The minimalist guide to learning new skills

minimalist guide to learning new skills - work your way - creative freelancers


“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks and all the sweet serenity of books”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


As the proactive, freelance go-getter that you are, chances are like me, you have a love of learning.

The problem is, when you’re working, there’s a plethora of new skills and concepts that you need to get to grips with.

There’s how to start-it, how to run it, how to market it, how to grow it.

If you home in on a day-to-day basis, there’s also: how to do your bookkeeping, manage your I.T., use social media, network effectively, bag PR, blog for England, grow your list AND get to grips with the Apps and software you need to manage it all.

So what time do you have left to learn all this stuff?

You end up collecting bits of information, here and gere, getting by the best way you can.


Shiny Object Syndrome

Do you find yourself browsing the Internet and before you know it, you’ve bought a stack of books that teach you “How to do XYZ in 30 Days”?

Yet 90 days later, you still haven’t got round to starting it?

It’s so easy to become distracted by the never-ending stream of new ideas out there. There’s even a name for it, Shiny Object Syndrome, the habit of collecting and stashing away shiny, new ideas.

I’m not suggesting you stop learning – I’ve created my Freelance course to make sure you do!!

But if you’re becoming so distracted that you’re not progressing forward, something’s gotta change. Right?


Here’s how I create my own learning plan, so that I can keep a check on goals for my business:

  • First, make a list of what you need to learn versus what you’d like to learn:  If you’re just starting out and not sure what those needs are, start with the skills that you need to drive your freelance career forwards.  What are your weaknesses? Which ones do you need to address first?  Ask friends, colleagues, freelance mates if you need help with this.  You might have always wanted to learn how to draw whiteboard animations, but if it’s not going to get you more customers today, that’s a want and ought to be left on the side.  If it’s going to help you create tutorials to help your customers get to grips with your products and services, that’s a need.


  • Next, create your own resource inventory: Create an inventory of all the resources, tools and skills that you already have.  This will help you figure out which ones you need.  You can then plan your ‘route’ by figuring where to go for your training, or where to buy/download it and how much it will cost.


  • Prioritise your learning needs: Now take your list of ‘need to learn’ and imagine you can do only ONE item.  Which one would it be?  Address that one first.’


  • Set objectives before you start learning: You might have a lot of different reasons for learning a particular skill or taking a particular course. It’s often the case that courses offer benefits in many different areas of your business. But we learn best when we narrow down our objectives.  So take all of your reasons for studying the course and narrow them down to just the one that’s most important. Ask yourself: “If I take just one thing away from this, what will it be?”


  • Find an ‘accountability partner’: When someone else knows that you will follow through on your promise, it will make you less likely to quit in the middle. Who can you trust to be your accountability partner?


  • Immediately apply what you learn in real life:  The best way to stay motivated is to immediately apply what you’re learning in real life. If you’ve been taking a course ask yourself, what small changes can you start to apply immediately?


Let these 6 principles guide you whenever you feel the urge to collect another shiny new idea.

Yes, you need to be aware of what’s happening around you, but I think you should keep it to a healthy minimum.

When it comes to your freelance career and your goals, you need a one track mind.





I’m Mary Cummings, a ghostwriter, collaborator and all round word doctor. I help business owners write and publish business books; I'm also passionate about helping creative freelancers find work that they love - their work sweet spot with work on their terms, projects they love and clients who are a dream to work for.

2 thoughts on “The minimalist guide to learning new skills

  1. I definitely find myself getting overwhelmed by all the ideas knocking around in my head. It definitely helps to have tips on overcoming overwhelm and finding a route to clarity.

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