10 Entrepreneurs Share Their Secrets to Staying Focused


Here is how to concentrate in a world filled with distractions.

Eva-Katalin | Getty Images

1. Don’t let your inbox take over your to-do list.

1 / 10

2. Create time blocks.

2 / 10

3. Take it one step at a time.

3 / 10

4. Get outside.

4 / 10

5. Compartmentalize.

5 / 10
Nicole Franzen

6. Hold yourself accountable

6 / 10

7. Stay active.

7 / 10

8. Meet your goals head on.

8 / 10

9. Put your phone away.

9 / 10

10. Solitude.

10 / 10
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Staff Writer. Covers media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

Today, being an entrepreneur can be all encompassing. You are always on, all the time.  The danger of living in a world where it is possible to be on call 24/7 is that the majority of your time may be spent fielding phone calls, emails and social posts -- meaning the  tasks you wanted to complete remain untouched. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We spoke to 10 successful entrepreneurs on what strategies they use to stay on track and get things done.

Name: Tim Chen
Company: NerdWallet
Strategy: Each Monday I prioritize what I want to accomplish that week, and then I think about what I’ve done at the end of the week and share it in an email to my employees called “Reflections.” It’s a great way to make space in your head, otherwise your inbox and email becomes your to-do list, which is ridiculous because you didn’t create that to do list. [It was sent to you by other people.]

Read more about Chen: Nerdwallet's Founder Shares the Worst Advice He Ever Got

Name: Daniella Yacobovsky
Company: BaubleBar
Strategy: I am pretty OCD about creating to-do lists, and I am constantly prioritizing what I put at the top of the list. I also think it’s important to break your workload down into digestible nuggets. I break things down into things that feel doable within a span of one to two hours. That helps me methodically sort through everything that’s on my plate.

Read more about Yacobovsky: This Co-Founder of BaubleBar's Secret for Inspiration? Always 'Keep Your Eyes Peeled.'

Name: Oliver Kharraz
Strategy: I had the benefit of studying at a Jesuit monastery. We studied complicated texts and immersed ourselves, pushing our attention spans to the very limit. It’s like meditation in that you learned to direct your thoughts. It’s an active skill, like working out.

Pick something that you want to think about, and only think about that. Don’t let anything else enter your thoughts. Try for five minutes in the beginning -- and know that just like a marathon where you start with just a half mile to begin with, in the end you’ll be able to do it for hours once you train for it.

Read more about Kharraz: This Founder Says to Succeed You Need to Question Everything


Name: Merrill Stubbs
Company: Food52
Strategy: Take breaks. I really step away from something after I've been working on it, take a short walk, talk to someone who has nothing do with what I've been focusing on and stay hydrated. I usually just walk around our office in Manhattan.

Read more about Stubbs: The Life-Changing Book That Helps This Entrepreneur Think Big


Name: Jennie Ripps
Company: Owl’s Brew
Strategy: I try to compartmentalize my days. For instance, I'll spend an hour before the workday sending out emails, and I won't look at incoming emails until everything is completely outbound. I find that I focus more when I do only one thing and not a million things; it cuts down on the noise.

Read more about Ripps: The One Thing This Entrepreneur Does Each Day to Stay Productive


Named: Kyle HIll
Company: HomeHero
Strategy: I really like the app Momentum. It's a Chrome extension that allows you to create a to-do list. And I try to keep it under five items. I love checklists, because they help me stay focused.

On a higher company level, one of our policies is that during our morning meetings, every department announces what they are going to do for that day. And then the next day you reconvene and check in and say, “Did we do what we said we were going to do yesterday, and if not, why not?” If you say out loud something you are going to do, you're more likely to do it versus if you just tell yourself.

Read more about Hill: What This Founder Does to Stay Completely Focused


Name: Ryan Holmes
Company: Hootsuite
Strategy: Like lots of entrepreneurs, my attention is always pulled in a dozen directions at once. The one thing that really helps me stay focused is exercise. After I jog, do yoga or get out and do some backcountry skiing, I always come back with more clarity and focus.

Read more about Holmes: How Following His Heart Led This Entrepreneur to Start a Multi-Billion Dollar Company


Name: Julia Hartz
Company: Eventbrite
Strategy: Embracing challenges and learning from failures. When we set out to build Eventbrite, we had to face many challenges and come up with creative solutions to get past them. Each time we learned new ways to cope, we became a stronger and more cohesive team. However, staying focused is an ongoing challenge: The bigger you get, the more opportunities you have to take your eye off the prize.  

Read more about Hartz: The Day This Eventbrite Co-Founder Learned When to Speak Up


Name: Dave Rusenko
Company: Weebly
Strategy: I have a personal policy that any time I’m with someone -- at a meeting, dinner, or over drink -- that I will never check my phone or watch, and make sure to keep 100 percent focus on the person. This carries into our meetings. We have saying at the office during meetings, “laptops down.” Unless you’re the presenter, the rule is everyone needs to shut their laptop in the meeting. It allows the person to be physically and mentally present.

Read more about Rusenko: Weebly's Founder Explains the Richard Branson Moment That Changed How He Ran His Company


Name: Jeff Chapin
Company: Casper
The strategy I have to remove distractions is pretty simple. Headphones and music with no words and an office where there’s no people.

Read more about Chapin: Behind a $100 Million Mattress Startup, Casper Co-Founder Shares Advice on Finding Success as an Entrepreneur


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