt makes a purchase, but three months later she is lucky to have 5 visitors a week to her site.

She knows she needs to make some changes and researches how to get traffic to her site. She decides she needs to learn SEO (SEO? Anna has never heard of it in her corporate job). Plus, she also reads about how to utilize social media to market her site. She adds social media marketing – Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter – to her list. She starts shopping for online courses on SEO and Facebook for business. She saves articles and buys eBooks. The first course she takes stresses the importance of branding. Anna takes a detour and starts reading about how to create a brand, and buys another course. But wait, what about Pinterest and Instagram marketing?

Soon, her quest to learn leaves her overwhelmed. She has eight online courses started (that she spent hundreds of dollars to buy). She may not even remember all the courses she bought. Her reading list is long but now she avoids it. Every article and blog post points to another topic she didn’t even know she needed to learn. Meanwhile, her jewelry ecommerce site gathers dust.

She has SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME. Anna knows she has to master the online ecommerce business to achieve her goal of making a full time income from her jewelry business. Every time she discovers a topic she is unfamiliar with, or hears about a course that will ‘transform’ her business, she hops onboard.

Anna needs to implement “Just in Time” Learning.

Part two of the Blog Series: How to Cure Shiny Object Syndrome discusses how to implement “Just In Time” Learning:

  • how to discover what you need to know to grow your business
  • how to prioritize your options

Be sure to check out part one here.


“Just In Time” Learning

How to Discover What You Need to Know

Success often depends on effective learning, but learning what? You don’t know what you don’t know.

In the beginning stages of your business, or when dreaming about your business, it’s difficult to know what you need to learn to achieve your goals. Here are five tips to help you figure out where you need to focus.

The Skills to Run Your Business

Every type of business has a certain skill set that you need to master. What are these skills? Do you have them right now? Which of these skills is your weakest and your strongest? 

List all the skills you know you need to run your business. Analyze your list. Indicate which skills are your strengths and weaknesses.

Your weakest of these skills is where you need to start. For example, organization skills would help you run a successful business. If you know that you’re not an organized person by nature. Learning organizational skills and finding an effective system is a good place to start.

Ask the Experts

One of the best ways to determine what skills you need in your business is to talk to successful business owners. Identify people in your industry. Study what they do and how they achieved their success. Discover from them what you need to learn. If possible, ask them. Buy them of cup of coffee and pick their brains.

Another avenue for industry knowledge is hiring a coach. If you are bootstrapping your startup, this may not be possible.

Use online resources. Find a forum about your industry and ask questions. Join Facebook groups for your industry. Use sites like Quora where you can post a question for industry experts.

Identify Obstacles

Learning a new skill, software program, or business concept is often thwarted by obstacles. Try to identify what’s holding you back.

Look at the list of skills you need to learn and ask yourself:

Why haven’t I learned this yet?

What might stop me?

The reasons may be internal, (fear of failure), or they could be external, (like a resource or tool that you need).

Mental obstacles are challenging. We all cling to beliefs and ideas no matter whether they’re based on reality or not. For example, if you keep telling yourself you’re not good at handling money, you’ll ensure that you never learn how to do it. You first have to believe that you can change. Try to identify these negative beliefs and work on changing them.

Keep Track of Your Progress

You can discover what you need to learn by keeping track of your achievements and challenges. At the end of the day, make two lists:

What new tasks did you accomplish today?

What tasks did you discover that your need to learn? Or what tasks took too long to complete?

For example, consider the earlier example of Anna. She successfully soldered for the first time. Yay! New task learned.

But Anna is struggling with SEO for her product titles and descriptions.

Her next topic to concentrate on doesn’t need to be soldering, it should be SEO.

The Ebb and Flow

Another reason to track your progress is to discover if your skills or knowledge is out of date. There will be times when your skills weaken, or when you need to learn new software updates. You may lose some of your skills if you don’t use them for a period of time. You might need some brushing up.

You may not classify your “brush-ups” as learning, it should be part of your development plan. Many professional organizations require recertification at regular intervals to refresh their skills. Follow the same principles and always keep an eye on your weak points so you can address them as soon as possible.


Prioritize Your Learning Needs

You have a whole long list of things to learn, but you know you can’t tackle them all at once. Not only would that take all your time, it also wouldn’t be effective. You need to focus on one thing at a time to learn effectively. You can decide where to start by prioritizing your learning list to make the best use of your time.

Why Prioritize?

Prioritizing narrows your list down so that you have one thing to learn at any one time. There are other ways it benefits you as well. You may need to learn a specific skill because it is critical to a project you’re working on. There may be some concepts that are prerequisites to more advanced ones. You need to learn them first before you can move on to the next thing. For example, you need to learn how to create a beautiful, pin worthy graphic before you learn how to use a scheduler like Board Booster.

Need to Learn vs. Want to Learn

Start by creating two categories – things you need to learn and things you want to learn. The things you need to learn are those that are going to get you closer to your overall goals. These are things you’ll use in your business or life. The things you want to learn are those that don’t lead directly to the attainment of your goals. You can save these for later.

For example, Anna’s list contains “Learn SEO” and “How to create video Pins for Pinterest”. Anna needs to learn SEO to help market her business now. She wants to learn how to create video pins. But she needs to first know how to create pin-worthy graphics, and how to use a scheduler.

You Can Only Do One

The truth is that you can learn multiple things at one time as long as you’ve got the time and energy for it. But in order to prioritize your learning list, you’re going to imagine that you only have the time and space for one. Look at your list and ask yourself,

‘If I can only learn one thing on this list, what would it be?’

Start a second list with that one on the top. Then, look at your remaining items and ask the same question. By doing this repeatedly, you can create a perfectly prioritized list.

Time-Sensitive Items

Scan your list for anything that’s time-sensitive. Often, you can see that some items should come before others. For example, learning how to build your website comes before learning about content syndication. Try to see the items on your list as steps. If you’re not sure what order to place your steps, look at an online course or the table of contents of a book on Amazon.

Once you have a prioritized list, add it to your personal development plan. It is okay to learn more than one thing at once, but don’t overload yourself. It’s best to start with the item at the top of the list and get it started. Once you’re in the flow and comfortable with a new skill and you feel you have the time, add the second item. If ever you start feeling overloaded, save the lower priority items for later.


Next up:

Part Three: How to Find the Right Resource