How Successful Entrepreneurs Stay Focused and Block Out the Noise
Distractions can be a death sentence for otherwise successful entrepreneurs. Here's how not to get caught in the distraction death trap.
Our society tells us that the way to be successful is by doing as many different things as you can. Consume as much information as you can. Try as many different careers as you can. Spend time with as many people as possible. Read tons of books. Listen to lots of podcasts. The list goes on and on. However, if you study the most successful entrepreneurs and business owners in the world, you'll find that they're exceptional at blocking out the noise and focusing on only the things that move the needle the most. That's the fastest way to success.
Distractions are everywhere. But as an entrepreneur, I've found that there are really two major types of distractions that threaten to undermine your success. They are as follows:
Productivity-killers: This category of distractions includes everything that actively works against you to deflate your productivity on a daily basis. This includes digital distractions (like notifications), environmental distractions (like a noisy office) and personal distractions (like relationship issues at home).
Shiny Object Syndrome: As an entrepreneur, you're bombarded with information and offers on a daily basis. Every time you open your email inbox, there's another person offering a product or service that's "guaranteed" to help you increase your revenue, cut costs, find new clients, etc. If you aren't careful, you can easily spend all of your time chasing the next shiny object. And guess what happens when you chase shiny objects? You never actually put anything into action (which means you never get any results).
If you want to thrive as an entrepreneur, it's imperative that you block out these distractions so that you can focus on creating maximum value precisely where you are. Distractions will always be there, but your success is dependent on your ability to let them pass.
As you look for ways to improve your focus, here are several strategies that I believe will help you avoid productivity-killers and stave off Shiny Object Syndrome:
1. Guard your calendar
You have to get better at protecting your time. And the best way to protect your time is by guarding your calendar. This means intentionally blocking out chunks of time each day to perform specific tasks. You'll even want to block out segments for downtime, family time, exercise, etc.
2. Silence your notifications
How many notifications do you think you get per day? Between phone calls, text messages, emails and push notifications on your smartphone, it's in the hundreds. And every time one of your devices rings or dings, it consumes your attention and prevents you from doing the work you're supposed to be doing. On top of that, it takes several minutes to refocus after being distracted. By that time, another notification has already come through.
Want to improve your focus? Silence your notifications, and only check them during specific intervals during the day. If you can get away with it, one morning "notification check" and another one in the afternoon is ideal. However, this isn't always practical when running a business. Some entrepreneurs opt for short 10-minute checks at the end of each hour.
3. Clean up your email inbox
Your email inbox is a significant source of distraction. It's also one of the biggest lightning rods for Shiny Object Syndrome. This is why I recommend unsubscribing from all promotional email lists and anyone who sends marketing and sales messages.
If you don't want to unsubscribe, you could always create your own dedicated email account just for promotional emails like this (make sure you only check it one or two times per week). Another option is to use a tool like Unroll.me to combine all of these emails into a single daily "digest" email.
4. Do one thing at a time
Make a promise to yourself that you'll stop multitasking. Make a commitment to doing just one thing at a time. This means only reading one book at a time. Only integrating one new application at a time. Only taking one course at a time. Only learning how to master one social media platform at a time, etc. An intentional approach like this allows you to stay focused on the things that truly matter. It also forces you to finish things once you start them.
5. Give yourself some breaks
Don't forget to give yourself some time off. Productivity isn't always about doing, doing, doing. Sometimes you need to take some time away from work in order to recharge your brain and process creative ideas and information.
I recommend taking regular breaks throughout the day (including breaks for physical activity) as well as prolonged breaks throughout the week/year. While a two-day weekend is ideal, always take at least one day off per week. Then every two to three months, take a long weekend. And at least once per year, you should take a week-long vacation away from work.
6. Focus on revenue-driving activities
Distractions often come in the form of processes and procedures that may indirectly impact revenue or not even impact revenue at all. While revenue and income may not be the direct focus of your business, it is still a need to ensure your business's longevity and sustainability well into the future.
Do not get mired by tasks that have little direct bearing on revenue, especially if you're a startup looking for growth capital. Raising money from investors is easier if you can show you know how to generate more of it.
How good are you at doing more with less? By focusing your time, energy and finances on only the things that matter, you can actually accomplish more. And rather than getting half-hearted results, you'll get quality output every time. Here's to a simpler approach!
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