Go to Facebook or Twitter and you'll see it.
Heck, look at your hard disk and you'll see it.
As an entrepreneur and small business owner you know what I'm talking about, it's been the bane of most of us (believe me, including myself).
It wastes your hard-earned money, it's distracts your focus, and, worst of all, it wastes the most precious resource, your time.
I'm talking about the non-stop buying of products.
There's always the "Good Reason" but I'll say it again, there is no one product or service that will make or break you.
But you can stop and you can start making proper, strategic investments that will help you in your business without distract you or suck up all your money.
Let look at how to do that...
Start with a Plan and Goals
The first thing you need to do is make sure you have strategic plans, goals, and initiatives; review my post on strategic thinking.
Without that, you'll probably fail no matter what else you do; even if you succeed it will be a much harder job.
"If you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail." - Tariq Siddique
"Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning." - Thomas Alva Edison
"A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow" - General George Patton
"Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now" - Alan Lakein
"If you fail to prepare then you are preparing to fail" - Benjamin Franklin
"Failures don't plan to fail; they fail to plan." - Harvey Mackay
"Whatever failures I have known, whatever errors I have committed, whatever follies I have witnessed in private and public life have been the consequence of action without thought." - Bernard Baruch
"Good plans shape good decisions. That's why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true." - Lester Robert Bittel
"Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you'll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don't have a plan. That's why it's is easy to beat most folks." - Paul "Bear" Bryant
"Those who plan do better than those who do not plan even thou they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill
"Before beginning, plan carefully." - Marcus Tulius Cicero
"A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door." - Confucius
"Always plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark." - Richard Cushing
"It's not the plan that's important, it's the planning." - Dr. Gramme Edwards
"Reduce your plan to writing. The moment you complete this, you will have definitely given concrete form to the intangible desire." - Napoleon Hill
"A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there." - H. Stanely Judd
"Always have a plan, and believe in it. Nothing happens by accident." - Chuck Knox
"Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan." - Norman Vincent Peale
"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan." - Eleanor Roosevelt
"A plan once made and visualized becomes a reality along with other realities-never to be destroyed but easily to be attacked." - John Steinbeck
"Planning is a process of choosing among those many options. If we do not choose to plan, then we choose to have others plan for us." - Richard I. Winwood
This plan will direct and guide you as well as keep you focused on what you've defined as important to be able to succeed.
This "road map" is what you must follow and base your decisions on, so without it you're just stuck in the rut you've been in.
How to Use Your Plan
With your plan you'll be able to make appropriate investments and here's a way to do that.
Typically, you get dozens if not hundreds of e-mails a day promoting a myriad of different products by some very knowledgeable and talented marketers.
They know all the best ways to get you to part with your cash, which is generally their sole goal.
And it works very well -- look again at all the "stuff" on your hard disk if you think it doesn't :-)
But you can take back control.
First of all, you need to just quickly ignore most of the products no matter how "good" they seem to be.
This is where you can easily use your plan.
If something, no matter what or how attractive, doesn't fit in to what you are currently doing -- what specific project or initiative you are CURRENTLY working on -- you immediately reject it and forget about it.
At first it takes some getting used to and may take you some time but you'll quickly get the hang of it as you internalize your goals and plans and as you get used to holding everything up to the light of those goals and plans.
I can go through 100 e-mails in literally seconds because I know where I am in my business and what's of critical important to me at the specific time; I also know who consistently gives me things that I never want and I remove them.
This should immediately weed out 99% of your temptations; and that is no exaggeration.
Deciding When to Invest
Now that you have weeded out what is essential "junk" to you, even if it is gold to someone else, all you need to do is decide if something is right for you at the current time.
First thing to do is carefully read the sales letter to get a sense of whether it fits your current goals; just be sure you don't get into the fine copywriting of the letter.
You can also search for reviews with 2 cautions: (1) most products don't have any reviews and (2) most reviews are done by marketers who want to convince you to buy the product through their link.
The key is to get a sense of what the product or service is and what benefits it can provide you.
Don't spend a lot of time on this, enough to get a good sense of the product or service but you don't need to know everything; after all, almost everything has a trial and/or a refund period which I encourage you to use if you need to.
After you've done that then you need to compare the product to your plan and goals but that's not all.
Until you're really successful you need to limit your view to no more than 3 months.
By that I mean that if you won't actively use and profit from the product or service in the next 3 months then you need to bypass it for now; you can always revisit it in the future.
If it fits and you're absolutely sure you'll be using it immediately or in the near future then look at the cost and see if it is cost effective for you to invest in it at this time.
Assuming it does - and actually calculate it, how much would you save or how much would you earn - then it looks like an investment you should seriously consider.
You Aren't Finished
When you decide to invest in something you can't stop after you've finished paying.
You need to document the purchase, when you made it, why you made it, how you're planning to use it and when you're going to use it (remember it must be within 3 months)
You can use Google Docs, which is good particularly if you are outsourcing or want to be able to access the information from everywhere, or a spreadsheet on your computer.
Click here for a spreadsheet you can use to keep track of your products and your commitment to use them; here's what the spreadsheet looks like.
- Date Bought: the date you brought the product or service.
- Product/Service: the name of the product or service.
- Specific Goal/Initiative: the specific goal and/or initiative that this will be used for, it might be a product you're creating or some traffic you're trying to get or whatever.
- How to Use: how you plan to use the product or service to help you achieve your goal.
- Usage Deadline: this is calculated from the Date Bought (it's 3 months from the date)
- When Used: this is the date you start using the product or service
- Met Deadline: this is calculated and will be green and say "Yes" if the product or service was used by the deadline and white and "No" if it wasn't.
Understanding how to make strategic investments will allow you to save money, keep your focus, and improve your business in a number of ways.
This article should help you be able to do just that and with the including spreadsheet you'll be able make and track strategic investments.
After you've done it for a while you'll be able to see how well or poorly you're doing and make adjustments so that you'll only be making good, informed decisions that you'll actually use..