Studying is a tool to acquire and store information, but the word is almost exclusively associated with its academic context. High school and college students need to make studying a habit so they can get good grades and pass their courses, but even after you graduate and start your own business, you shouldn’t stop studying—ever. Nobody will be grading you, at least not in the formal sense, but the breadth of information you have and how up-to-date you stay on current events will have a direct effect on the success of your business.
But what are business owners supposed to study, and how should they go about doing it?
Let’s start by looking at the practical benefits you as a business owner can enjoy if you make studying a habit:
News. First, you’ll be more aware of current events, both within your industry and on a broader scale. This will help you make more informed business decisions, take advantage of new opportunities, and even have better conversations with your prospective partners and clients.
Ideas. It’s notoriously difficult to generate ideas by brute force; you have to find a moment of inspiration. Immersing yourself in new subjects and learning new things is a great way to find that inspiration.
Skills. Finally, studying the right subjects will help you build a better skill set, which you can use in your current role, or to improve your business in some way. In any case, if you make studying a habit, it makes you more valuable as a professional.
So what should you study to gain these benefits?
Other businesses. Start looking at other businesses, particularly ones in your industry. Their respective owners have found some combination of tactics that works for them, and you’d do well to understand how it works. What are they doing? How are they doing it? What can you apply to your own business?
New technologies. You’ll also want to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies, so you can use them for your business and/or harness them to come up with new ideas. TechCrunch and Engadget are two top news sites here, but you’ll need to dig a little deeper if you want to find out how all those new technologies work (and get inspired by how they can be used for your business).
Economics. No business can succeed without the entrepreneur’s baseline understanding of economic principles like supply and demand. You might have taken a class on introductory economics in high school or college, but there’s much to learn on the subject. Consider enrolling in a free online economics class, or series of classes like those offered by MIT, to learn more.
Other disciplines. There’s no real limit to what you can study to gain some benefit. You can study other disciplines, other industries, and other areas of expertise to learn a little more about how the world works or to expand your skill set. Online courses are a great way to start here, but if you’re serious about learning more, it’s advisable to find a mentor—or a peer with whom you can exchange information.
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If you want to take studying seriously, make sure you apply these tips to your studying regimen:
Maintain a list of recurring sources. You’ll be consulting several lists and recurring sources, including people who offer online courses, social media influencers, and news sites. Keep them bookmarked for easy access.
Dedicate at least 15 minutes a day to studying. If you want to be an effective studier, you have to make studying a habit. Finding time as an entrepreneur is hard, but try to commit to at least 15 minutes every day.
Make use of audiobooks and podcasts. If you don’t want to mess with your existing work schedule, try to fit in more studying in the form of audiobooks and podcasts, which you can listen to while you commute, exercise, or do anything else that doesn’t demand your full attention.
Keep high-level notes. While studying, jot down notes about key takeaways from each new subject. You don’t need to take detailed notes (after all, there’s no final exam). But it’s helpful to be able to review a course or book with a few summary sentences to jog your memory.
Bring up your new knowledge in conversation. One of the best ways to remember what you’ve learned is to try and repeat the information, in your own words, to someone you know. Try cementing new lessons into your memory by repeating them to someone else.
Studying may seem like a chore at first, but once you start gaining momentum in learning new things and improving yourself, you won’t want to stop. Make studying a habit so you and your business will continue to grow indefinitely on a steady upward trajectory.
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