It’s a sadly familiar story – after the excitement of conducting extensive audience research and crafting a killer initial offer, you find yourself sitting at your computer, staring blankly at the screen in front of you as paralyzing discouragement starts to set in.
Why? It’s all because the awesome technology product that promised hundreds of conversions has suddenly become a setup nightmare.
Just a step away from seeing the fruits of your labor, technology problems can stop you dead in your tracks and make you feel like all of your time and effort have been wasted.
Six months ago, I found myself caught up in a technology tangle, in so deep that I almost convinced myself to give up on my marketing dreams. But, instead of quitting, I took a few simple action steps that got me back on track, and I’m here to share how you can do the same.
Like the deadly bite of a venomous cobra, technology snafus can quickly paralyze your creative genius. With its rapid and sometimes confounding updates, the online world can sneak up on your business and strike as stealthily as that exotic snake, leaving you confused or, worst case, completely derailing your progress.
If you’re struggling with a particularly vexing tech problem, you can take action with these five steps – before paralysis takes over and you lose heart (or momentum).
Step One: Choose a Mantra
This first step sounds rather ridiculous – but trust me, it works. Choose a pithy statement you’ve read or heard, or come up with your own. Print it out, post it up, and make it your war cry.
You might start with a popular slogan like Nike’s “Just Do It”, or the ubiquitous “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Watch for any phrases that resonate with you as you listen to your favorite music or watch a familiar movie. If nothing feels quite right, you can check out websites like brainyquote.com where you’ll find sayings from Stephen Hawking to Dr. Seuss.
Sometimes the simplest encouragement is best, and keeps you focused on the step right in front of you. It doesn’t have to be profound!
Want proof? Here’s the mantra that I use: “Go outside, take a break, but don’t give up for goodness sake.”
Step Two: Outsource
My favorite part of online marketing is the creative side – brainstorming, writing copy, and exploring fresh ideas – but sometimes those strengths work against me. There’s a time and place for powering through a problem, when you know that just one more try will unlock the mystery.
But, if working through technology issues is going to take significantly more than just “one more try,” it might mean that it’s time to outsource; the next time you encounter a tech problem that raises your blood pressure, consider hiring help.
I can hear the virtual sighs now. I’ll bet you’re thinking that kind of thing is out of your budget. But wait – here’s where your creativity will pay off. Tech help doesn’t need to come in the form of a $100/hour consultant. Often, it’s as close as your local high school or community college.
Sometimes, the toughest step is admitting defeat – when you acknowledge your limitations and open yourself up to collaboration, you might be surprised how accessible the help you need becomes.
For example, I signed up for a very reasonable class on basic WordPress design at my local Career Center. The instructor was a small business owner who was very generous with his time; I learned most of what I needed to know during class instruction, and he even offered to help us one-on-one before and after class. And, I made a valuable contact I can call on in the future.
But… one-time set up didn’t cut it. It turns out that I needed ongoing help when I ran into problems. To solve this problem, I hired a college student who is majoring in Information Technology (IT). His rates are extremely reasonable, since he can use what he learns in his career portfolio. And, if he doesn’t know the answer to my questions, he can ask a professor or fellow student. It’s a win-win arrangement for both of us.
Step Three: Review Your Progress
In any walk of life, problems draw our energy toward the negative. When you encounter tech problems, your view of the rest of your marketing efforts can become unrealistically dark and hopeless.
If you find yourself ready to give up on the whole online process, a little perspective will do wonders in getting you back on track. Rather than dwell on your roadblocks, what if you were to make a list of your accomplishments and choose to make them the topic of mental conversation instead?
Usually a quick look at the calendar is all I need to remind myself how far I’ve come on this journey. Just a little over a year ago, I signed up for the ABM class with fear and trepidation – and now I’m guest posting and blog-linking with abandon!
Here are three practical ways that you can step back from technology overwhelm and refresh your perspective:
1. Track your progress
Meet regularly with a friend or family member who will help you set goals – and hold you accountable for reaching them. Not only will you gather momentum, you’ll also gain perspective on everything you’ve accomplished so far.
2. Evaluate your strengths
When you’re feeling especially frustrated, try taking a personality inventory to remind yourself of the things you’re really good at.
3. Do something physical
No matter how pressing your technology problems seem, make physical exercise a priority. You could join a yoga class or do something as simple as asking a friend to take regular walks. Getting out of your head for a while can be the best way to clear the muddled thoughts and let go of frustration.
The next time you feel discouragement pulling you into a downward spiral, step away from your computer and review your progress. Focusing on the positives will renew your energy and give you new eyes when you return to solving your dilemma.
Step Four: Try Time Chunking
Just a few years ago, multi-tasking was all the rage. The problem is that when we engage in multiple activities simultaneously, we fail to give ourselves fully to any of them. When tech paralysis sets in, time chunking can shake you free from trying to conquer too many problems at once.
The basic idea is to devote your energy completely to one task at a time for a limited “chunk” of your day or week. If your tech obstacles feel overwhelming, give yourself permission to focus on one at a time – a breakthrough in one small area might just give you the boost you need to conquer your next challenge.
Management guru F. John Rey offers practical tips to avoid distraction and become more focused in your daily mission. As well as time chunking, he recommends:
- Reduce the amount of time spent switching between tasks,
- Create an environment that discourages interruptions,
- Try to make the blocks of time as large as possible, and
- Recognize that there will still be interruptions, no matter how well you plan ahead!
It can help to “save” tech issues, great or small, and tackle them all at once in a single scheduled session; as questions and problems arise, I simply write them down on a list to be discussed at my next appointment with my IT guy. This allows me to put up a mental “do not disturb” sign and move on with the steps I’m comfortable with, knowing I can come back to them later.
Step Five: Surround Yourself with True Believers
The last thing you need when facing paralyzing fear is the added apprehension of worrying what other people will think. I’ve learned to consciously surround myself with positive people, especially when I’m facing frustration.
Don’t underestimate the power of true believers to get you back on track. I have a handful of friends and family who fit this description – several of them aren’t even sure what this whole online marketing thing is about – but they believe in me and aren’t afraid to show it through words of encouragement, time to listen, and sometimes even a shoulder to cry on.
And, during times of overwhelm, give yourself permission to take a break from solving other people’s problems. It’s often easier to switch our focus to helping others with easily “solvable” issues than it is to tackle our own frustrations.
Now that we’ve covered the five steps to overcoming our technology woes, what’s next?
Make Your Action Plan
Following these five steps, make a plan for action to prepare for the next time you encounter a paralyzing tech problem. Later, if you feel like you are about to panic or shut down, take a deep breath and remember the plan.
Similar to venomous cobras, technology woes can appear unexpectedly. However, our encounters need not be deadly. “In most of the local encounters with live, wild king cobras, the snakes appear to be of rather placid disposition, and they usually end up being killed or subdued with hardly any hysterics.” ~ Wikipedia
Which of these five steps resonates with you? And, how do you plan to use it the next time you feel stuck? Share your mantra or action plan in the comments, and let’s end technology paralysis once and for all!