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Time on Your Side

How to keep your mind focused in the midst of multiple demands.

This story appears in the July 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Developing innovative solutions to a multitude of complex problems is the hallmark of a successful entrepreneur. One of our greatest challenges is effectively completing business tasks that are usually handled by a myriad of people. We have to buttress inspiration with focus and ingenuity to achieve the results we desire. This is especially true during our business' startup phase.

The most productive entrepreneurs I know are those who concentrate on accomplishing a specific task from start to finish. They maintain focus and momentum by asking themselves, "What's next?" and confidently moving on to the next item on their action list. But inevitably, we will all have to multitask at some point each day. How many times have you been working on an important task and felt as though you had to respond to a new text message, an e-mail from a customer or a call from a colleague?

The first step to accomplishing more in less time is to maintain control over your environment rather than become stressed by it. Stay sane and sustain your drive in the face of multiple demands by maintaining a positive attitude and keeping your eye on the goal.

  1. Focus on obtaining a specific result. Keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed by working on one task at a time and staying focused on that task. Set a specific time frame, even if it's only 15 minutes, to achieve a specific result. Eliminate anything that may distract you. Close the door to your work area, turn off the ringer on your cell phone and resolve not to check your e-mail. Concentrating your efforts on the task at hand will help you produce amazing results.
  2. Seek alternative ways to accomplish tasks and produce results. Spending more time working on tasks doesn't always translate into higher productivity. Rather than spinning your wheels when you're stuck on a particular problem, open your mind to different work strategies. Take a minute to step back from your projects, look at the big picture and reconnect with your original inspiration and ideas. For example, you could cut down on administrative tasks by using a shared workplace or hiring a virtual assistant.
  3. Unload your thoughts and link your various achievements. Free up some mental space and relieve excess by writing down any obstacles or concerns you may have in a journal. This clears your mind of clutter and empowers you to take focused action. Try to relate the outcome of one accomplishment to your next undertaking. When you discover how tasks are connected, your frustration level lowers because you no longer feel as if you're always playing catch-up.
  4. When interrupted, consciously mark where you left off. Interruptions will occur. It's difficult to re-engage on an unfinished task when you forget where you left off. Make it easier to return to tasks by writing down your next action step before taking that phone call or answering that e-mail. That way, you can lower your stress level and make the best use of your time when you return.
    Don't forget to schedule downtime for yourself. It's OK to postpone a return call or e-mail if you need a minute to regroup. Be sure to take care of yourself so you can approach each new challenge feeling refreshed and optimistic.

Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Success and Kick Start Your Dream Business. Write to him

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