You get up early, determined that today, you’ll supercharge your productivity. You’ll focus on that project you’ve been putting off. Or maybe finally watch that webinar you’ve had on hold for weeks.
Yesterday your best intentions got waylaid. Today will be different. Yes, siree. It’s all about laser focus.
You open your computer; you tell yourself you’ll just take a quick look at Facebook, or read a few emails, and then get busy.
Hours later, you’ve accomplished — absolutely nothing.
Does this sound all too familiar?
If so, join the club. This is a constant struggle for me. And I finally realized why. And if I’m honest, I’ve known all along. I just hadn’t let the knowledge gel.
Your Biggest Threat To Staying Focused
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the reason staying focused is such a struggle is because I’m trying to focus on too many things. I don’t have a plan. I haven’t prioritized my business tasks. I’m allowing information overload to throw me off course.
And instead of making me productive, it’ paralyzes me. Instead of getting important things done, nothing is accomplished.
And it’s beginning to piss me off.
The Curse Of The Inbox
Whether your business is in startup mode or firmly established, your plate is full of learning, perfecting, creating and publishing. And who knows what else. Every business owner has a ton of activities and tasks on their to-do list every day, week, month, even year.
And it’s likely that some tasks involve learning and improving your skills. You’ve subscribed to email lists and followed experts in your areas of interest.
But those emails. They’re both a curse and a gift. They pile up like seaweed on the beach. And are just as annoying.
Yes, you wanted them. You signed up for them. They’re useful and valuable.
But they’re also a humongous nuisance.
Your inbox fills with emails until out of desperation, you either delete them or save them in a folder.
Out of sight, out of mind, but at least you can breathe again.
You may not ever get back to them.
And think about that for a minute. Would that necessarily be a disaster?
After all, you need to focus on what’s most important today. Right now. Everything else can wait.
What’s Important TODAY?
Let me illustrate what I mean with an example.
Let’s say you run an online content marketing/freelance writing business. As with any business, you have various areas of interest and importance. Here’s a short list of just a few of them:
- You want to grow your email list.
- To build your email list, you need an opt-in offer.
- Creating your opt-in offer involves choosing what to offer.
- You may need to research those offers to enable you to decide what yours will be.
- Once you’ve decided on your offer, you need to create it.
- You want to improve your marketing skills.
- You’ll need to explore marketing tactics and learn how to use them.
- You want to explore how using LinkedIn can help build your business.
- You’re continually working on improving your writing skills.
- You need to publish a regularly scheduled blog post to your site.
- You have client work with deadlines that must get done.
Looking at all of these tasks at once is overwhelming. Where should you start? On what should you focus?
They’re all important. You’re tempted to spend time on each of them daily. Except that’s the road to disaster. Trying to take on too much often leads to doing nothing.
You end up scrolling Facebook’s newsfeed, telling yourself you’ll just take a little break. That break turns into a wasted afternoon. You’ve pissed away another day.
Don’t feel bad. You’re not the only one to get caught in this trap.
A Simple Plan
Now, if you’re like me, your client work always gets done. That’s non-negotiable if you want to stay in business.
But what about the learning and improving and creating and anything else that doesn’t directly affect your client relationships?
A simple plan is your answer.
Once you’ve identified where you want to focus your time and energy, everything else can step to the back of the bus. Nothing will clarify how you should spend your time better than having a plan.
Learn to set aside time on a regular basis, away from your office, to plan. On that plan, you’ll decide what areas need attention, what tasks must be worked on right now.
From there, your to-do list will include only those activities that you’ve identified as most important,
Need a visual?
Let’s say your immediate primary need is to increase your customer base. That means you need to grow your email list. To do that, you need to create an extraordinary opt-in offer. Then you need to produce marketing content to get that offer in front of your audience.
The entire task of growing your email list is tied up in one giant bow.
You’re now free to focus only on those tasks that relate to growing your email list.
You’ll be amazed at how freeing eliminating that clutter will be. You know what to focus on, what emails to read, what webinars or training courses to which you’ll devote your attention.
It’s not that anything outside of email list creation is unimportant. It’s just on your wait list. You’ll refocus on them later, once you’ve accomplished this one task.
Or two tasks, if you’ve identified more than one area of importance.
The point is now you’re productive. You’ve identified what you’re going to work on and where you’ll focus your energies.
All other distractions are off the table. For now.
So Easy. So Easily Missed
Often the simplest concepts and ideas are the ones you’re most likely to overlook. It’s their very simplicity that fools you.
But isn’t it nice to know that you can direct your energy more easily than you realized? Once you know what’s important at the moment, narrowing your focus where it belongs is a cinch.
What’s most important to your business growth, today? Right now? What have you been telling yourself you need to do, but haven’t found the time to do it?
Make a simple plan and prioritize.
Focus only on those tasks that top your list. I promise you, you’ll end each day with a wonderful sense of accomplishment.
And as for that Facebook newsfeed? Who cares?
You have more important things to do.