From San Francisco to San Paulo, Dubrovnik to Dublin, there’s an education revolution going on which has nothing to do with old world institutions. As universities and other learning institutions continue to evolve into big businesses, professionals are realising that intermediary institutions are no longer necessary.

Thanks to the internet, business owners are quickly able to turn their skills and expertise into assets and intellectual property. And because teaching online means no venue costs, no AV hire, no event managers or travel costs, they can create quality courses and programs for a fraction of the cost of its old-school equivalent.

Of course, online education is different from face-to-face. If you’ve purchased an online course before, you’ve probably already experienced the disappointment that comes from feeling like you lack the discipline to complete it. So how do you avoid wasting money while getting the most out of courses you purchase, with real results in your business?

Don’t purchase if you’re just seduced

If your goals for purchasing an online course are hazy, your results will be too. As seductive as a sales page or funnel may be, don’t purchase a course if you can’t articulate why you need it. If you’re clear that you want to make more money (how much more?), rebrand and reposition your business, raise your prices, sharpen your branding and marketing focus, or reduce your working hours and work more systematically, then go ahead and purchase.

Don’t purchase an online course because you’re curious about how to “one day” apply the skills you’ll learn. ‘Merely curious’ is a hobby, and while there’s nothing wrong with researching things you’re interested in for reasons other than business, it’s wise not to confuse personal interests and business.

Crush the perfect student myth

We humans get so caught up in doing things “the right way” and this is nowhere more apparent than in online learning. Many people believe that face-to-face learning is more conducive than online learning but just because we’re present and seemingly listening to the teacher, doesn’t mean we’re actually mindfully present.

To get the most out of online learning we first need to ditch the idea that being physically present means being mindfully present and engaged. And second, we need to chuck out the old stick that we use to beat ourselves with – the model student that we have wanted and tried to be since we were kids.

Often we think we need to go through things in the right sequence. And while it’s true that the teacher has written the curriculum in the order in which they feel it’ll most benefit students, you are not most students. If you need to take things out of sequence, do.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with jumping around a course out of sequence or taking only what you need. The very first online course I purchased – the Coaching Blueprint – I vividly recall feeling like it was a tonne of value and tweeting the course creator to thank her for creating the course. Five years later, I’m yet to finish it. But I certainly don’t view that as a failing of myself or of the course. I implemented what I needed to, read things out of sequence and got busy reaping the rewards.

You weren’t a perfect student when you were in school and you’re not a perfect student now. Let’s crush that fantasy, shall we? Being a student doesn’t need to be hard. In fact, it should be enjoyable, relevant, and applicable, even if you’re not applying each and every thing in the right sequence, at the right time.

Take good notes

Online courses and programs typically include workbooks or worksheets that apply what you’ve just read, watched or listened to. In addition to the workbooks and worksheets, take your own notes, even if these are scribbled on post-it notes and stuck to your toilet wall. Copious research shows that writing summary notes that reflect on what you’ve learnt is highly useful for retaining information and mastering a topic.

Ask better questions

Most online course teachers will happily answer students questions, either on live group calls (as well as one-to-one coaching calls, like Hustle & Heart offers), or in a forum such as a private website or private Facebook group.

Having run programs and courses for more than five years now, I can easily tell you that the most useless types of questions are the ones that are hugely general and the best types of questions give a little background and context to make them specific.

General, generally useless questions include, “what’s the best online marketing strategy?” Specific, useful and valuable questions include, “I’ve tried Facebook advertising to an email opt-in page but my conversion rate is just 0.5%. Is there anything you’d recommend to improve my conversion?” (Note: as a teacher, I’d probably ask the later questioner a few more questions to find out some more data before I gave them my recommendations.)

Find the time by prioritising

I got ill. I’m so stressed. I’ve three children and limited childcare. My internet reception is patchy. My laptop broke. I’ve got a full time job. My clients are highly demanding. I lack self-confidence.

These are all legitimate reasons why you don’t have time to apply to your online course. But they’re also irrelevant. I’m not being cold-hearted. I’m simply saying that you can either let these reasons become excuses or use these reasons to fire up your determination and fuel your focus.

The best way to find the time for doing your online course is to stop saying yes to irrelevant things. The first thing we do on the Hustle & Heart program is clear some space on our schedules. With a little examination, most people find there are swathes of things they’re doing that they can say ‘no’ to (and later on in the program, there’s a lesson on how to say no so that we can say yes to better business opportunities).

I won’t bore you with the list of things that have gone wrong in the last eight years of running my business. But let’s just say, it’s not about the perfect circumstances. It’s about deciding that something is important and then acting as if it is.

Know what motivates

Education is about self-discipline. Business is about self-discipline. But what self-discipline looks like exactly differs drastically from individual to individual.

We are not children any more. And parenting adults is expensive – sure you can pay someone to hold your hand but far better you learn how to walk on your own two feet, especially when you’re the boss. Knowing how to motivate yourself, especially when you’re not naturally inspired, is part and parcel of self-employment, and online learning too. Perhaps that’s one of the main benefits of online courses – teaching us how to motivate ourselves.

Is it your time? Join Hustle & Heart.