‘So much to do, so little time’ – ‘There are never enough hours in the day’

Do you find yourself saying or thinking this regularly? Chances are what you need is a way to maximise the time you do have, and get the most out of it.

Building your ability to focus is an essential skill as a small business owner who wears many hats.

If you can’t focus, you can’t grow.

These 7 practical steps (with recommended tips and tools) will give you the best chance of staying focused, on task in your business and creating an environment ready for growth.

1. Create the Space for Focus

  • This may mean being offline from your business for a few hours a week.
  • If you have staff, establish early on a structure that doesn’t rely on you needing to do or supervise everything – hire well, build trust, train and then delegate.
  • If this is impossible as a new business, it may mean dedicated after hours process creation for a few hours a week. Use the time to set up your business with processes that allow you to delegate and then step away for a few hours to focus on the tasks you need to complete.

Suggested Tips to help:

Find a few tasks you do during the week that don’t have to be done by you. Write a simple process for how to complete the task then delegate the tasks. This may be internally to a staff member, or externally to a contractor or virtual assistant.

Make sure they are tasks that could be done by someone else by following the simple process you have created.

A good place to start when considering what to delegate is to ask yourself these questions:

Does this make me money? – generally not a task to delegate.

 Is this a task that can be done online? – generally a task that can be delegated.

2. Create a Place to Focus

Your office space, as opposed to your work environment, should be a space you can focus in. If you work in a busy work environment, like a coffee shop, your office space should be separate.

  • Create an environment free from things that will take you off task. A place where you can focus on the tasks you need to get done to create success for your business
  • For some people, this may also mean an uncluttered desk, while others may be more focused with picture, photos and inspiration around them. Whatever works for you personally, as long as it doesn’t leads to avoidance/procrastination by distraction!

Suggested Tips to help:

Create an inspiring office space. What does that mean to you? Give this some thought, then spend some time setting it up.

Decluttering can be as simple as moving all paperwork from your desk and into a filing cabinet.

Inspiration may mean flowers on your desk, motivational quotes or images on your noticeboard. A colourful space, matching stationery, pictures of your kids.

It’s personal, but once you figure out what makes for an inspirational work space, it can make a huge difference. 

3.Limit Technology & Process Issues

There is nothing that wastes time and energy more than technology and process issues.

  • When you are taking time out of your business to focus on tasks you need to complete, you do not want to spend half of the time fixing printer issues, or trying to tidy up your online filing system
  • Have dedicated time for fixing technology or process issues, or a person you can delegate or outsource these issues to.
  • Don’t sit down to focus on a task when you know you have existing technology issues. This will just lead to frustration and procrastination.

Suggested Tips to help:

Use technology sparingly during your focus time. Only have open the programs you will be using eg Word or Google docs and your calendar.

Whatever you need at a basic level that allows you to spend your time focused only on the task you are completing. This will minimise the likelihood of having issues eat into your focus time.

4.Optimal Performance

Work out what gets you ‘in the zone’ quickly, and keeps you there.

Know what you need to do to create the highest quality in whatever you are working on.

You may need a very quiet environment, or you may work better with music playing in the background. You may thrive after doing a 10 minute meditation, or after you have relaxed with a coffee.

Suggested Tools to help:

Use a journal or your diary over the course of a week to try to identify what environment or trigger has allowed you to focus for a period of time on a task. Look for similarities. Get to know your ‘zone’ requirement.

5.Take a Break Before you Start Focusing

Studies have shown that it takes around 30 minutes to get back into a task if you take any sort of break, whether that be a coffee break, or you are interrupted by a phone call, or question from a staff member etc.

So when you are focusing, taking a break is actually not a good idea.

Instead it is better to take a break before you start on a task, to get you ready to focus.

Think about what happens when you sit down to do something important. You may open Word, get ready to start typing and your mind starts wandering. You start thinking about the email you forgot to respond to, the important meeting you have after lunch, what you are having for dinner. Procrastination and distraction sets in, and 30 minutes later you still haven’t typed a word.

Suggested Tip to help:

What if you turned this on its head and allowed yourself to have a ‘break’ before you start your focus time. Sit at your computer, let the thoughts come and just relax into it. Within 20 to 30 minutes all of those thoughts should have disappeared, your mind has settled in and you can now start to focus on your task.

6.Be Mindful

Many of us operate on autopilot. Being mindful means being present and focused on the moment, the task you are working on. It means removing any distracting thoughts about the past or the future. Mindfulness is getting out of your subconscious mind.

But like any skill, it takes practice.

There are many techniques and exercises to help you practice mindfulness. You can dedicate just a few minutes a day to learning how to be mindful at work.

Those few minutes though will be well spent in avoiding the very common road block to focus – thinking about things other than what you are trying to focus on!

Suggested Tips & Tools to help:

Here is a simple technique to try, best practiced at the start of your day, or if you can, in the middle of a busy, stressful time at work.

Close your eyes, relax, and sit upright. Focus only on your breath. Keep an ongoing flow of attention on your breathing. To help you focus on your breathing, count silently as you exhale. When you find your mind wandering, release the thought and come back to your breath. Continue for as long as you have – 2 minutes, 5, 10 minutes or longer.

The more you do this practice, the easier it becomes. You may even create a daily ritual which allows you to really develop this skill, and enhance your ability to focus.

There are also apps that can guide you through this type of focus on mindfulness, such as Omvana by MindValley Creations.

 7.Remove Temptation & Stay Focused

The biggest distraction you will have is social media (unless you are working from home with the dogs and kids – that could be a close second!).

  • Remove anything from your reach that you subconsciously check/do/think about – iPad, Phone etc
  • Close down any unnecessary programs if using your computer
  • Don’t take phone calls or check emails – unless urgent or require immediate attention

Suggested Tools to help:

Cold Turkey can disable certain websites/programs on your computer during times set by you, if you really struggle with this one! Find them at https://getcoldturkey.com

The StayOn Task (Android) App is a ’simple, unobtrusive way to improve your focus and get your work done’.

For Apple users, Forest is an interesting self-motivating App to use to stay  focused. It advised the app will ‘help you beat phone addiction, and get more things done’.

Applying these practical steps for business growth

A lack of focus doesn’t provide an environment to achieve business growth. So it is an important skill for any business owner.

The biggest challenge in trying to improve your ability to focus is practice. It takes dedication and work.

‘The secret to getting ahead is getting started’ – Mark Twain.

So just start. Start simple, and try 1 or 2 of the tips and tools suggested.

Do the best you can with the time you have, and build on your ability to focus over time.

Build your ability to stay focused and on task, and you build your ability to grow your business.