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How to Stay Focused When Everything Needs Your Attention Serial entrepreneur, angel investor and professor Dave Lerner shares his tips for getting focused and productive.

By Dave Lerner


Q: I find it tough to stay focused on the task at hand as my clients are constantly pulling me in different directions. What are your tips for staying focused and productive?

- Travis Parker
Las Vegas, Nevada

A: In my last answer I mentioned "getting orchestral" on your startup and mapping out all the various activities with which you are engaged. It's a good idea to post this map on the wall in front of your desk so you can glance up and re-orient yourself from time to time with the big-picture in mind.

Related: How to Tame Your Over-Distracted Entrepreneurial Brain

This grounding and continual refinement of your "map" is foundational in my opinion, but there's lots of other ancillary techniques you can employ to stay focused while clients and other responsibilities pull you in different directions.

Here are six easy ways to squash distraction and stay on track.

1. Batch your emails. By incorporating the simple routine of checking emails during defined and scheduled periods of time during each working day, a la Tim Ferriss, you will become less distracted and massively more productive. Don't be afraid to have an auto-responding message that lets people know that this is how you operate.

2. Go off the grid. Every quarter take anywhere from a long weekend to a full week (whatever you can manage) where you go totally off the grid, a la Brad Feld. This means no emails or calls. It's time for you to meditate and contemplate yourself and your business without distractions.

3. Just say no. During periods that are going to be incredibly busy, turn down all non-work related matters for three to four week stretches and just crank away. Some people may be miffed, but you can make it up to them afterwards.

Related: 5 Simple Ways to Be Healthier and More Productive Without Leaving Your Desk

4. Keep a to-do list. Every morning write-up a short list of things you would like to accomplish that day. Make the list achievable and relentlessly complete those items.

5. Get moving. Try to exercise strenuously several times per week. Even though this takes time, it's massively beneficial as you are ultimately in better condition, have more energy and are much more mentally focused.

6. Look inward. Pause for a self-analysis a couple of times a day and ask yourself the same question each time: Am I being productive and efficient?

Have a question for YE's experts? Submit your questions in the comments section below and those with the most likes from other readers will be answered. On Twitter, use the hashtag #YEask. Include your first and last name, your location (city and state) and the name of your business.

Dave Lerner is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, blogger and host of Venture Studio, an online interview show in which he talks with entrepreneurs, investors, founders and other members of the flourishing New York entrepreneurial ecosystem and beyond.

Follow him on twitter: @davelerner

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