One must harness the discipline and understanding that as an Entrepreneur you don’t quit when the clock strikes a certain hour, you stop when your goals have been met for the day. – Nick Zamucen
Staying focused is hard.
We live in a world full of options, and options often lead to distraction. The most successful entrepreneurs are able to dismiss distraction and bring their full focus to the task (and larger goal) at hand.
At IdeaMensch, we’ve grown more and more intrigued with how other entrepreneurs harness their ability to focus and get things done. It’s something each and every one of us has struggled with, and also something everyone can improve on.
Rather than pondering how other entrepreneurs are staying focused and being ridiculously productive, we decided to simply ask them. The responses are below, and they’re pretty darn good.
Grainne Kelly, Founder of BubbleBum
For me, it is better to work in short bursts of intense productivity, then take a short break and start something new. If I break my work into bite-sized chunks of time, I won’t get bored. Also, if there is something I would procrastinate on, I have someone else break it into bite-sized chunks and check up on my progress. I also do my tedious tasks when there is no one else around, as it will keep me from getting distracted.
Florin Cornianu – CEO and co-founder at 123ContactForm
It’s pretty difficult to stay focused as an entrepreneur as you have many things to do daily. However, I always start with my inbox, I use Zero Inbox and SaneBox to manage all my emails. Although obviously, I try to get to 0 emails in my inbox, it never happens.
And to be honest, I always get distracted. When you have to discuss with several people on the same day and make decisions or solve various things, you cannot avoid it. The key is to get back on focus and I do that by remembering a couple of priorities that I try to actually make sure they are done in that specific day.
The solution, from my point of view is to delegate as much as possible and to be surrounded by people that follow their own priorities and I am informed only about their status from time to time.
Staying focused through exercise, so get moving! Research has shown that by staying active, will help with reducing stress and increasing energy levels. A simple method to help you relax, recharge and get focused is to go for a quick brisk walk when feeling overwhelmed. The relief from stress and the positive health benefits you will gain will help you maintain a clearer, sharper and more focused mind which ultimately benefits your overall psyche.
Jesse Lakes – CEO of Geni.us
To stay focused I make sure to distance myself a little bit. I like to go to a coffee shop or my basement for deep work. To engage in deep work, I have to prepare with a run beforehand, where I can have a chance to think about it and then engage in deep work once I am sitting down. Before and after normal working hours are the best times for me to focus. My best tactic to be productive and stay productive is to be legitimately excited about it. If I’m not excited about it, I find someone who is and delegate. I turn off distractions with some good noise cancelling headphones and a good album. Usually I like to listen to Enigma – 80’s synthesizer music with Gregorian chants make it happen for me.
Craig W. Ross, CEO of Verus Global
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Mike Glanz, Founder and CEO of HireAHelper
Staying focused for me boils down to making sure my life is in balance. The more things I have on my plate, the harder it is to excel at all of them. By being true to myself and cutting out things that aren’t quite as important to me or the business, it’s easier to focus on the things that really matter. Sometimes the choices aren’t obvious either, but go with your gut and once you’ve made a decision, commit to it. If there’s really only time to do one project right, put the other out of your head – and focus.
Leo Kanell – CEO/Founder at Fundwise Capital
The most important strategies to be ultra productive and utilize time wisely begins and ends with your calendar. If there is white space in your calendar then you will get lost in the minutia of the day and ultimately fail. To succeed you must schedule out meticulously your daily calendar in order to utilize time wisely. You should always list your hardest, most difficult tasks first and then the easier ones second. If you will utilize a calendar wisely then your odds for success increase dramatically!
Graham Zahoruiko – Director of Public Benefit Corporation
I stay focused by addressing issues in real time. For things that I cannot address in real time, I make automated follow up reminders and then forget about the “ToDo” until I am reminded in the future at the proper day and time I had set. These activities clear my mind so I am free to simply address only what is in front of me. In some cases, my follow up reminder may have solved itself since I added it – so it gets checked off as done – which is even more satisfying (no work to do)! From an organization perspective, I always clear my workspace each day with only what I am currently working on. I organize my short-term (today’s) ToDo’s into a pile, organized in the order in which they need to become accomplished – usually by urgency. Keeping my mind as clear at all times and as much as possible helps me from getting distracted.
William Nakulski – CEO of Cash For Land
Discipline and routine play key roles in staying focused on goals and objectives. When there is a critical task at hand, it is not only important to control yourself, but also maintain a quiet, peaceful and tranquil environment conducive to achievement, free of distraction. For instance, turn off or silence your phone (if it’s not a part of the item to be focused on), turn off Skype or any messaging services or devices. Anything that may interrupt you would have to be silenced for the purpose of this exercise. I know this can be a challenge for many, but like most things, you will usually get back at least what you are willing to put in. Those who are not willing to do whatever it takes to succeed simply do not deserve the success. It is a worthy cause, and it is essential to both develop and exercise discipline in order to achieve your goals or complete your tasks.
Nick Zamucen – Founder of Bio-One Inc.
As an Entrepreneur you must develop three qualities:
- The ability to focus as if your life depended on it (because your business does),
- A clear understanding of “Why” you’re doing what you’re doing, and
- Have goals greater than yourself.
One must harness the discipline and understanding that as an Entrepreneur you don’t quit when the clock strikes a certain hour, you stop when your goals have been met for the day. If you have a big enough “Why” you are doing what you’re doing, the “How to” becomes quite clear and motivating in itself. Have you ever noticed you’ll do more for your kids then you will for yourself? Why is that? Because the power of “Why” dominates the “How” and pulls you through, this should be the same type of love and focus you have for your business. Every business has different stages of growth and each stage needs its due attention. Love your business as you would love your child. Make your “Why” emotional and the “How” will come. Just keep working, don’t get caught up in the day-to-day Bulls**t, your life is lived on your terms, so make those terms worth living. You Hold the Key.
Donald Kindwald – Principal, Kindwald Law Offices, P.C.
I use several strategies to stay focused and alter. First, I like to wake up early every day and focus of work. I find that working before most other people get up eliminates the distractions: No email, no phone, no one walking into my office. Second, I have taught myself to ignore real time email and just look at it a few times a day. The temptation is to look at email every time it beeps but that is a huge and unnecessary distraction. As much as everyone wants an immediate response, most of the time, a response can wait. If its really important, they will pick up the phone. Finally, I do not force it. If I am tired, I take a break, take a walk for some water, go outside, call my kids. Do anything other than work. I find a break refreshing and I usually come back stronger and ready to go.
Pepper Rutland – Founder, President and CEO of MMR Group Inc.
I have to close my door, which is usually open, turn my phone off and read my daily list of tasks I promised myself to complete that day. I absolutely hate leaving something unfinished. I have to mentally prioritize what I need to do. I like to be alone when I do that. That’s what Saturdays and Sundays are sometimes for.
Frank Jermusek – President/Managing Director of Sperry Van Ness | Northco Real Estate Services
Staying focused on specific tasks or even carving out exclusive time for strategic thinking/planning is more difficult than ever. Between personal visits to my office, desk calls, cell phone calls, emails, and texts, it is too easy to get sidetracked. A few years ago, I started working from my home office 1 day per week. I would use this day to keep up with drafting and other work that required focus. During this time, I would leave my cell phone and office phone off for 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon. Without all the personal and technological interruptions, I found that I was getting 2-3 days worth of work done. I now work from home 2 days per week with the same rules. I’ve been way more productive and profitable, and all of my colleagues know that I’m just not going to be available (unless there is an emergency) during those times.
Daniel McKee – Founder, Stratfit
I have disciplined myself to wake up everyday and remind myself that I am constant action or motion, like water in a river. No matter what I advance in the direction I have started. If a tree falls into a river or boulder slides into it, the water does not stop, it hits the obstacle and flows around. This is how I view any perceived hardships in the my business path. This mentality keeps my mind clear from frustrations and keeps my focus on the task at hand.
Bryan Schaaf – Founder of Haiti Innovation
I have Attention Deficit Disorder. Disorder is a bit of misnomer – it has advantages and disadvantages. I may have been born with mine but in today’s office environments many of us are driven to distraction. Sifting through large amounts of email that roll in throughout the day, responding to unanticipated taskings, and dealing with other tasks saps our ability to focus on producing a quality product. Distractions cannot be eliminated but they can be minimized – working from a quieter environment, whether that be home or even a conference room, can help focus. Setting aside a day specifically for a project can also be useful. Working on a project while the emails come rolling in is not conducive to focusing. Also working with a partner can help keep us to focus and from drifting into our inboxes. Sketching out thoughts on a notepad can also work in a way that typing on a keyboard cannot for original thinking. Switch to typing when your ideas have been fleshed out.
Alex Gemici – CEO at Greenstone Equity Partners
In today’s world, there are more electronic distractions than ever before. This applies to the use of technology in business as well. Email is perhaps the main point of distraction since that is mostly how we communicate with clients, but there are other workplace messaging apps (like Slack) and other third-party apps that make concentrating rather difficult. My preferred method of staying focused is to deal with smaller tasks around the distractions. However, when it is necessary to tackle a larger task, I will turn off all potential distractions, email and other apps included. I have found that my focus levels increase significantly when I disconnect for a short period of time.
Doug Albers – Partner, GreatLifeKC
One of the ways I stay focused is by constantly thinking of new ways to motivate our incredible team at GreatLifeKC while at the same time making sure we please each and every one of our members. This is a major focus each and every day.
Nick Yates – Founder and Chairman of Generation NEXT Franchise Brands
The first thing I do is politely say “no” and often! This could mean saying no to small mundane tasks on my agenda that won’t serve me well long term, to saying “no” to people chasing me for meetings or pointless phone calls. A couple years back I found myself spending hours a day replying to hundreds of emails that weren’t resulting in me making the progress I required of myself. I was spinning! I began categorizing them from 1-5 priority to very quickly realize category 1 and 2 helped me achieve my goals, category 3 required a reply but not immediately and category 4 and 5 were simply a waste of my energy. What happened over approximately 3-months is that I stopped receiving the 4’s and 5’s. The ankle biters will always find someone else to harass!
Next, I began to realize that the people working for me with whom I should be able to delegate weren’t the right people. I focused on hiring a much better, more proactive support staff and my life changed forever. These people are my partners, they don’t work for me, they work with me. It took me 15 years of working with the wrong type of people to realize how much I could get done with a group focused on the same directive as me who were incentivized to obtain the same goals.
Finally and most importantly, Transcendental Meditation. Spending 20-25 mins once to twice a day in silence slows the flow of erratic thoughts that sidetrack me. It lessens the anxiety and keeps me open minded to new possibilities. It also allows me to be much more creative in how I solve problems. I find that most of what I thought to be, “have to do” tasks simply become tasks that I don’t “have to do”. The result is I prioritize my days much better.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.