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The Bite of the Cobra: Overcoming Technology Paralysis in 5 Easy Steps

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!

About Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale is a recovering overachiever who lives with her hunky husband, kids, and two ill-behaved dogs. She writes to inspire and educate on the topics of prayer and family.

18 comments

  1. Samantha Stauf says:

    The idea of being tech-ie is such a broad category. So you can use a computer, but do you know internet marketing, HTML, proper website set-up, social media…really it can be really overwhelming. When website needs to get on-line right now they don’t necessarily have time to become fluent in all of the various aspects of tech-ie. Which is why outsourcing is so vital. Allows you can get professional help while you catch up.

  2. omg, you guys are right on! Usually I just past these help sites on by, but when I heard the phrase “I am not a Techie” I had to stop and listen! I get side tracked because I don’t take the time to read, I am always in a hurry to get something done, I had a bad virus last month and could not decide if I should use the freebies or should I pay. So I decided to pay Norton, then things were so screwed up, was not getting emails and I could not decide who is the problem, Globat or Microsoft! Microsoft got involved, told me the DNS? was not operable! Come to find out Globat had cut me off because I was getting too much mail and I had to pay 9.95 for 3 GB, . They never told me of any such thing before! I then get a email from MS saying I could get 50GB for what I now pay them. Now I am screwed up again! Last night I decided to go into the Globat portal and read and I discovered so much information I was not aware of and I could do myself. If I can find the MS portal or whatever I can make a decision of who to go with. I am calling ITT again to get tech help!
    Thanks for being here guys!
    BTW my website is a mess, I am calling ITT again tomorrow for help.

  3. Andrew Gabbert says:

    As a Christian, I have found that simply praying for a solution whether that is one on your list or not is very helpful.

    God cares about the little decisions as well as the big ones and loves to help out!

  4. Natasha Vorompiova ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Shannon, the tip that really resonated with me was to review our progress. I agree that we don’t really take time to acknowledge our accomplishments. Bringing our attention to our wins is a very powerful practice. Loved your advice!

  5. ling | business-soulwork.com ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Great tips, thanks! I also notice one thing with many people is that they often say “I am not tech-ie” and shy away from sitting down to figure it out. They might have got discouraged 5 years ago and never touch a “web” thing again… in fact, things have changed so dramatically that whatever they experienced 5 years ago are no longer valid. Saying “I am not tech-ie” is one of the biggest self-defeating thing I see people do – they stop themselves even before they start.

  6. Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    For me, the answer was outsourcing. I am extremely non-technical, and could *never* have moved my business to where it is today without serious help from people who know how to code.

    I meet so many writers who’re not moving forward until they learn to code CSS stylesheets by themselves. Find a college student who needs a portfolio project and get it done. You don’t have to know how to do everything in your business…a principle I wish I had figured out sooner.

  7. Arbaz Khan says:

    Outsourcing is one thing that can relieve you from a lot of work but you have to do it correctly because one wrong decision can pose a serious threat to your problems.

    However when you are in the company of true believers, people who really believe in the work that you are doing is a very important thing because those people are the ones that motivate you to keep pushing it no matter what.

    1. Shannon@distractedbyprayer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Arbaz,

      I couldn’t agree more!
      It took me quite a few years to realize how powerful true believers can be in my life.

      You obviously have learned that principle and I’ll bet others count you among their supporters.

  8. Marie says:

    Thank you for this article – I got hung up exactly on this point during the ABM. Even though Sid deserves an “Angel Inside” t-shirt for all the help given me, I just felt/feel stuck. I have a booming in-person business and word-of-mouth alone is demanding I adapt it to the online world, people in other places than Anchorage 😉 but I haven’t been able to figure out the last little bit. The ABM steps, brilliant, are ready for the day I can create my membership site–one that allows a “help-desk”-like tracking of client inquiries/forms and my responses to them. I’ve checked out fiverr and there is also JVZoo where you can often find plugins and programs you need at “pre-release” pricing and have found some of the things I need; if anyone knows this last membership/help desk bit please suggest. Thank you in advance!

    1. Shannon@distractedbyprayer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Marie,

      I found Sid to be an angel as well! For me, there’s no substitute to having someone sitting next to me at the laptop keyboard.

      Consider posting a notice for a tech assistant, or ask around for references from business people you respect.

  9. Great article – especially the mantra!

    Two other things you can do …

    (1) Hire offshore resources through eLance, fiverr and EasyOutsource. It takes awhile to find somebody who’s good but once you do, get their contact info and put them on your virtual team.

    (2) Hire resources for copy, design, mentoring and consulting who have their own networks and who will help you save money on tech stuff and design, so you’ll be able to pay for the most important part of your project: the message. That way you won’t get left alone with brilliant strategy and no way to implement.

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