There was a controversial course offered at the University of Pennsylvania called Wasting time on the internet. Seriously. In a social experimental way, the students sat together surfing the net and explored what happened. Predictably, the course had many critics.
But it might not be as silly as it sounds. Given how much time is spent (and wasted) on the internet, doing it consciously and purposefully is the only way to maximise your online research time.
I’m always interested in other small business owners’ ideas, processes and habits – especially if they increase productivity and sales. I find small business blogs and videos are the best resource for learning about new ideas, hacks or just smarter ways to do things in small business. I like to read about the experience of others and get some practical tips. And I also hate wasting time, so my reading and research time has to count.
There are so many small business blogs out there these days, information overload is a daily challenge. With so many great resources at your fingertips you can be drawn in for hours. If you overwhelm yourself with too much information it’s hard to remember everything or find time to implement the advice.
So how do you strike the right balance to be both an open-learner expanding your business know-how and a time-conscious, productive operator?
I am pretty selective about the sources I go to for expert advice and valuable small business knowledge. Back in 2015, I wrote about my six favourite business blogs. Times have changed (and so have I) so I’ve updated my list. It’s now down to five too. It’s not that those that have dropped from my list aren’t useful anymore. It’s just I am being more selective and prioritising my time. There is only so much one person can read!
Here’s my 2016 short-list where I find daily business wisdom:
This is still my top favourite. For an industry that’s so vast and growing, Social Media Examiner provides clear examples of how to apply social media and content marketing best practice in your own marketing initiatives. The site covers all social media platforms and facets of digital marketing. The articles are written as ‘how-to-guides’ with detailed, step by step action points along with great case studies. It’s so simple and clearly presented you can easily implement the advice almost immediately.
I really like this blog. It contains a wealth of evidence-based posts, with real world applications. The posts are a great indicator of what is happening in the marketing industry (particularly from the UK where things seem to happen before here) and opens the door into other brands’ strategies. Econsultancy conduct their own online marketing research and publish results of their data, making it an infinitely resourceful blog.
This year I have added Jim Stewart to the mix. I’ve been watching his videos for a while and really like the way he presents every Wednesday with a short video providing quick SEO tips. He’s also quite entertaining and his advice is really useful to building traffic and optimising a website for search engines. Great to watch over lunch.
I have written about growth hacking before. (You know, the marketing techniques that start-ups use cleverly to increase growth). Well this website is a good resource. It can also be overwhelming. So I recommend signing up for the ‘Weekly Tops Posts’ email and wait for that one to arrive. The email contains links to around 14 articles which are all certainly worth reading.
And last, but by no means least, our very own Flying Solo. Being curated and powered by a community of small business owners just like me it offers advice covering all aspects of running a business. Even after years in business I still find the advice really useful and inspirational. It’s a great place to network too.
My final piece of advice is to stay in control of the information you read. Use your time productively and build on your knowledge with each article.
Avoid information overload with these simple tips.
- If you stumble across a new blog, read through their historical articles to see if they suit your needs and the needs of your business.
- Create a shortlist of your essential daily blog reads.
- Subscribe to their newsletters (if they have one) so you don’t have to visit their site each week.
- Set aside some time each day or each week to review the latest articles in each of your shortlisted blogs and be strict with your time. This could be first thing in the morning over a cup of tea or coffee, or at lunch, but not at night (as a sleep advocate, I would not encourage the use of a smart phone or tablet before bed as it disrupts your sleep cycle!).
- Try to not worry if you can’t read every article or don’t have time one week – there will be lots of other articles to read.
- Take notes especially if it an idea for down the track – I have a business bible and find this technique works really well.
What small business blogs do you find useful and regularly read?