The inability to focus on and complete one task is something that all entrepreneurs struggle with. You’re not alone!
I call it Shiny Object Syndrome (Or SOS for short), and dealing with it has been one of the biggest challenges to growing my business over the past six years. But I’ve developed a few strategies and tips to combat it.
So I want to share 5 of the key tips that have helped me stay focused and grow my business successfully… Instead of acting like Dug from the movie UP, who chases every little squirrel that comes across his brain.
#1: Work in short sprints
Your business growth is a marathon, not a sprint.
You don't need to work for eight hours straight. Working 15-20 minutes at a time can actually help you focus better. Your brain naturally works better when you decide that you’re going to give yourself a specific, small amount of time to complete a task in. Using a timer is really helpful when you’re trying to work in short sprints, because once you set something like a 15 minute timer you don’t have to worry about stopping yourself: you can just focus on getting the task accomplished.
#2: Take Breaks
When you’re working in short sprints, you need to remember to take breaks and here’s why.
I used to think that I could push myself through the day, knock everything on my to-do list out, and it would be fine. Most of the time I wouldn’t even take a lunch break. And by 3:00 PM, my energy and focus would be flagging. I would get distracted more easily, and I began functioning on a complete emotional and mental deficit. I’d find myself working till 8pm at night because the last 5 hours of work had been at 30% efficiency. In essence, I worked myself out of the ability to perform.
Taking breaks is important because it gives your brain the chance to just breathe and relax. So take breaks throughout the day (including lunch breaks!) that allow your brain to breathe.
Tip: watching TV doesn’t do a whole lot for your brain, so find something that takes your mind off work and doesn’t stick you to a screen. I like to play my violin or paint for those breaks a lot of the time, because it completely removes me from my work for 10-15 (sometimes even 30) minutes and lets my brain breathe.
#3: Keep your goals front and center
This is massively important if you want to be able to grow your business.
We all know that business owners and entrepreneurs get distracted. X, Y, or Z happens and we get sucked into something else, or a fire pops up and we have to jump to the role of firefighter in our business. Sometimes it’s even just an idea or an opportunity that gets in your way, and suddenly you're getting pulled into something completely different from what you had planned when you started work in the morning.
Keep yourself focused by having a place to keep your goals literally sitting in front of you to remind yourself of what you need to be focusing on. Your goals for the day as well as your long-term goals. Because (especially as the business grows) sometimes we end up in a “can’t see the forest for the trees” scenario: doing a task, but having no idea how it plays into the grand scheme of things.
Keeping those goals literally in front of you (on a corkboard, pinned to your wall, etc.) helps you to know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and remember what you need to accomplish for the day.
#4 Have a place to track cool ideas
Awesome ideas are going to come up throughout the day.
Cool ideas are a fact of life for entrepreneurs. If cool ideas didn’t pop up, we wouldn’t have started a business! The trouble comes when we have this crazy cool thing that you suddenly need training for, and it pulls you off-track from what you need to accomplish for the day. Maybe you have an awesome thought for something that could catapult the business into growth, but you don’t have the capacity to start on it today because you already have a full schedule.
Instead of getting down on yourself for being creative or forgetting those ideas, have a specific space to store them. It could be anything from a journal to a project managing software to an email address that exists solely for you to email yourself cool ideas. Whatever it is, have it there for yourself and then set up specific times to come back and explore the ideas you’ve had.
This way you’re helping yourself stay focused on what is important for the moment, giving yourself the space to have those creative ideas, and helping yourself to work in short sprints to accomplish tasks by removing the need to pursue a cool idea.
#5: Review Monthly
I like to call this the Inner CEO Meeting. It allows you to look at the previous month and create a plan for the next month that will move you and your business further toward growth.
Once a month, have a sit-down with yourself to review the following from your month:
What went well
Specific areas for improvement
The cool ideas you’ve had since you last sat down
What you are going to do next month to improve
Having this sit-down does several things for you, but most importantly it gives you a specific space to look at what exactly you can do over the next month to create growth. This way you are taking the time to look at where to grow, and relieving stress throughout the month because you know you’re taking actions that will grow your business the way you want it.
It doesn’t have to specifically be once a month. It can be six weeks or five weeks or three weeks, but the important thing is to create accountability to actually have the sit-down so you have space to think about exactly what your weeks need to look like.
I will tell you, this tip makes a massive difference in my life and in the lives of my team members!
Entrepreneurs are probably one of the most incredible breeds on the planet!
You are phenomenal! And before I end this article, I just want to let you know that you’ve got to cut yourself a bit of slack sometimes. You might struggle to implement these tips for a bit; it might not improve overnight. Sometimes things take time, and you deserve to cut yourself the slack needed to create improvement and growth.
You’ve got this!
What would you say if you could spend two days in the lap of luxury while just brainstorming for your business and developing strategies for growth with Mike Michalowicz (The best-selling author of Profit First, Clockwork, and Fix This Next)? If you’d leap on the chance, shoot me an email here to ask for an interview! Because we are taking a select number of people on a retreat with Mike in the Smoky mountains at the end of July, and we’ve only got two tickets left at time of writing.