One of the students in my workshop last week (you know who you are) mentioned that staying focused was one of her largest challenges. She seemed very concerned about this and I got the feeling she might think she’s alone in her struggle with focus. Rest assured…you’re not alone.
The ability to get and stay focused is one of the most important traits of successful people, especially successful entrepreneurs. And while most successful people make it look easy, I guarantee it’s not. It may look like an art, but there’s some science in there as well.
The real challenge with focus is not what most people think it is. Focus isn’t as much about getting distracted as it is about not knowing what to work on. If you know where to spend your time and energy, distractions lose their power to derail our goals.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “How do I figure out where to spend my time and energy?” That’s a great question, and one I constantly ask myself.
Right now, I’m having my own struggles with focus. I’ve spread myself a little thin between my own business, my book, public speaking, SCORE, etc. I have so many things on my plate that it’s hard to determine what I should work on now versus later. If that’s not a crisis of focus, I don’t know what is!
Feeling the pressure that comes with not knowing what to work on, I devoted my Sunday morning to figuring it out. Here’s what I did…
The first thing I did was make a list of the major, top-level, most important things I’m currently working on. Then I ordered them in terms of importance (to me and my business) and urgency (to my audience). That covers the “what” to do; now let me share “how” I did it.
I’m giving a presentation next month for the Small Business Administration (SBA) on social media. The audience is AARP members (50+). I already have all the information, but I haven’t created the presentation yet and that’s going to take time. Doing a good job is important to me and the time frame is a month away so it’s a little urgent. That means it needs to be at the top of my list.
The second thing on my list is preparing for the Web Startup 101 Lunch ‘n Learn on April 10th. I’ve been to several Meetups in the past that left me…well…wanting more. The goal for my Meetup is to be organized, have a purpose, and help people. That means I need to prepare for it. I can’t just show up and expect everything to turn out alright! However, since this isn’t as involved as the SBA presentation, I’ve put it second on my list. After I hit my first milestone on the SBA project, I’ll shift gears and work on this project.
I have three more items on my list, but this should give you an idea of how I evaluate each item to determine what should be on the list and the priority of each one. The next thing I do is break each one down into manageable pieces, but I’m going to save how I do that for the next post so stay tuned for that…
When you’re making your list of priorities, choose the things that are most important to you. If earning money is important, prioritize money generating activities higher. If volunteering is important, prioritize those items higher. If you’re working on something that isn’t very important to you, either stop working on it or wrap it up as quickly as possible. And always remember, it’s ok to say “no” if someone asks you to do something that’s not in line with your goals.
Finding focus isn’t going to be easy, but starting with a list will make it easier. Take 5 minutes right now to make a list of your 5 most important projects. I promise, you’ll feel better once you see it written.