Paso por paso. Step by step.

This is what I always say to others when it comes to learning music, but I often forget to say it to myself.

Creating an online business and teaching curriculum can be overwhelming. It is easy to get scattered with your work time and even after a full day of work, it can feel like you have accomplished nothing. It takes time to build something of value but with the added demands of an adult life (as opposed to a student life), we now have to use focus to become productive.

Switch Off to Switch On

I feel like you know what I am going to say… but it doesn’t hurt to hear it again.

Modern life is all about technology making things “easier” more accessible more connected and more social. That may be so, but when it comes to starting an online business, this can truly be destructive.

Perhaps one of the most powerful actions you can take to become more productive is to go offline.

Turn the wi-fi off, turn the phone off, set a goal for your time and work on that project alone.

It is simple but difficult. To help you be disciplined you can use a timer and a clear goal that is written down. To help you even more you can have someone hold you accountable.

Being Held Accountable

Discipline is a precious resource. Sometimes we need a little help to use it. Having a person or group hold you accountable can provide not only help but inspiration, motivation, and comfort.

The buzz word in online business is “mastermind”. Groups of like minded online business owners form groups that meet on a regular basis to discuss struggles, set goals, and hold each other accountable. Personally, I have never taken part in a group like this, I would be happy to do so, but as of yet, I have not found a group that was exactly what I needed. After all, group meetings could potentially be as wasteful as they are productive.

What I have found to be very useful are one-to-one interactions. Occasionally I have reached out to online educators whom I admire, and they were more than willing to jump on Skype for a discussion. At the very least, these discussions act as a sounding board that forces you to articulate struggles and goals. At their best, these discussions can be motivating and also keep you focused on what matters most.

The integral factor in being held accountable is that the other person(s) actually care about your progress. In this regard you may find that it is not only other online business owners that could help but friends, family or colleagues that are willing to give you their time and attention.

Remember that these people aren’t going to do any of the work for you. They just help you focus.

Choose Where To Put Pressure

Lying on a bed of nails will feel prickly, but stepping on a single nail will result in a tetanus shot.

A very popular concept in business is the 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle). To sum it up rather quickly: You will receive 80 percent of your benefits from 20 percent of your efforts.

As a general sceptic of broad statements, I have been surprised how true this rule has been in my own experience. It translates quite easily into a variety of situations, and in terms of online business, you need to understand and observe what constitutes your 20%.

This could be applied to your avatar by understanding which demographic is resonating with your teaching.

18-24? 24-34? 35-44? 45-54? 55-65? 65+?

If you pinpoint which of these five age ranges most represent your avatar, then you could cater your writing to that demographic. You could also invest advertising dollars where it counts, or create teaching materials that help their specific problems.

Male? Female? Income ranges? Locations? Interests?

Your avatar can be whittled down to the most potent 20% and it will greatly influence your area of focus, which will result in greater productivity. This is but one of many scenarios that could be affected by a selective focus.

Once you have decided where to put pressure, then it is time to set some goals.

Good Goals

Good goals? Why not just goals?

A goal can be destructive too, that’s why.

As a music teacher I see destructive goals set all the time. Usually with adult learners, a student will fall in love with a particular piece of music and set his heart on learning it within a certain timeframe. The problem is that these pieces are usually way out of the student’s league. While the first few lessons on a coveted piece will bring the student immense pleasure, the following six months will bring him an increasing sense of frustration and failure.

A responsible teacher would step in right at the beginning and nip this destructive goal in the bud.

Sure, the student can play this piece… eventually, but for now we are going to focus on the next achievable goal that will lead on a long path toward the dream goal. While there may be a tinge of sadness at being rejected initially, the long term benefit of setting and achieving realistic short term goals will result in enthusiasm, a positive attitude, and most importantly perseverance.

Unless you are lucky enough to have a mentor (or study at Powis Academy!), you have to set good goals yourself. Realistic goals. Achievable goals. Set a timeframe and commit to completing them. You can, of course, have some flexibility and adjust your goals as things change, but you are going to need some discipline here to follow through.

One final point on goals. Make sure you write them down and have them visible. Verbalizing them is not enough. You need to write them down and re-visit them on a regular basis.

Try it right now: Three achievable goals for today, three for the week and three for the month.

Round Up

Focus and Productivity are closely aligned in the world of online business. If you can master focus you will enjoy more productivity. A virtuous cycle begins.