As an entrepreneur, you have a lot on your plate. Staying focused can be tough with a constant stream of distractions demanding your attention. But you can improve your focus and increase your productivity.
At one point in time I found myself running 13 companies, my own. And let me tell you, it was hard. People have this idea that entrepreneurship is so glamorous. Yep, long nights, airports (sleeping on floors), long drives and 16-hour days, enough? But you know what? It is worth it, never would I work for somebody else.
Our brains are finely attuned to distraction, so today's digital environment makes it especially hard to focus. The brain's reaction is automatic and virtually unstoppable. While multitasking is an important skill, it also has a downside.
To make matters worse, distraction feels great.
Ultimately, the goal is not constant focus, but a short period of distraction-free time every day. Even 30 min a day could be a start.
Do creative work first
Typically, we do mindless work first and build up to the toughest tasks. That drains your energy and lowers your focus. In order to focus effectively, reverse the order. Check off the tasks that require creativity or concentration first thing in the morning, and then move on to easier work, like deleting emails…
Allocate your time deliberately
Most people focus best in the morning or late at night, and some do their best thinking outside the office. Notice where and when you focus best, then allocate your toughest tasks for those moments.
Train your mind like a muscle
When multitasking is the norm, your brain quickly adapts. It becomes a habit. Practice concentration by turning off all distractions and committing your attention to a single task. Start small, maybe five minutes per day, and work up to larger chunks. If you find your mind wandering, just return to the task at hand. It’s like at the gym; have to focus on lifting to build muscles.
Every entrepreneur starts out with big dreams and excitement. As an entrepreneur, you control your own destiny, and with the right ideas, the right skill set and unflinching dedication, you can build wealth or establish an enterprise to serve as your legacy.
This is the bright side of entrepreneurship, but unfortunately, there’s also a darker side. The rigors of entrepreneurship demand sacrifices, and if you don’t make those sacrifices you’ll never are able to succeed. Business is, at its core, a give-and-take process. The more you invest, and the more you’re willing to part with, the more you’ll reap in rewards in kind.
These are the five sacrifices that every entrepreneur needs to make:
You’re starting a new venture, and there’s no guarantee you’re going to succeed. The foundation of your company, even if your idea and plans are solid, is rocky at best, and there’s no telling which direction your business is headed until you’re several months, or often much longer, into running things. If you haven’t already sacrificed a comfortable, well-paying, stable job to follow this route, odds are you’ll have to sacrifice some other kind of stability before you can move forward.
Entrepreneurship is, by nature, an unstable path to follow. Don’t be surprised if you encounter multiple, unpredictable shifts in your fortune as your work progresses. It’s natural and part of the process. Eventually, if you work hard with a clear vision, things will stabilize.
When you become an entrepreneur, the lines between your working life and your personal life will blur. You’ll start thinking about business even when you’re away from the office, sometimes because you want to and sometimes because you can’t help it. You’ll also get calls and emails urgently needing your attention because you’re the boss and there’s nobody else to answer them.
Your downtime will become “light” business time, but the flip side is that your time in the office will feel more like personal time because you’ll want to be there. Remember, it’s still important for you to balance your work priorities and your personal ones -- always make time for your family and your mental health -- but the firm split between personal and professional time is going to go away no matter how you try to handle it.
This goes along with the stability sacrifice, but for the first few years of your business, you’re probably not going to be making much money. In most businesses, entrepreneurs and their families end up investing heaps of their own money to get the business going. If this is the case for you, you’ll be making even more of a sacrifice since your potential safety net will be gone.
Since you’ll be deciding where the money goes, you can set your own salary, but many entrepreneurs don’t even take a salary during their first several months of operations, at least not until there’s a steady line of revenue backing them up. Be prepared for this. You’ll need a strong marketing plan to overcome barriers to entry and gain a share of the market in your industry.
Sleep is vitally important, but no matter how hard you try to preserve healthy sleeping habits, you’re going to sacrifice some sleep in order to run your business. In some cases, you’ll be pulling all-nighters to get that last proposal together. In other cases, you’ll be getting up super early to make a meeting or get all your tasks in order. In still other cases, you’ll be lying awake at night, restless and wondering about the future of your company.
Whatever the case may be, your sleeping habits are going to change when you become an entrepreneur, and you’ll have to make the best of them no matter how they end up.
Being the boss of your own company means the buck stops with you. You’re going to have to wear dozens of hats, make decisions you’ve never made before and dig into subjects you’ve never before considered. Part of being an entrepreneur means stepping out of your comfort zone, often multiple times every day.
The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who approach uncomfortable situations with confidence and a degree of excitement. Learn to thrive in uncomfortable environments, and you’ll find yourself much more at peace with your job.
Don’t think of these sacrifices as literal sacrifices. You’ll be giving something up, sure, but try to think of it as a type of investment. You’re giving up intangible luxuries in exchange for something better down the road. You’re paying for the opportunity to find success in your own enterprise, and your sacrifices will be rewarded many times over so long as you stay committed in your chosen path..
Remember, as an unidentified student of Warren G. Tracy said, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”