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Overcoming Plateaus

It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.

This week I asked our panel of experts…

We all reach plateaus.

What do you do to burst through yours?

I hope you find this information helpful and inspiring, especially if you're stuck in a rut right now in your business.

Karon-black-225-framedKaron Thackston of Step-by-Step Copywriting Course says:

When I hit a plateau in my business, I reorganize.

For instance, I hit one not too long ago and needed a way to break through to the next level. So I began looking around my business to see how to accomplish this quickly.

One of my previous products (“Writing With Keywords“) was due for an update. I'd just done an interview with Google's Matt Cutts about how much keyword optimization has changed since Panda and Penguin so I organized that interview with a bunch of examples and other new material and took “Writing With Keywords” from an ebook to a mini-video series. Within a matter of about 2 weeks I had a totally revamped product to sell which has brought thousands of dollars (and growing) into my biz f-a-s-t!

Another thing I do to overcome financial plateaus is re-evaluate my affiliate offerings. I keep a running list of affiliate products I sell. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a handful of them can fall to the sidelines. Reviewing the list is a good reminder to promote the ones that I might have gotten slack about.

If we're talking about emotional plateaus, what works best to get me over the hump is time off. Even if I'm not in a position to take an entire week off completely, sleeping late in the mornings or taking a long weekend can give me the break I need to rejuvenate and come back fresh.

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DennisDennis Becker of Earn1KaDay says:

When I've hit plateaus in the past, I've found it was due mental conditioning.

For example, inside my 5 Bucks a Day book, I talked about setting a daily income goal in the beginning when I was tweaking my 5 Bucks a Day strategy.

I've always posted my daily goals on a post it note which is stuck to my printer, which is beside my monitor, always in range of my peripheral vision.

When I reached my first daily income goal, I raised the number quite significantly in fact, and started working towards my next goal.

When I reached that number, I forgot to change the post it note, and I was stuck for weeks, until I realized that my subconscious was satisfied because it had reached the goal that I had set.

Once I changed the post it note again to a higher number, things started to improve again.

The mind works in mysterious ways, but who am I to argue?

I always like to talk about the fact that I settled on the name of Earn 1K a Day for my site, because it's all about the glass ceiling concept, and I was inspired by what had happened to me, but also because of the Roger Bannister story.

Roger was the man who first ran a mile in less than 4 minutes, and back in his time scientists swore that it was physically impossible for a human to run that fast. Roger didn't listen, did it one day, and not long after that, other runners achieved the same result of a sub-4 minute mile.

Plateaus are meant to be stepping stones, ceilings are meant to be broken through, and goals are checkpoints so that our mind keeps us on track.

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Tiffany Dow of The Guide to Shiny Object Syndrome says:

When it comes to business plateaus, I love it when I hit these because it means I’m about to break through to a new level of either financial success or personal satisfaction.

I usually realize I’m in one of these when I start feeling boredom. When I recognize it, I start looking at my business and I’ll see that everything’s at a plateau – comments, income, satisfaction, etc.

I like to sit down and map out my business on paper with a pen – just crude drawings. It might have PLR Store, minisite eBooks, Kindle, Squidoo, Affiliate sites, etc. on it.

I quickly look to see which ones are thriving and which might be dipping in traffic or sales or just leveled out. I also gauge my interest in each one at that moment (because I’m fickle and sometimes I show more love to some parts of my business than others).

Once I zero in on whatever it is I want to work on to break through it, I look at coming up with a new way to recharge the income or enthusiasm or attention on that business model.

For example, I recently realized I had stagnated with my PLR store – so I categorized all my packs according to topics so I could see how much I had in stock for each one. Then I decided to start a series of 72-hour sales where I create 10 new pages and sell them for $7 (customer gets discount) and then add on some existing packs that I had categorized as freebies (customer gets something for nothing).

The sales are going amazing, I’ve broken through a stagnant phase and everyone’s happy! I also wanted to do more with Kindle, but I wanted to incorporate something with my daughter, so we’re building a series of kids’ books and I’m very excited about it.

Plateaus are always about analyzing where you’ve grown complacent and then energizing yourself to do something new or different.

Overcoming Plateaus - Tiffany Dow

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kellyKelly McCausey of Solo Smarts Podcast says:

I can't say that I've been at a business plateau in recent years, I've had too many challenges to deal with and have spent a lot of time just trying to dig my way out of a valley. I did recognize towards the end of last year that I felt like I'd hit a ‘people plateau'. It'd been awhile since I had met someone ‘new' in my business.

With nearly ten years of podcasting under my belt, I'm used to meeting new people all the time. I believe I'd begun taking it for granted there'd be someone new around every corner. Alas, I turned a corner and ran into the same faces and voices.

It's a big world but we tend to live in small neighborhoods, even here on the world wide web.

I determined to break out of the rut and pursue new neighborhoods, new people and new experiences. One of the ways I've done it is by being more involved in content curation. I made an effort to find new people, subscribe to their blogs and podcasts and engage them in their circles. It's been powerful.

Another thing I've done is to get out from behind the desk. I'm traveling more this year than ever before and trying to say yes to as many opportunities to meet new people as I can. I should finish the year with lots of new friendships that open exciting new doors.

Whatever plateau you might be dealing with, I bet it could be busted by reaching out to new neighborhoods and forging new relationships.

Note from Nik: I'm thrilled that Kelly will be joining me at Dennis' live event in Vegas in a few weeks.

Join us? Details are here: Earn 1 K a Day Seminar.

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aliceAlice Seba of Step-by-Step PLR Guides says:

When I think of plateaus in business, I think of two things:

  • Getting to a place where you’re not sure what to do next
  • Reaching an income plateau where you can’t seem to get to the next level

Both of those can be very frustrating, but that’s when it’s time to sit back and get away from the computer for a bit. This is usually where I grab a paper and pencil and write down everything I have going on. My plateaus often result from being overwhelmed by everything that’s going on and sometimes I just need to take stock of everything to see a clearer path. This is the time to evaluate what’s working, what isn’t and what could be better. I often use a mind map app on iPhone for this process as well. I personally don’t find reading mind maps helpful, but I do find the process of creating one makes it easier for me to compartmentalize the different parts of my business so everything is clear in mind.

After writing everything all down, it’s time to come up with a few action plans that include:

  • A list of activities or projects that aren’t fruitful and should be discontinued.
    This isn’t always easy, but if we want to keep moving forward, we have to be able to let go of things that just aren’t helping us grow.
  • A list of things that need to be done to improve my business.
    I particularly look for ways to connect things together, so I can sell more of our products and services to our customers, no matter how they found us.
  • A list of necessary tasks that are dragging me down.
    These are tasks that will be outsourced to a VA or other qualified professional. I often find a plateau comes from my taking on more things in the business that I just don’t enjoy doing or I simply don’t excel in.

I know a lot of people beat themselves up over plateaus. They just sit in front of the computer and wonder what to do next or they just keep doing what they’ve always done, hoping to make a breakthrough. For me, I find if I’m in any type of rut that is the most critical time to give myself a break and do more thinking for a while. Then I can start working again when things are clear in mind.

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David Perdew of NAMS says:

Got the MullyGrubs?

Here in Alabama, we have our own language that creatively stretches words and meanings that are not really found elsewhere – to my knowledge anyway. And I’ve lived all over the world.

One of my closest older friends (he was 76 when he died a few years ago) was a born-and-raised Alabama hellion. He had a fiery temper and a heart of gold. Never was he depressed.

So, when I noticed he wasn’t all that perky one day, I said, “Tommy, what’s wrong with you?”

“Got the MullyGrubs,” he said.

“Huh? What’s the MullyGrubs?”

“Ain’t nothing right. Ain’t nothing wrong,” Tommy said. “I just got the MullyGrubs!”

I completely understood that. It was his word for when we’ve hit that spot that just seems like we’re stuck in goo. It might be emotional or business or social or even spiritual goo, but it sure has us stuck.

Stuck, and we’re not sure why?

At least, that’s the way has been for me.

It’s a really uncomfortable place for me. And it shows up as inertia. Something just isn’t moving in the right direction. And as my spiritual hero, Albert Einstein, said,

“Nothing happens until something moves.”

So, to get unstuck, or climb off that plateau, I’ve got to move.

If it’s a spiritual plateau, I start investigating new writers and new ideas – expanding my mind.

If it’s a relationship plateau, I plan a getaway – some way to spend some intense time with my honey talking, planning, resolving. (I personally like long, captive car trips.)

If it’s a business plateau, I look for three things that need to change and find the right people to help me change them ASAP. This year, I focused on:

  • Tripling my income
  • Building real assets
  • And exploding my list

My list size has remained the same (give or take 20 percent) over the last two years. It’s an awesome small community that is very responsive and loyal, but I had been completely and totally focused on delivering commissions to my affiliates and not growing the list except by adding buyers to our membership sites. (Not complaining, a list of 40 percent buyers is pretty great.)

But this year, I’m focusing on additional list building opportunities – not just affiliates. (Love affiliates, but I don’t want to wear them out…)

I was obviously stuck. So, I started the MyNAMS 30-Day List Building Challenge with just a few days of planning and diving right in.

I set bold goals and published them.

I opened my business to about 320 people showing them exactly what I was doing. I worked like a demon doing 3 webinars a day creating lessons, tools, content and challenges to the folks.

And, of course, I’m creating an awesome crew of JV partners through our 30 expert interviews for the launch (at a much higher price) during the post July 4th weekend.

Movement! We have movement. My list is growing. Income is increasing. And I’m building more assets.

And guess what? I don’t have time for the MullyGrubs.

There’s too much work to do climbing this mountain at the end of the plateau. I’ll see you up there.

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NicoleNicole Dean of .. here! .. says:

Great minds think alike.

Here are a few things that I do regularly to avoid plateaus and to overcome them.

First, I take a look and see where my income is actually coming from.

Then I look to see where my time and resources are being spent.

The quickest way for me to get over a plateau is if I can spot a place where there's little money coming in with lots of resources going out (time, money, and/or energy).  I usually let those projects go. (Although sometimes I get stuck because my heart is still in a project or it needs work before I can sell it off… in which case, sometimes I really need a boost to release it.)

Another strategy that works really well for me is that I grab pen and paper and go sit outside and plan what I want the next year to five years to look like. I basically brainstorm with future Nicole and see which path that I can take to make me happiest, and most profitable at the same time.

I also have my “big hairy” goals on a post-it, like Dennis suggested. The number originally scared the pants off of me, but now I'm thinking of increasing it again as I know that I can blast past it.  Having earned more in a month than a lot of people earn in a year has really shown me that I wasn't thinking big enough at the time that I wrote down that number. So, I'm on to bigger and hairier things. 🙂

This basically comes back again to my “R.E.A.D.” system.

1. Ruminate.

2. Eliminate.

3. Automate.

4. Delegate.

But it all starts with the Ruminate part – which is the planning stage. Without having a clear picture of where you stand and where you want to be, you can work your little butt off, outsource your heart out, and still be sitting on that same plateau in five or ten years, wondering why everyone else has blown by you. And, we certainly don't want that! 🙂

Your turn.

What are your tips? What are your struggles? Talk to me.

Best wishes, as always.

PS. Remember, ya'll. If you want me to get awesome people to answer these questions, you've got to be leaving comments, sharing and checking out their sites. 🙂

Here they are one more time:

I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • Paul B. Taubman, II

    The other day I was stuck – not necessarily a plateau per say, but I was stuck trying to figure out what I wanted to write about that day. My usual procedure was get a topic, do any research that might me necessary, write the post, get an image.

    Crud! I was stuck on Step 1! What did I do? I reversed the order and started with an image! I went though my own images in iPhoto, found an interesting one, and then developed the post around that!

    Bottom line, when things go, all HuckleBilly (I mean, MollyGrub), shake things up and try a different order than you normally do things. This just might become a new way of doing things!

  • Lori

    Great information. I was having a “Mullygrubbs” day today and all of this forward action helped me clear out the “mullygrubbs” and keep moving forward.

    Thanks for the timely post.

  • Linda Henslee

    Great article! Now you have me thinking that I really need to up my game so I can reach my own plateau so I can kick it to the curb.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Kelly McCausey

    Plateaus can’t stop proactive people and that’s what I see in this post, a lot of PROACTIVE people who know how to respond 🙂

  • Mike Martel

    Many times when I see I have hit a plateau it comes from overwhelm of all the things on my plate. I step back, take sometime to clean out my email inbox, look for what is important and just trash the rest. I make myself remember – you don’t have to get it perfect, just get it going.

  • Lisa Ballinger

    This article really made me think of what I do when I plateau either with my business or my career. When I do get stuck or bogged down in the middle of a project I pretty much end up doing one of two things. I either go do something fun and give my brain a break for a few days or alternatively I read a new business book, usually in an area I’m not really familiar with or something inspiring to give my mind a good jolt.

    Nearly as good as a morning cup of coffee!

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