In this day and age being an entrepreneur really takes it all out of you. You’re pretty much expected to be available 24/7. Whether you’re getting a call on Saturday morning at 8:00AM or a slack message at midnight from your team overseas, it just doesn’t seem to let up. That constant communication can be good on one level, but on another it creates tons of distractions.
The typical entrepreneur is someone who has to wear many hats in their business. This makes it imperative to stay focused on certain tasks until they get complete. If you’re constantly bouncing around leaving things unfinished, your business will be in big trouble.
When it comes to staying focused, there’s no single method that works. It really comes down to using the strategies that best fit your work style. Below we’ve listed five strategies that are proven to help you stay focused throughout the workday:
Block your time
Back to the point I made above about entrepreneurs wearing many hats. You’re going to handle everything from sales and marketing to cleaning the bathroom in your office. Yes, all successful entrepreneurs also served as their office janitor at one point. Even if their office was their apartment.
The point is, you’re going to need to figure out a way to switch gears on the fly and make sure tasks get done. Instead of trying to compartmentalize everything in your head, use time blocking instead. Time blocking is a strategy where you bucket tasks into certain blocks of time. This allows you to break down your workload and estimate the amount of time it’ll take to complete each task.
For example, let’s say you need to create a proposal, schedule out 50 emails, have a team meeting, and write a blog post. Instead of just tackling the workload head on, take a step back and block time in your day to accomplish each task. This will help you become better at managing your time while staying focused on one task until it’s finished.
Take a breather
Taking breaks is one of the most underrated ways to regain your focus. That said, it’s easy to let breaks eat into your productivity. The best strategy is to schedule breaks into your day. This way the break itself won’t cause a disruption to your workflow.
Typically I schedule three breaks into my workday. One in the morning, lunch, and one in the late afternoon. Duration can vary but I try to take about 10-15 minutes of break for every two hours of working.
Pro tip: If you’re feeling up for it, try taking your break outside. Even if you just stroll around the block it’s always good to get some fresh air and decompress.
Your phone needs to go
This is the one that everyone doesn’t want to follow. Let’s be honest, your phone serves as one of the biggest distractions throughout the workday. If you have a work phone, you may want to consider leaving your phone in your bag or even at home. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a work phone then you’ll need to rely on good old discipline.
I recommend putting your phone on do not disturb and leaving it face down at least two arm lengths away. Only pick it up when you need to make a work related call. If you want to go the extra mile, don’t even take it on your breaks. This way you can keep your mind focused on work related topics until your workday is fully over.
Okay I don’t mean question or doubt your abilities to accomplish something. I’m simply saying you need to always question what it is you’re doing as to whether or not it’s a valuable use of your time.
This is most applicable to meetings. It’s estimated that businesses waste $37 billion in ineffective meetings each year. This is because the majority of meetings that are scheduled are not questioned before they are booked. People assume meetings equate to progress, when it’s actually quite the opposite.
Next time you’re scheduling a meeting, writing up a document, making a sales call, or even writing an email you need to question it. After a while you’ll become an expert in optimizing your time which will ultimately lead to smarter, more effective decisions.
Learn how to decline
As an entrepreneur it’s common to want to take on every opportunity that comes our way. If you work under a manager or boss it’s also common to say “yes” right away to everything that’s asked of you. The problem with automatically saying “yes” is that it creates unrealistic expectations for those you work for and those who work around you.
Let’s say you’re putting together a proposal for a big client. You’re on a tight deadline and you really think the client is going to end up making the purchase. Not only that, if you close the client your sales team will meet their monthly quota. You’re grinding on the proposal and then you get a message from your boss telling you he needs a progress report from your team ASAP. Now you’re in a pickle. If you switch gears for your boss you may lose the client. If you tell your boss “no” they may get upset.
At this point you need to learn how to prioritize your jobs and respectfully decline, even if it’s from your boss. Your job is to deliver the most value for your company. If finishing the clients’ proposal is accomplishing that goal, you shouldn’t let anything get in the way. Obviously take that with a grain of salt, but you get the idea!
Remember, if you want to stay focused throughout the workday, give one of the five strategies listed above a try! You won’t be disappointed.