Are You Focusing on the Right Things?
During the start-up phase it’s called ‘boot strapping’ and it is essential. Resources are usually pretty tight. Once established, the desire to do it all stems from the feeling that no one else can do it as well. Likewise, a general lack of planning and discipline and focus on business issues can have you holding the bag more often than you’d like. Business is a continuum. Time waits for no one and you are either moving forward or you are losing ground. In either case, a lack of focus can inhibit one and accelerate the other. It’s not a matter of having more time to get everything done…it’s a matter of doing the right things at the right time. If focus has been a battle for you, here are six of the most common reasons why business owners don’t stay focused – and what to do about that so you can actually achieve the results you’re looking for.
1. Lack of a Clear Vision:
Neurologically, focus is a contest between your conscious and subconscious mind. The conscious mind is in charge of communication, logic and decision making. It controls about 6% of your total brain activity. The subconscious, on the other hand, controls all of your bodily functions, your feelings, emotions, thoughts, behaviors and habits which make up the remaining 94% of your brain. Everything you have experienced in your life is stored in your subconscious just waiting to be recalled as a recognizable experience shows up.
For this reason, having a clear, complete vision of what you want your business to be is essential to keeping your mind focused on activities that lead to that end result. If you do not have a vision statement with all the relevant specifics (time frames, revenue levels, profits, brand, identity, facility and staff needs and size of client base, etc) you are allowing your focus to be swayed by a multitude of distractions and false opportunities. Once you write out your vision, create a bulleted list in large letters and display it everywhere you work. Seeing it on a regular basis trains your subconscious to start looking for things that support good focus habits.
2. ‘Screaming Baby’ Syndrome- A Constant State of Overwhelm:
Overwhelm stems from two things: Not knowing what to do, and having too many things demanding your attention. It’s one of the most arresting feelings known to man and if left unchecked, it can paralyze you from making decisions or taking any action at all!
Having a clear vision will give you a sense of direction, but until you become confident in what you need to do and eliminate the ‘screaming babies’ from your daily routine, not a lot of improvement is possible. Start by recognizing that you can’t do it all. Multitasking has its benefits, but in business it’s generally unproductive in the end.
Get help from someone outside your business who can help you focus on business issues and objectively determine which tasks are priorities and which ones can wait. Consider hiring people for the most important areas requiring special knowledge or skills. Look for people in your surroundings that might be willing to barter services if finances are tight. You can also visit your local college to see what intern programs are available. You might have to pay something for their time but most college students are more interested in getting meaningful experience. Once you have identified the sources of your overwhelm and engage people and services to handle them, you will notice a tremendous change in your level of focus.
3. The Debilitating Effects of Environmental Clutter:
Most of what we react to are things we see or hear. A work environment that is unorganized or loaded with clutter can be an ongoing reminder that things are out of control. Stop telling yourself ‘I know where everything is’. The moment you see something that you tossed aside a week ago, the tendency to deal with it happens quickly, pulling you off task and in most cases dropping the work you intended to finish.
The only cure for clutter and disorganization is to strip the environment (your office, your car, etc) of everything and start fresh. The reason this is needed is so your mind understands that the old ways have come to an end. Start by forming 3 piles: Things that are most urgent, items that can be addressed in 30 days, and everything else. Then throw out the ‘everything else’ pile. Fact is, if it ends up being important it will come back to you. For now, eliminating as much volume as possible is critical to organizing the rest. If you don’t think you can do this, bring someone in who specializes in organization. The cost will be well worth it. In the end, eliminating the clutter and organizing the rest will help you stay focused on what’s really important.
4. The Lure of Shiny Objects:
Ever notice how you can get charged up over a new idea? One minute you are hard at work, the next you have a brain storm that is so appealing you immediately abandon your work and begin a new direction. This is called ‘the lure of shiny objects’ and it’s a huge problem for many entrepreneurs. It’s caused by engaging in mindless activities which allows your brain to drift away from clear focus on business issues. At this point, you become susceptible to other influences which manifest thoughts in your subconscious. Without warning, out pops a latent great idea. Now you immediately shift gears and start working on your new idea, leaving your prior endeavor for another day. Trouble is this new idea will probably be replaced several times during the week with other great ideas. Bottom line…hardly anything ever gets past the initial thought stage.
Now, have you noticed that the ‘shiny object’ interruptions don’t seem to happen when the task in front of you is meaningful and vital to the growth of your company (new revenue, new client service, next phase of marketing plan, etc)? The shiny objects usually appear when we’re doing menial tasks that put our minds on autopilot. There are people for whom this phenomenon is so powerful, they literally go through withdrawals trying to fight the lure and stay on task.
Use this technique to wean yourself off the endless merry-go-round of chasing shiny objects. Jot down the idea. Put the note in a folder marked ‘Great Ideas’. Place the folder in a drawer and go back to the task at hand.
5. Making the Mistake of not Delegating:
Delegation is a skill that can be learned. Effective delegating is an art that requires practice, foresight, communications, planning and a defined level of expected results. If you have employees in your business, ask yourself two questions before taking on a task that is not supporting primary goals: 1) Who can I get to do this? , and 2) If no one knows how to do this, who can I train to do it?
The more routine tasks and responsibilities you can delegate, the more your focus will stay on things that get you to your goals. If manpower is an issue, look for outsourcing options. There will be an initial cost involved but the benefits of staying above the minutia and connected to your growth objectives will more than pay for it.
Business owners are a proud bunch by nature and we like to think no one can do it better than us! The daily mantra usually is “by the time I explain it to someone else I could do it myself.” Break that habit today. There is hardly a better feeling than having those things get done by others while you attend to the important stuff.
6. No Awareness of Boundaries:
Maintaining a healthy level of focus requires being uninterrupted at certain times. It also means knowing when to put work down and focus on family, relationships, hobbies, charity work or whatever else re-energizes you.
If your employees know that during certain times you are not to be disturbed, they will learn to operate and make decisions without coming to you all the time. Likewise, your customers will accept a reasonable amount of time to receive return calls from you. Planning to tackle an important task and then having your time repeatedly interrupted by questions and phone calls will grind your focus to a halt.
Set boundaries that are reasonable for your business and stay consistent with them. You will be amazed what you get done with the uninterrupted time.
Being focused enough to grow your business at the pace you want and move in the direction that reaches your ultimate vision is the best way to use two of your most valuable resources- your time and your sanity!
For more information or to discuss your particular needs in this area with an
expert business coach, please contact me to schedule a complimentary initial
telephone consultation where we’ll provide a customized
12-point growth plan for your business.
Breakout Consulting, LLC
Dearborn, MI ∙ San Diego, CA