One of the biggest challenges for startup founders and small business owners is just figuring out how to stay focused in pursuing your business goals. With a few simple techniques and strategies, you will develop a stronger business focus and learn how to achieve business goals without getting distracted and while maximizing your time.
Here are six tips for how to stay focused as an entrepreneur.
1. Practice Proactive Goal Setting
What is really most important to you as you build your business? What do you want your business to achieve — what is your mission statement, or the larger purpose and the difference you want your business to make in the world? Once you have established these big-picture business goals, you can focus on medium-range and short-term goals for sales, marketing, product development and more. Breaking your business goals down into smaller, actionable steps will make it easier to achieve them too.
2. Give Yourself Fixed Deadlines and Time Limits
Nothing gets done without deadlines. Set rigid deadlines for your most important projects and client deliverables — and then reward yourself for “shipping” on time. But don’t stay up all night and work yourself to the bone — keep in mind that most people cannot concentrate on any given task for longer than an hour or two. If you’re at your desk for hours on end, all that uninterrupted time will likely become counterproductive.
So give yourself a break: set a time limit of two hours of desk time at a stretch, or give yourself a specific goal like, “I’m going to work at the coffee shop for 2 hours and get this big important project done, but then I’m going home.” By creating structure for yourself with some gentle time limits and rewards for meeting your goals, you will be able to get more work done and feel more relaxed about it than if you just sat at your desk all day.
3. Eliminate Tech Interruptions
Imagine how much progress you could make toward your business goals if you could just put your phone away! Try checking email only once or twice a day at appointed times. Turn off notifications and silence your mobile phone — let calls go to voicemail. Make sure you are focusing your attention on the problems and opportunities that are truly most important to your business, not just putting out fires and responding to urgent situations that other people think are important. You’re an entrepreneur; you get to decide how to spend your day. Having control of your time and attention is one of the most powerful aspects of running your own business, so don’t give this power away!
If you need extreme measures to eliminate distractions, you can even use a service like Freedomor Self Control to cut off your access to the internet and apps for a specific period of time. That way you can get some real work done away from the time-sucking fun, clutter and chatter online.
4. Live a Healthy Life
It’s easy for business owners to fall into a trap of working long hours every day and never taking time away from work. When you’re excited about your business and passionate about helping your customers, it’s easy for work to become your whole life. But in the long run, this is a mistake — and it’s a risk to your physical and mental health. Ironically, one of the best ways to focus on building your business is to be able to step away from your business occasionally.
Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet. Go for walks every day and exercise. Try to take 30 minutes (or more) each day for a spiritual practice, whether it’s attending religious services, meditating, journaling or just taking some time by yourself to “think big thoughts” about what you’re grateful for in life and business. Practicing gratitude to remind yourself of the good things in life and the people who have helped you along your journey is an ideal way for entrepreneurs to stay focused and keep perspective on what is truly important. And that spirit of optimism and mental energy will help improve your business too.
5. Find Supportive Peers
Being a startup founder or small business owner can be a lonely job – but remember, just because you’re in business “for yourself” doesn’t mean you’re on your own. One of the best ways to stay focused on your business goals is to be part of a supportive community of business owners. Join a networking group or business association, or sign up for lunch-and-learn seminars to get smarter about the latest trends in your industry. Rent space at a co-working studio or small business incubator so you can meet other people in your city who are on the same sort of entrepreneurial journey as you. You might just find some new business contacts and get inspired to work harder on your business.
6. Focus On Your Own Success
No matter how well-connected you are with your local entrepreneurs or online communities, it’s important to remember that you need to focus on what’s happening at your own business and in your own immediate life. Other entrepreneurs might make more money than you, and it might seem like other businesses are growing faster than yours — or that other people have all the money and all the success and everything figured out. But you can’t fall into the trap of envying other people or doubting your own abilities. Yes, entrepreneurship is a competition — but the biggest competition is with yourself.
Are you getting what you want out of being in business? That’s the only question that ultimately matters: your personal definition of business success and your satisfaction in life are the ultimate metrics. Don’t get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses; some of those “successful” entrepreneurs might not be as successful as they look. They might be struggling with big problems behind the scenes, or they might encounter a run of bad luck that could push their business to the brink. Run your own race, build your own business and live life on your own terms — not in a spirit of envying or worrying about what other people are doing.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are notable for how calm and focused they are. They are fully present in the moment and grateful for the good things in their lives, while drawing energy and inspiration from having control over their day. By having your own schedule and living a healthier, happier life, you will also be able to be more focused and productive in running your business.
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