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Do you plan your personal development or do you grab every free guide, course and five-day challenge you can get your hands on?

Whilst that in itself might not be an issue, the more important question is how much of that material have you read and put into action? Acquiring knowledge for the sake of it might help you out at your local pub quiz but it could be jeopardising your business.

With limited time and headspace, your business and your mental health need you to focus on the important things first. So how do you know what they are?

Step back and assess where you are and where you want to get to

Whether you do a formal SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), or sit down with a cup of coffee and a piece of paper, write down where you are now in your business and where you want to get to in the next quarter, six months and year. Then look at what you need to get you there. Are you lacking any particular skills or knowledge and if so, identify specifically what it is you need to learn.

The first priority should be any kind of mandatory learning relevant to your sector i.e. health and safety training, first aid, food hygiene certificates. Make sure you have all the basics in place before you consider spending time and money on anything else.

If you have identified marketing as something you need to learn more about, try breaking it down more precisely to work out exactly what you need to know.

  • Do you need help to price your products and services?
  • Are you looking for help with product development?
  • Are you confused about where or how to sell your items?
  • Do you struggle with writing sales copy or descriptions to go on your website?
  • Is it social media that you find challenging?
  • Are you looking to build confidence so you can go live or appear on video?

Do you need to learn the basics or add to your existing knowledge?

As you can see, just saying you need help with marketing will leave you confused and possibly feeling overwhelmed. When you delve a little deeper you can decide if you are an absolute beginner who would benefit from learning the basics of how to write a marketing communications plan or whether you have some understanding but need to build on that knowledge so you can take things to the next level.

There is no shortage of courses, webinars, guides and podcasts on offer but if you are not careful you can suffer from shiny object syndrome and grab things you don’t need. 

As mentioned above, if you take part in learning or read books but do not put into practice what you have read, then you cannot truly say you have learned anything! 

What kind of learner are you?

We all learn in different ways and to be successful, you need to find what works for you. Do you take things in by reading or are you better with a video?

Do you like to study alone at your own pace or do you prefer to be in a group or be mentored?

Some people are amazingly diligent. A friend of mine who had a full time job and two teenage children used to get up at 5am to study for an Open University degree. Others need constant chivying and need to be accountable to someone else before they can make progress. If you identify with the latter, you might need to invest in a coach or join a supportive Facebook Group.

Review your personal development plan in line with your business growth

Each time your business reaches a milestone, reassess your learning needs. You will probably find that at each stage of business growth, you need to adapt and acquire the next set of skills.

As US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld famously said ‘there are known knowns and known unknowns.’ Once you have established what you know, don’t keep trying to add to the same knowledge – you don’t need five guides on how to use social media! Focus on what you need to learn to get you to the next step in your business, invest in the most appropriate form of material for your style of learning and make sure you put what you have learned into practice.

That way you will be increasing your skills and knowledge, you will feel more confident in your abilities and you will save yourself time, money and stress.

Happy learning!

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