You should never stop learning but it can be tricky to learn new things without getting overwhelmed. We are surrounded by how-to videos, self-help books, people with well meaning advice and blogs and websites (like this one) with how-tos and tips.
So what’s a person to do?
Learn New Things Without Getting Overwhelmed
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1. Figure Out HOW You Learn
You’ve probably heard before that different people learn in different ways. There are people who firmly believe in this idea and those who believe it’s all hogwash. I’m in the middle. I’ve seen with my own eyes that some people need to see something to learn it while others need to try it with their hands. However I don’t think anyone should ONLY try out the methods that work best for them.
You may just know what type of learner you are and often people are a mixture of the different ones (Auditory – Hearing, Visual – Seeing, Kinetic – Touching/Doing) Here is a test you can try to help you figure out your learning style BUT be warned that it’s just a guide. It said I was an Auditory learner but I’m definitely not. Take the test with a grain of salt.
Visual learners should watch videos. Auditory learners should listen to podcasts or audiobooks. Kinetic Learners should find how-tos that they can follow along with or have someone show them how physically. Just remember, start with the one that matches your learning style but don’t ONLY stick to that style.
2. Speed Up Your Videos
I like learning with videos because with certain skills, seeing what you will be seeing when you do it can help imprint it in your mind. The problem with videos for me is that I’m a fast reader. It would take me longer to watch a video than to read an article. I also talk fast and understand fast so when someone talks, it often sounds like they are speaking very slow to me.
Most videos however give you the option to speed it up so you can watch it at a faster speed. Even if you aren’t on super speed like I am, training yourself to understand videos at a faster speed can save you time. Watching videos at 1.5 speed saves time by 65% Certain videos can be sped up faster than others. It all depends how fast they are talking to begin with. Start with 1.25 and work your way up. Make sure you ARE understanding it though. There is no point in speeding up the video if you come away from it not knowing what you were supposed to be learning.
Speed Up Videos on YouTube – click the little wheel to get to options
3. Pick Certain Times for Research
Instead of stopping what you are doing to look something up that you have come across, make a certain time each week for research or learning. For example, maybe Sunday will be your research day. Keep a running list of skills you want to learn more about and on that appointed day, sit down at the computer or at the library and do some research. If during the week you find out about a certain thing you don’t know how to implement, add it to your list and look it up on your research day.
4. Do Something Productive First
Researching new skill scan pull us in just as much as social media does. I know I can think, “Oh I’ll just look up how to do X and then go back to work.” The next thing I know it’s hours later and sometimes I haven’t even figured out how to do X because I got side tracked. If you need to figure out how to do something and it can’t wait till research day (see above) then make sure you get something productive done first.
With blogging as an example, perhaps I’m working on a blog post and then I notice that there is an error on my website I’m not sure how to fix. That can’t wait till research day because it’s an error. But it can wait till I finish writing my post. If I stop writing to fix the error, I will have to go back to the post at some point and will have lost my groove.
5. Make Notes and KEEP Them
Watching a how-to video or reading an e-book on a certain skill is good but if the next day you’ve forgotten what you learned, it’s not really that helpful is it? There was a reason we were told to take notes in school. You need something to refer back to at a later date. Take notes but not on some random piece of paper. Keep a notebook specifically for taking notes when learning something new or use papers in a binder so you can sort them. Keep the notes.
This is especially important if you are learning about something you don’t plan to use yet. Perhaps you are trying to absorb information on starting a webinar but you aren’t ready to do that till next year. You need to keep notes on your research somewhere safe so next year when you are ready to implement them, you have all the information you learned in one spot to refer to.
6. Be Mindful While Learning
Mindfulness has to do with keeping your mind focused on the task on hand and not getting distracted by something else. If your mind is elsewhere while you are watching a webinar, listening to a conference speaker or reading a blog post it will take you twice as long to digest it which is a waste of time. Have you ever read the same paragraph over and over in a book before? It happens because you are distracted.
You can’t control everything but do what you can to eliminate distractions. Turn off Facebook, put your phone on vibrate, go into a room by yourself or sit as close to the speaker as possible. Practice mindfulness when you aren’t learning so you can bring your mind back to what you are focusing on if it wanders when you are learning. I highly recommend The Miracle of Mindfulness book.
7. You Can’t Do It All
There are millions of books, webinars, podcasts and online courses available. You can’t do it all. If you sign up for every free or paid course or download every eBook on the topic you want to learn you will just overwhelm yourself. This is what we are trying NOT to do. Take some time to look into the course, webinar or book you are interested in and find out if it’s for you. Check out the testimonials/reviews and the syllabus or table of contents. If you start a course or book and it’s not working out for you, dump it and find a better one. Don’t feel like you HAVE to finish it if it’s clearly not for you.
Trust me, I WISH I could read every book in the world but I just can’t, and neither can you.
8. Understand the WHY
When you are learning, the speaker or author or podcaster or webinar host will be telling you to do things. Make sure you understand the why. Why are they telling you to do it? Why are you supposed to do A before B? Why are you supposed to do it THAT way? You need to understand the why to really understand the skill. Following a plan someone lays out for you is not learning a skill. It’s being a follower. If they why is not covered and there is an opportunity for feedback, ask for clarification.
9. You Need Alone Time
You need time to digest what you have learned and this works best when you are alone. So many times I have been thinking about something I read or learned or heard while I was alone. I worked through any questions I had or confusions I had about the skill/task. I do my best thinking when I walk to pick up my kids from school or when I’m alone in my office but haven’t started any work yet. Or when I have migraines surprisingly enough.
When I have mad migraines (which is a lot) I can’t read or type or watch TV. I have to just lay in the dark, absolutely still with a cold pack on my head. When I’m not sleeping, I’m thinking. I’ve planned blog posts, thought about ideas I’ve had and thought about things I’ve learned or read that I hadn’t fully figured out yet. Trust me, you need alone time.
10. Learning is Only Half of It
All this learning is great but remember, you have to implement the idea, practice the skill or use the workbook to see any good come of it. At some point you have to stop being a passive learner (reading/watching/listening) and be an active learner (doing). How many self-help books have I read and ignored the questions or tasks included with them? Too many to count. All that reading was really wasting my time. Self help books and do it yourself courses only work if you DO something.
11. Learn With Others or Share
Have you ever heard the advice that if you want to start working out, you should get a work out buddy? Someone to keep you on task, bounce ideas and troubles off of and someone to share your wins with? Well I say you need a learning buddy. Find someone who wants to learn the skill too and learn together. Or at the very least, share with others that you are learning a new skill and keep them updated on how you are doing.
Status Update: Hey all. I’m learning to knit and here is a picture of my first creation, what do you think?
Status Update: Hi guys I am learning how to do X with this video here. Wanted to share in case anyone else wants to learn with me!
I hope these tips will help you learn new things without getting overwhelmed in the future.
If your answer to the question, who is your ideal blog reader is everybody or something equally as generic such as moms or men then you need to do rethink how you are marketing your blog.
Who is Your Ideal Blog Reader?
Niche vs. Ideal Blog Reader
Hopefully you know what niche you are blogging in. Niche is basically like what topic your blog is about: parenting, eco-living, blogging, book review, disability, pets etc. It’s important to know your niche BEFORE you think about your ideal reader. Then you can learn the difference between them and move on to ideal reader.
niche – distinct segment of a market
ideal reader – best/perfect reader
So for example with my blog Great Gaming Blog, its niche is gaming. However its ideal reader is younger person ages 18-40 who enjoy playing board/party games and/or video games and/or mobile games and loves to learn about new games.
With this blog, my niche is Blogging/Business but my ideal reader is a blogger 25-45 who has been blogging 1 year-5 years and wants to take their blog to a more professional level by monetizing and making their blog a business.
Can you see the difference? There could be many blogs under the gaming niche but not all of them will be for the same type of reader. Some may be for those who play video games daily, mostly alone and are young 18-25 while another might be for those who play mostly on their mobile devices.
In the parenting niche, blog A might be for first-time parents while another is for large families (5+ kids.) Cooking might be your niche but if you focus more on vegetarian recipes while another blog focuses on gluten-free meals, you are going to have a different ideal reader.
One could consider some topics to be sub-niches such as special needs parenting or homeschooling parents. However one still might have a slightly different ideal reader, but not always.
For homeschooling parents, one blog might be Christian homeschooling parents (with an emphasis on homeschooling with faith) while another might be for those homeschooling a kid with special needs.
Think of niche as the broader topic (but not too broad) while the ideal reader is a specific type of person who would benefit the most from your blogs posts and products.
Why Does Ideal Reader Matter?
You need to know your ideal blog reader so that you know who you are talking to when you write posts or market products or services, whether your own or others. In the example earlier, this blog is in the blogging/business niche but my ideal reader is a youngish blogger (25-45) who has been blogging from 1-5 years and is looking to take their blog from a hobby to a business.
When I am writing a post I want to keep my ideal reader in mind because I want to tailor my posts to that reader. If I make a comparison while explaining an idea, I will want to use something that the 25-45 crowd would understand. I won’t focus a lot on a blogging tool that costs hundreds of dollars because my ideal reader is just recently moving from hobby to business so they probably haven’t made a lot of money blogging yet that they can reinvest. If I create a product to sell on my blog for additional income, I will create a product that fits that ideal reader.
Who is My Ideal Blog Reader?
Think hard about this for a while. Try answering some of the questions below. Imagine WHO you are writing for. Who would benefit from your blog the most? After you answer the questions, form them together into a pretend person. This will give you a more detailed ideal reader than the ones mentioned above.
What is my ideal reader’s…
- Age or Age Range
- Income Level
- Interests/Hobbies (reading, surfing, cooking, writing, fashion, etc)
- Marital Status
- Parental Status (are they parents)
- Financial Viewpoint (live frugally or likes expensive things etc)
Not all of these will be as relevant as others. It all depends on your niche. Feel free to give your ideal reader a name as well. If you put this together you can come up with your ideal blog reader.
Blog A – My Happy Home – niche – homemaking/SAHM
Ideal Blog Reader:
Lyla is a young woman age 18-35 who is a married stay at home mom. She enjoys taking care of her home and her family but is new at it and could use some pointers. In her free time she enjoys reading, cooking and knitting. She doesn’t care for the latest fashion trends or expensive things. She prefers to live frugally by gardening and living on a budget.
If you want, create your ideal reader using the questions above and share him/her in the comments.
Can TV shows teach us about real life? Sure! Here I cover What Can Grey’s Anatomy Teach You About Blogging.
Grey’s Anatomy is a popular medical drama about surgical interns and residents and the drama associated with their lives both in and out of the hospital.
So how can a medical drama teach us anything about blogging? You’d be surprised.
What Can Grey’s Anatomy Teach You About Blogging
If you are familiar with the show you know that there is a narration at the beginning and end of episodes that talks about the lesson learned during that episode.
Fear of Failure and Making Mistakes
From Season 1 Episode 6
A couple hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin shared with the world the secret of his success. Never leave that till tomorrow, he said, which you can do today. This is the man who discovered electricity. You would think more of us would listen to what he had to say. I don’t know why we put things off but if I had to guess I’d say it has a lot to do with fear. Fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of rejection…Sometimes the fear is just of making a decision because what if you’re wrong? What if you make a mistake you can’t undo? Whatever it is we’re afraid of, one thing holds true. That by the time the pain of not doing the thing gets worse than the fear of doing the thing, it can feel like were carrying a tumour.
This is so true isn’t it? The show was referring to patients putting off coming to see a doctor only to end up making it worse because they waited. But in this could refer to the world of blogging too. How many blogging tasks you know you should do, do you end up putting off? So many times I was told how important an email list was and to get it started right away. However I just kept putting it off and putting it off and now my list is much smaller than it could have been by now and I missed out on lots of targeted traffic.
The early bird catches the worm. A stitch in time saves nine. He who hesitates is lost. We can’t pretend we haven’t been told. We’ve all heard the proverbs, heard the philosophers, heard our grandparents warning us about wasted time, heard the damn poets urging us to cease the day. Still, sometimes, we have to see for ourselves. We have to make our own mistakes. We have to learn our own lessons. We have to sweep today’s possibility under tomorrows rug until we cant anymore. Until we finally understand for ourselves what Benjamin Franklin meant. That knowing is better than wondering. That waking is better than sleeping. And that even the biggest failure, even the worst most intractable mistake beats the hell out of never trying.
From Season 2 Episode 13
Fresh starts, thanks to the calendar they happen every year, just set your watch to January. Our reward for surviving the holiday season is a new year. Bringing on the great tradition of new years resolutions. Put your past behind you and start over. It’s hard to resist the chance of a new beginning, a chance to put the problems of last years to bed.
These words of wisdom about fresh starts makes me think about what happens when you fail with your blog or business or when you have a set back. It might be something out of your control like extended illness or something in your control like choosing to step back from your blog to spend more time with your family. Taking breaks from your blog usually means lower traffic and abandoned followers but when you start over you get a fresh start.
Who gets to determine when the old ends and the new begins. It’s not a day on a calendar, not a birthday, not a new year. It’s an event, big or small, something that changes us. Ideally, it gives us hope. A new way of living and look at the world, letting go of old habits, old memories. What’s important is that we never stop believing that we can have a new beginning. But it’s also important to remember, amid all the crap, they’re are a few things really worth holding onto.
From Season 5 Episode 22
When something begins you generally have no idea how it is going to end. The house you were going to sell becomes your home. The roommates you were forced to take in become your family and the one night stand you were determined to forget becomes the love of your life.
If you’ve been blogging more than a year, is your blog where you figured it would be when you started? The longer you’ve been blogging, the more the answer is probably no. I still run two blogs I started 14 years ago but they aren’t the same as when they started. Your life is probably different than it was 5 or 10 years ago too. Not knowing what the future will bring does not mean you shouldn’t have a plan though. Make a plan for what direction you want to take and update it every few months. But be open to change and be excited to see where your blog/business/life will lead.
We spend our whole lives worrying about the future, planning the future, trying to predict the future. As if figuring it out will somehow cushion the blow but the future is always changing. The future is the whole of our deepest fears and our wildest hopes but one thing is certain. When it finally reveals itself, the future is never the way we imagined it.
Minimalism in the Face of Technology
From Season 9 Episode 13
We’ve all heard the buzz words: streamline, optimize, integrate, adapt. Every day someone comes up with a new strategy or tool or technology to increase our efficiency. The idea is to make our lives easier but the question is, does it?
Our world is so much different than it was just 30 years ago. When I was a kid there were no cellphones, digital cameras or tablets and the internet started when I was young but it was way different than it is now. These advances in technology can be great and can sometimes make things easier – except when they don’t. Evaluate new technologies and tools and if it truly is making things easier for you, great. But realize that not everything makes your work or life better and be ready to eliminate it if it’s not what you need.
To really be efficient, you have to eliminate what doesn’t work. You have to figure out what is important and hold on tight to the things that matter most.
From Season 10 Episode 5
Here’s what I learned my first day at medical school. Think long and hard before choosing to become a surgeon. It takes 100% commitment. You have to be on your A game every single time you walk into that OR. When patients are lying on your table, completely at your mercy, they need to know that when you make that first cut you know what you’re doing. No other specialty requires the time, the focus, the complete dedication… Except maybe being a mom.
Anyone can blog and they don’t have to commit 100% unless you are planning for your blog to become a full time professional business as well. That’s where commitment comes into play. Blogging Groups full of new bloggers are also full of questions like how often should I blog. You can find all kinds of different answers to that question too.
The thing is, quality and consistency are much more important than quantity. You need regular, loyal readers to keep your blog and business going and in order to have that, you need to be consistent. Blogging only once a week is much better than blogging 3 times one week, then once the next week then not at all for a month and then 3 times a week again. If you are serious about your blog becoming a full time job then you need to commit to that decision and go all in. Blog regularly but also make a point to take yourself seriously and treat your blog like a business.
What if your focus splits? What if you can’t be all in? Are you left with nothing at all? Maybe you just need to find a different path. Here’s what’s horrifying, what if you can’t give 100%? Maybe you just need to go back to the beginning and start all over again.
What Can Grey’s Anatomy Teach You About Blogging?
It turns out, quite a lot. I couldn’t pinpoint one episode to illustrate it but I have also seen the show talk about how other doctors are not your competition and that’s true of other bloggers as well. Very few bloggers are your direct competition. For example I blog about blogging here. I would want to connect with other bloggers like me, maybe share guest posts to connect our viewers. We could help each other out. We might all blog about blogging but we are not exactly the same and our ideal readers are not exactly the same. Our audience crosses over but are not identical.
Do you need help making blogging friends? Do you feel alone in this blogging world? Here is how to make blogging friends.
Making Blogging Friends In All The Right Places
The internet is a huge place and there’s plenty of room for all of us making a living online. If you’re worried about collaborating with “your competition” think again. One of the best things you can do is make friends with other online business owners in your niche.
What Can You Do For Them?
There’s nothing worse than getting an email from a blogger you don’t know, asking for help or advice. If you need some blogging advice or help finding a PR contact, do NOT just randomly email another blogger who you have not made friends with first. This is not how you make friends in the online blogging world. Instead, look at some of the people in your niche that you would like to connect with and figure out what you can do for them.
You need to make connections aka friends so you will have someone to reach out to when you need something. However before you can even think of asking for something, you need to do something for them.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or that you don’t have a big reach yet. Start sharing good content they put out and recommend them to your audience. Take the time to write a meaningful comment on their blog post or in response to a Facebook post.
Shoot them an email if you notice that their website is down or there’s a problem with a broken link. Be genuinely helpful and it will be noticed.
Cultivating Mutually Beneficial Relationships
Once you’re on the person’s radar, it’s time to start cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship. This can take a lot of different forms. You may guest blog post on each other’s sites, become a podcast guest, contribute a chapter to their latest book or even create a product together.
Or maybe you just have fun public social media conversation that help both of you reach a larger audience. And of course becoming affiliates of your respective products is a good idea too.
Frankly, it doesn’t really matter what you do exactly as long as it benefits both of you. If your list is significantly smaller, offer to do more of the leg work. Make sure the other person walks away feeling good about the collaboration.
Some bloggers get together in small groups called pods and help each other out with interaction. For example a comment pod might be a group of 8 people who regularly check out and comment on each other’s posts.
Grow Your Reach And Make More Friends
As you start to make friends, your reach will grow. But it doesn’t end there. The people you’re meeting can help introduce you to other bloggers or even other people such as PR or media contacts. Don’t stop seeking people out on your own either. Combine both approaches and you will continue to make more friends, grow your reach and grow your business. This is called networking.
Most Important of All
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should be doing what you are doing to make friends first and foremost. Gaining reach or opportunities should be a pleasant by product of your relationship, not the reason to start the relationship.
I love that I’m making blogging friends and I look forward to making more. I would be honoured to be friends with any and all of you.