Stop Treading Water and Swim

By Rosemary O’Neill

The American Red Cross test to become a lifeguard includes a pretty scary segment. You practice swimming out to rescue a “drowning swimmer” and they basically try to drown you.

As a small business owner, especially in the online world, it can feel as though the world is trying to drown you–Google algorithm changes, new social networks, shifting features–all are conspiring to pull you under the surface.

It’s helpful to have some strategies in place that will help you move from treading water to doing laps like Michael Phelps.


Continuing Education

If you want to stay good at something, you need to continue learning all the time. Particularly with an online-based business, the sands are shifting constantly, and you need to set up a mechanism for learning new techniques. Take a look at sites like and Udemy, or the courses offered through AppSumo, to keep your skills sharp. It’s also a good idea to subscribe to the official technical blogs for some of your key platforms; you’ll often get advance notice of upcoming changes. (For example here’s a link to the Twitter Engineering blog).

Catch Your Breath

Build in time each week for relaxation. The Internet will still be there when you get back. One big mistake many business owners make is allowing the business to take over virtually their entire life. Leave space for breathing, family, friends, and sitting in the porch swing. Your best ideas might emerge from downtime.

Look to the Finish Line

When you made your goals for 2013, did you break them down into manageable tasks that you can track during the year? Even Olympic swimmers make use of those lane markers on the bottom of the pool, and ropes on each side. You need to have milestones so that you can make course corrections along the way. I started using a year-at-a-glance calendar this year for that purpose, from

If you want to move forward this year, make sure you do some of this:

  • Stay on top of online industry news
  • Schedule feeding your brain
  • Create action items from the stuff you read
  • Slot the actions into your over-arching goal path
  • Use chunking to step forward
  • Prune the junk periodically
  • Follow key blogs from your important platforms
  • Find a peer group for support
  • Have the courage to make a course correction
  • Celebrate the small victories and achievements along the way

How are you going to ensure that your business moves forward this year?

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Photo Credit: maHidoodi, Flickr CC.

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