Most advice on how to make money online is to give other people advice on how to make money online. For every online advice we read, we think, fueled by ambition and the five simple steps to overnight success: “I could totally do that”.

Then we proceed to never do anything about it.

Reading about things sends out a bunch of dopamine, drugging us with that sweet satisfaction that we can only otherwise get by actually doing stuff. But doing stuff is hard, so getting dopamine without actually doing stuff seems favourable.

Learning online is doing stuff without actually having to do anything, feeding off both ambition and procrastination: it feels like you are getting closer to your goal, and since you are making progress, it is acceptable to postpone the real work. But knowledge not acted upon is still in vain. Watching five hours of video editing tutorials is five wasted hours if that learning is not transformed into skill. Then it’s still procrastination.

Instead, learning should be on demand. Want to design something in Illustrator? Great. Watch a video on getting started, and get started. Need to then figure out how to join two shapes together? Watch a video and do it. Learning should be just-in-time, not just-in-case. Watching fifty hours of Javascript programming tutorials does not entitle me to write “basic Javascript skills” on my resumé, but fifty hours of writing code might get me closer.

Differentiating between learning and simply procrastinating requires self-awareness and honesty. Reading up on aperture for a project might be research, watching two hours of lens reviews on YouTube is probably not. Your brain knows that once these videos stop, the actual work begins. That is what it’s trying to avoid.

We are masters of self-deception and sometimes it can be hard to catch ourselves drifting off. So ask yourself: if you’re reading up on SEO, have you actually even set up the blog you wanted to optimise? If you’re reading on how to grow your YouTube channel to a million subscribers, have you actually done the work to get the first thousand? If you’re reading this right now, are you actually just procrastinating from something else?

One of the internet’s greatest assets are the billions of problems other people have already solved and are sharing their solution for. Just make sure that you’re using it to solve the problems you have right now, not the ones you might have in the future.