People say ‘FOCUS’ is the magic ingredient in any successful business and they’re not wrong, but they make it sound like it’s EASY! And it isn’t! Being able to focus when you feel like you barely have time to turn around, is not easy. Trying to find space in your brain to focus on just one thing, when you’re trying to juggle life, business, children and other jobs is tricky!
The trouble is, without focus you’ll struggle to get anything done. Jobs take far longer to do when you’re trying to do a dozen other things at the same time. Even the simplest tasks can take hours, if you’re being pulled in all directions when actually they would take just a few minutes if you were able to focus on them. Life is easier when you can focus. Business is easier when you can focus.
So how DO you get the focus you need to get stuff done and build your business?
Well, I’m no focus guru but I am a mum and a business owner and I’ve learned how to do this (or I would have gone crazy) so I’ve put together 8 tips for you to help you find more time and do more with it. Give them a try, one or two of them could seriously help you build your business, reduce stress and help you get more done. What’s not to love?
1. Stop multi-tasking!
Women are brilliant at multi-tasking. We’re told this as we grow up. It’s like a badge of honour and we sometimes feel like we’re scoring major girl points, the more we can boast we can do at the same time. And in life, it’s great to do that – I often make tea while helping with homework, while making a dentist appointment and answering quick work messages on my phone – I’m sure you’re the same. We HAVE to do it or the day would run away with us, but in business it’s different.
I was talking to a woman recently on Skype and I could see she was busy working on something while I was talking to her ‘Oh keep talking’ she said ‘I can do this while I’m listening’. But she wasn’t quite with me. I didn’t feel listened to. And it mattered.
Maybe you CAN do invoices while you’re helping a customer, but you’re opening yourself up to making mistakes and to be honest, you would get the invoicing done far quicker and more accurately if you blocked out 10 or 15 minutes and just did it, without spreading yourself thin.
We often kid ourselves into thinking we’re getting more done by multi-tasking, but we often end up just spending a lot of time spinning our wheels – things take longer, mistakes are made. So, my advice for what it’s worth is to give ONE thing your full attention, even just for 10 or 15 minutes and just do it. Give it your full attention because that’s when the magic happens. You get more done but because you’re focusing fully, you see ways to improve, you come up with ideas, you remember things you had meant to do ages ago – it’s great!
2. Finish tasks that are easily completed.
You know that my mantra is ‘don’t get it perfect, get it finished?’ Well I mean it! Most of the time you’re having trouble staying focused is because there a bunch of little things on your mind that you know you need to do.
Get a pad and pen and write down everything that can be completed in under 10 minutes, then finish everything on the list before you start on a project that requires more focus.
This doesn’t mean that every time something comes up that would take less than ten minutes to do, you do it. You simply batch everything together that requires ten minutes of time or less. And don’t agonise or keep putting it off because it’s not perfect – just get the darned thing done! Finished!
3. Stay in the now.
As much as you can, practice focusing your attention on the present moment. I know that person really annoyed you last week. I know you might be worried about something coming up soon. But being bothered about something that happened in the past (that you can’t change) and being worried about something that might happen in the future – you have no control over them. The only thing you have control over is what you are doing right now – how you are feeling, how you react, what is getting your energy – you can change that right now. And the things you DO and DECIDE right now have a big impact on what WILL happen.
Don’t dwell on ‘might haves’, and ‘should haves’ and ‘if onlys’ – don’t let the baggage of the past hold you back. Focus on what you are doing and can do right now and let the other ‘stuff’ go.
4. Respond, don’t react.
We’re busy. Often the person who shouts the loudest gets seen to first – that’s how life works, right?
Here’s a thought; instead of reacting to the latest ‘urgent’ email or phonecall, take time to think. If you keep reacting, then you’re not being productive.
Work out what YOU need to do each day and protect your work time while you’re doing it. Don’t immediately react to requests or messages, instead only check messages when it suits your schedule and don’t feel that you have to come back to people immediately. It’s perfectly OK to sit on an email for a couple of days while you consider your options or get something more important finished. Take control of your time – respond in a way that’s right for you and your business instead of reacting.
5. Declutter your workspace.
It’s really hard to focus and be organised when your workspace is a mess. If you have piles of papers, empty cups, unpaid bills, and other ‘stuff’ piled up and around you, how can you expect to think clearly, let alone find anything? Declutter your workspace. Do it now. You will feel so much better once it’s done and you’ll find it easier to concentrate too.
6. Love what you do.
If you don’t love what you’re doing then you’re going to have a really hard time staying focused. A lot of the time we can’t focus because we really don’t WANT to. We’re bored. Or we really don’t like what we have to do. And yet as soon as we have a job we’re looking forward to, we have no trouble finding the time and space to focus, right?
If you don’t love your business, do something else because that feeling will only get worse. If there are certain parts of your business you don’t like, then find a way to either get rid of them altogether or outsource them. There is always a way, you just have to be open-minded and creative. Spending your time and energy on something you really don’t enjoy or actively dislike is a sure fire way to make an unhappy, unproductive, unfocused you. Time to face up to it and do something about it, eh?
7. Distinguish between urgent and important.
What’s important in your business? What’s urgent?
They are not always the same thing.
Important things are running your business properly, managing your money, creating great products or services, getting more customers, providing great service, keeping on top of your tax – they are all really important. But most of the time they are not urgent, especially if you deal with them regularly and don’t leave things till the last minute.
Urgent things tend to be of our own making. Oh no! That tax return is due in tomorrow and I need to find all my receipts and call my accountant and find my government website login but I’ve forgotten the password and they will only send a replacement out in the mail…yes I’ve been there too. But it was only urgent because I hadn’t treated it as important before, and had it all sorted out well in advance. It wasn’t unexpected.
In business there aren’t many URGENT AND UNEXPECTED things. Most of the time, urgent things are just important things that we’ve forgotten about or ignored.
It’s really hard to focus when everything seems or feels urgent. So stop creating urgent things. You can do this!
8. Set a timer.
If you really need to get something done and you keep getting distracted, set yourself a deadline. There are loads of free timer apps online or for your phone. Set yourself a time limit of 10, 20 or 30 minutes and focus on that ONE job for that period of time until the buzzer goes. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re up against a deadline!
I do this all the time and I’m always amazed how productive AND focused I am when I’m trying to beat the clock!
What are YOUR top focus tips?
I’d love to read them – pop them in the comments and share the focus love!
Most mornings you’ll find me being dragged through wet grass by a small, noisy, hairy thing that occasionally stops to poop. It’s one of my favourite parts of the day!
I love it because it gives me time to chill after a (usually) frantic school morning. Meggy and I wait with Chloe at the bus stop, wave her off and then we head for the river.
This morning I was laughing at my crazy little puppy.
She LOVES the long grass so instead of sticking to the path, I always head for the ‘ruff’ off to the side (did you see what I did there?).
Meggy’s favourite thing is to run off to one side, chasing butterflies, birds, imaginary rabbits until she runs out of lead, then turn around and run and jump through the grass until she reaches her limit at the other side.
This goes on for an hour! She’s a happy puppy and travels about four times the distance I do, so she’s good and worn out by the time we get home.
This morning, watching her chasing through the grass, it reminded me of you!
Every week on my Facebook page, on Twitter and on my website I get questions from ladies who are struggling with their business. They tell me what they do and guess what? It’s not too much different from my puppy.
They Chase Any Opportunity, Willy Nilly
They chase around after opportunities, never really stopping to think if it’s a GOOD, RELEVANT opportunity that will help them build their business.
They aren’t picky, just like Meggy they get distracted by something flying by and they feel compelled to chase it.
Then they run of out steam, stop for a little while and then get distracted by something flying past in the opposite direction, so off they run again.
No wonder they are tired out!
[Tweet “Be picky about which opportunities to chase, or you’ll wind up exhausted and empty-handed!”]
They Have No Focus
Now I’m not sure Meggy would know what to do with a bird or a butterfly if she caught it but rest assured, she never will.
She has no focus.
She wouldn’t spend time trying to catch any one thing, she just runs after the latest thing to catch her attention.
Does this sound familiar?
How often have you sat down to get something done and been distracted by social media, texts, emails, a neighbour, in fact anything that is going on around you when what you NEED to do is focus on one thing and get it finished.
[Tweet “Distractions will wreck your business – you can’t build a business if you never finish anything”]
They Go The Long Way Round
I told you that Meggy probably walks 4 times as far as me, by the time she’s run backwards and forwards and out to the side, criss-crossing my path 100 times at least during the walk.
Talk about the long way round!
How many times have you gone the long way round in your business?
How many times have you had to re-learn something because you didn’t write it down the first time?
How often have you redone something several times because you didn’t plan it out before you started?
How much time have you wasted overthinking when you just need a clear vision and targets, and it would be obvious what you need to do?
[Tweet “Are you going the long way round in your business? Time to get clear on your goals!”]
So, my puppy and your business might have more in common than you think.
In Meggy’s case it’s a great thing that she tires herself out during our morning walk but for you, not so good!
You need to put your energy and attention into the thing that will make a difference in your business – the things that will take your business forward.
You don’t have surplus resources to waste chasing after ill-thought-through opportunities, being sidetracked by distractions or taking the long way round.
My challenge to you today is to learn from my puppy and do the OPPOSITE – leave the puppy approach to marketing to others who don’t know better!
If you loved this blog, I’d love to hear from you. Are YOU guilty of the puppy approach? Do you see other people doing it? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Love, Claire xx
I was chatting to one of my VIP coaching ladies the other day and we decided that she needed to exploit an opportunity that appeared in front of her, even though it wasn’t part of her original plan.
It wasn’t a full-blown rebrand or anything like that, just changing the focus of her business to target a specific type of woman entrepreneur whom she’d previously not considered. She literally needed to change a few words on her website and swap her list-building freebie for something slightly different.
And this quick, simple shift in focus means that all of a sudden, she can target a big group of women within her existing networks who would LOVE to hear from her because she can teach them how to build a business that lets them travel or even move abroad, if that’s what they want. It’s a market that is waiting for her to teach them.
We both knew it’s a no-brainer but she got a major mind-monkey attack. Her fear was that all of her previous work had gone to waste, that she’d wasted all the time and money and energy she’d spent on her business until so far. She felt like she’d somehow be betraying herself if she changed focus.
So I had to get her to understand something.
Running your own business, especially when it’s just you plus maybe a couple of helpers, is a strange and unique situation in which to find yourself. Unlike a big corporate, you don’t need to plan 5 years ahead. You don’t need to enter into lengthy contracts and you don’t need to stick to what you thought you were going to do last week.
It’s your business. So you can do what you want.
I call it being able to turn on a sixpence. It’s what London cabs can do. Time is money for London cabbies – they need to be able to deliver one passenger and turn around quickly, with the minimum of fuss and WITHOUT complicated 3-point turns. They can literally spin around in a tiny turning circle, otherwise know as ‘turning on a sixpence’. It’s a brilliant thing to be able to do because it means they can change direction in seconds if they hit a traffic jam.
Do you know the best thing?
You can do this too! You can adopt the London Cab approach to your business. How?
Well, because your business is small, it’s also agile.
You can change direction now. If you hit a metaphorical traffic jam or dead end, you can change direction immediately.
[Tweet “Your biz can turn on a sixpence because you’re tiny and agile”]
And that’s a scary thought for lots of people.
They fret because they don’t want to waste money they’ve spent, or lose time and effort they’ve put in. They stay stuck in a business that’s not working because they are scared to admit that something needs to change. They feel committed to ‘giving it one more try’ even when better opportunities are staring them in the face. They keep doing things the way they’ve always done them because it’s too late to change. Except it isn’t.
The thing is, they could be using their tiny-ness and agility to their advantage.
- Being tiny and agile means you can change the focus in your business today if you feel that it’s not working.
- Being tiny and agile means you can spot and seize opportunities that bigger companies would have to overlook because it would take them too long to change their processes.
- Being tiny and agile means you can decide that you’re going to do things differently, starting now.
I do it all the time.
I have a plan for the products and programmes I’m going to sell this year, so that I can work out what I need to promote, when, and how much I expect to make from it. But it’s not set in stone.
I’m tiny and agile so if I decide to drop one of them and replace it with something I’d rather do, I can do it.
Just like that.
Without asking anyone’s permission.
If I spot a gap in the market that’s a brilliant fit for my lovely ladies, I can add in a new product within a couple of weeks. I can change my focus today.
And so can you.
You’re tiny and agile. You can turn your business on a sixpence, like a London cabbie. Whenever you want. Without asking permission. Without feeling like a failure.
So, you tiny, agile little business, you – Now would be a great time to look at your business and see what’s not working – what can you change, today? What can you shift your focus around? Where can you turn on a sixpence? Get spinning, awesome girl!